"I've been around the track with him backwards and forwards and he's showed me what to do and what not to do," said Newman, who first toured the high banks of Atlanta with Baker in a passenger car, learning the nuances from a master. "It's gratifying, it's rewarding; I couldn't think of a better person to share the record with than Buddy Baker."
Newman won six straight poles at Atlanta from 2003-2005, but that streak was snapped last spring when Kasey Kahne stole the spot.
"I had my name on (the pole) for a while, but we came back last spring and were second to Kasey by just a couple thousandths," Newman said. "It's a little bit sweeter for sure, based on the struggles from last year."
In spite of spending the week in bed with the flu, Elliott Sadler recovered sufficiently to qualify second to Newman, posting a lap of 191.894 mph (28.891 seconds).
"It's been a long, tough week for me, but I'm definitely on the back side of that now," Sadler said. "It was a great lap. To qualify second, I'm very proud of that. It's a great way to start a weekend."
Last week's race winner and defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, was third fastest.
I feel like if we had another try at it - and I'm sure everyone says this - we could have improved our time," Johnson said. "That was the best qualifying run we've had a in a long time. We're usually better Sunday than Friday."
Rounding out the top-five was points leader Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. Local driver Reed Sorenson, who grew up in Peachtree City, qualified 11th, meeting his expectations.
"The car was really good in race trim," Sorenson said. "It wasn't that good in qualifying trim during practice, so 10th or 11th is good for us."
Another local, Stockbridge's David Ragan, was disappointed with qualifying run, which was just 45th out of 51 qualifiers. Because of last season's owner points, Ragan was guaranteed a starting spot and will come out of the gate 38th.
"It was an average lap, we've just got to work on qualifying," Ragan said. "If we can't be on the pole, there's no need in me taking a chance on tearing things up. I feel like I've got a pretty good car for the race, we'll just need to come from the back."
Great seats are still available for the Kobalt Tools 500 NEXTEL Cup race. Tickets can be obtained by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (877)-9-AMS-TIX or visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, the day of the event.