Martin blisters Atlanta to beat Busch for pole
Some may call Mark Martin an old dog, but he still knows his old tricks.
Leaving no doubt that he can still wheel a racecar around the track, the wily 27-year NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran ripped off a lap of 187.045 mph to notch his first Sprint Cup pole since 2001, topping the leaderboard in Friday night’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Kurt Busch was second fastest, followed by Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle.
It was Martin’s 42nd career pole and his second at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his last one coming all the way back in March of 1992.
Having to back off the throttle in turn four during his qualifying run, Martin was convinced he had blown his shot at the pole and watched nervously as the remaining qualifiers took their turns on the track.
“I will tell you what, I am still shaking, I feel like a rookie to be real honest with you,” said Martin. “That is really, really, really cool. In the No. 8 car last year, those guys gave me six outside poles so it is pretty cool for Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) CARQUEST and Kellogg's and this entire bunch, especially after all we have gone through the first three races. The car has been fast.”
“You know I did run out of talent on that lap. At least we made it to the line sooner than anybody else so I am really proud for this team.”
Martin’s last pole position was in May of 2001 at Richmond, a span of 208 races.
“I was nervous and sick at my stomach about the whole thing just to be honest with you,” said Martin. “This is a real special group and I am just so happy for them. We need to go win us a race but this will give us a good starting spot.”
After spending much of 2008 on the sidelines running a partial schedule, Martin came back for one last full season running for Hendrick Motorsports in the famed no. 5 Chevrolet, looking for one more shot at the Sprint Cup title that has eluded him for so long.
Following two weeks of disappointing finishes at California and Las Vegas, Martin hopes to put his bid for his first career Sprint Cup title back on track with a victory on Sunday.
Martin got a big vote of confidence from former champion David Pearson, who earlier today said he’d like to see Martin win a championship, because he’s “a good boy.”
“I like the way he said that. That really means a lot to me,” said Martin. “It is definitely important to me to see people like David Pearson, to keep all of us in check, and to understand where the sport came from and that it will continue to move forward and evolve.
“I was one of the fortunate ones that got a chance to race with him. That means a lot. He was one of the men in the sport.”
Denny Hamlin secured the sixth starting spot, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
Todd Bodine, Scott Riggs, Geoff Bodine and Jeremy Mayfield failed to make the field.
*Required to qualify on time, OP - Top 35 in Owner Points, PC - Past Champion
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