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Ryan Newman must be close to perfect the rest of the way to win the Nextel Cup championship, and he took a positive step by grabbing the pole Friday at Martinsville Speedway.

"It's a good start to the entire weekend," said Newman, ninth among 10 drivers and 271 points behind series leader Kurt Busch halfway through NASCAR's 10-race playoff.

Newman needs outstanding finishes in the final five races, and quite a bit of good luck. The narrow half-mile oval at Martinsville -- where bunched fields frequently leads to crashes -- might be a good place to find a little good fortune.

Like six of the other drivers in the title chase, Newman can't contend without bad finishes by Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, who have been turning the competition into a three-way battle.

"We're looking for places to make up major ground because we need that now," Newman said. "We're not out of the championship by any means. We're not in the best position, but we'll keep our nose to the grindstone."

Said Busch: "This is a race where it could knock the top three out and it could be a 10-car race. It could go either way."

Newman's Dodge will be joined on the front row by that of teammate Rusty Wallace, who qualified for Sunday's Subway 500 at 96.234.

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