When it comes to qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman is in a class by himself.
The "Rocketman," already considered NASCAR's best qualifier in only his fourth full season, showed the way again Friday night, winning his sixth straight Atlanta pole with a lap of 193.928 mph and posting the 34th pole of his career and seventh of the season.
"I told the team I was going for two laps if I didn't get everything on the first one," Newman said after jumping out of his No. 12 Dodge. "I ran it again and she felt pretty good. It was pretty darn close to a perfect lap. If anybody can beat it, they can have it."
Nobody came close.
Runner-up Carl Edwards, the winner here in March, was considerably slower than Newman at 193.420 -- and very impressed with the pole winner.
"I was just impressed that his first lap was four-tenths (of a second) quicker than anybody else, and his second lap was even quicker," Edwards said.
Edwards's strong qualifying performance continued a hot start in his first full year on the elite stock car circuit.
"To be honest with you, I am surprised," Edwards said of his quick success. "This is my first full season of Cup competition and I got signed up for this at just the right time."
Now, Newman hopes to translate his success in time trials into a strong finish in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, helping in his effort to win his first Nextel Cup championship.
Despite Newman's qualifying heroics on one of NASCAR's fastest ovals, in seven previous races at the suburban Atlanta track he has managed just one finish better than 10th -- a fifth-place run in March 2004.
"We enjoy this track. It's very fast and I really enjoy qualifying here," Newman said. " But it's a handful in the race."
With four races remaining in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup, Newman is third, trailing leader Tony Stewart by 63 points and runner-up Jimmie Johnson by 48. Greg Biffle is fourth, 20 points behind Newman, and Edwards is fifth, another 66 back.
Stewart qualified 10th, Johnson 12th and Biffle 16th.
Among the other drivers in the Chase, sixth-place Rusty Wallace qualified 35th, seventh-place Mark Martin was fourth, eighth-place Kurt Busch was 30th, ninth-place Matt Kenseth was 23rd and 10th-place Jeremy Mayfield was 18th.
Newman has six top-10 finishes, including his only win of the season, in the seven Chase races, but he knows that consistency might not be enough to vie for the title.
"Our team can't rely on top-10 finishes alone to win this championship," he said. "We're very happy with our newfound consistency and the team is truly relaxed and confident in our abilities right now. But, a streak of top 10s is going to have to turn into a streak of top fives and a few wins to secure the championship."