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NHMS notebook

Newman is in an enviable position

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 15, 2011

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LOUDON, N.H. - After sweeping both NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events from the pole last year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman set himself up to become a threepeat winner by capturing the pole position for tomorrow’s F.W. Webb 100.

For the third consecutive year, Newman came to the 1.058-mile oval, took measure of it, and blistered it.

His pole-winning run yesterday of 29.586 seconds (128.737 miles per hour) was faster than his pole victory last year (29.633 seconds, 128.402).

“It’s the same story,’’ said Newman, who will pilot the No. 7 Chevrolet fielded by Sprint Cup crew chief Kevin “Bono’’ Mannion of Portland, Maine. “I was just a little faster than these guys.’’

Newman, who was fastest in yesterday’s practice session with a lap of 29.340 seconds (129.816 m.p.h.), went out 12th in the qualifying order and set the standard with his fast lap. Ron Silk of Norwalk, Conn., who trails series leader Rowan Pennink by 30 points in the Modified Tour standings, wound up second fastest after he qualified in 29.837 seconds (127.654 m.p.h.)

Pennink will start seventh after a 30.011-second qualifying lap (126.913).

Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Conn., was third fastest, followed by Bobby Santos, of Franklin, Mass., the defending Tour champion. Santos, however, was quickest in class among the four Massachusetts drivers in the 34-car field, which included: Rob Fuller of Boylston (29); Dale Quarterley of Westfield (30); and Glen Reen of Wilbraham (31).

Newman, who has made five of his seven career Modified starts at NHMS, indicated he is not likely to treat tomorrow’s race as a busman’s holiday.

“We all want to win, but I have a blast racing for these guys,’’ Newman said. “I just want to go out and put on a show for the fans.’’

A first for Petree Andy Petree, a former NASCAR champion crew chief who now serves as an ESPN analyst, qualified fifth in the No. 5 Chevrolet and will make his Modified debut tomorrow.

Petree, who won two NASCAR titles (1993-94) with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., attempted to compete in the Modified stop at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last year, but did not qualify.

He has five Nationwide Series and seven Truck Series starts on his driving résumé.

Follow the leader Max Gresham, the points leader in the K&N Pro Series East, is hoping to expand his 17-point edge over Matt DiBenedetto after capturing the pole for today’s New England 125 after touring NHMS with a fast lap of 29.960 seconds (127.130 m.p.h.).

It was Gresham’s third pole victory of the season.

“We had a real good run,’’ said Gresham, a two-time winner this season who turned 18 April 30. “It was great having a 13th draw so I could see what the other guys were doing when they went out. I just drove it as hard as I could and gave it all I had.’’

Darrell Wallace Jr. qualified second fastest and Sergio Pena was third fastest.

They’re fan friendly Roush Fenway Racing held its second annual Fan Appreciation Day yesterday at Boston City Hall Plaza, where Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan signed autographs along with car owner Jack Roush.

The team’s Nationwide Series drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne, winner of the 2011 Daytona 500, also attended after facing off at Fenway Park in their ongoing “Ricky vs. Trevor’’ competition. Both drivers donned Red Sox jerseys and participated in a number of competitions, including a Frisbee toss off the Green Monster. “I beat Ricky on that one,’’ Bayne said. “But he got me on the other two events, including the pitching. He threw one 71 miles an hour and I was a little slower at 61.’’

Both drivers will sport special New England-themed paint schemes for tomorrow’s Nationwide event.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.