Mark Martin proved he still had what it takes to win a pole for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
The veteran Martin won the pole position for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway, knocking off Carl Edwards as the final car to take a qualifying lap.
Edwards was second.
"Man, that was dramatic for me," Edwards said. "I thought we had him, and then he shot up to the top of the scoreboard."
Kevin Harvick (128.041 mph) qualified third, followed by AJ Allmendinger (127.962 mph) and Kyle Busch (127.956 mph), who has won the past three spring Cup events at Richmond. Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start Saturday's race from positions 6 through 10, respectively.
Series points leader Greg Biffle, who went out next to last, was 28th-fastest in the time trials at 126.428 mph.
Conventional wisdom holds that drivers late in the draw during an afternoon session will benefit from a cooler track, but Martin was the only driver late in the session to match, in relative terms, his speed from Friday's first practice session.
"I did not ask [crew chief] Rodney [Childers] what he put under the car," said Martin, who in 1981 won his second career pole at Richmond -- in a .542-mile configuration of the track. "We made some improvements to the car in happy Hour [final practice] in race setup right at the end.
"If it would have been me, I probably would have incorporated those changes into the qualifying setup, and I didn't want to ask Rodney if he did or not, or what he did to the car. All I want to do is roll out on the race track with no preconceived notion and drive it as fast as it'd go and rely on him and his judgment."
Martin was second-fastest after the first of his two laps and edged Edwards on his second time around.
"I was really hoping that he [Childers] would call me [on the radio] on the first lap and tell me to shut it down -- I told him to tell me to shut it down if we happened to get the pole on the first lap. When he didn't, I was afraid, 'Oh, no, we're 15th-fastest. That wasn't near fast enough, and I've really got to get up on the wheel.'
"I was very close to skinning the car up, especially off of [Turn] 4 on the second lap, and that was my concern. That was my concern in practice, as well. Both the qualifying runs I made in practice, I almost skinned it up, too. So I was driving as hard as I can go -- at the very limit of my talent, for sure -- and if I keep pushing the limits, I'm going to run out of talent here, one of these days."
MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 1st
Is this like a second childhood and are you enjoying driving for Michael Waltrip Racing?
"Yeah, I am. I just love driving that Aaron's Toyota and working with everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). They believe in me and we're just having so much fun and that was a good lap. I didn't think I could get the pole. We were on keel off the truck and wanted to get that last draw so we'd have our best shot at it. Golly, our fans out there can break out the 'Epic Swag' t-shirts and follow me on Twitter -- MarkMartin55."
How was your qualifying run?
"Well, I tried to get it on the first lap. I really didn't want to run the second lap. I knew I was going to be close to wrecking and I didn't want to wreck the car and when he (Rodney Childers, crew chief) didn't call me off on the first lap, I knew that we hadn't got it. I couldn't tell. I thought we might be 15th, you know? I had to buckle down and try to get a little bit more that second lap. It's just a tribute to everybody that supports us at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) -- great race cars -- Aaron's, Toyota -- all their support -- that race team, Rodney Childers and all the fans that support us. I got this job because I've got these fans."
How were you able to follow your practice speeds by winning the pole?
"Luck. Man, is it fun though. I tell you what -- I'm driving fast race cars and working with great people."
Did you surprise Carl Edwards by taking the pole?
"That's the fun of racing and competition. I think a lot of guys like to see an old dude like me pull one off every once in a while. It's pretty cool. Carl's (Edwards) a good dude. It'll be there other way around next time probably."
Does this give you momentum for tomorrow night?
"I haven't even thought about tomorrow night yet. I've got a great race car. Let's go racing."
Does this give you an edge to win tomorrow night?
"Well, I don't know. It's hard to say. We won one competition and that's what it's all about. When you get to this stage in my career, winning any competition is a cool thing. I get to drive such great race cars. MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) is doing an awesome job and my teammates are working together so well and we've got such great teamwork, fast cars. Rodney Childers (crew chief) does an awesome job. It'd be cool to win a race, but just driving fast stuff is pretty fun."
What are your thoughts on running more than 20,000 laps at this track?
"That's pretty crazy. I sat on the pole 31 years ago. That is a story in itself -- that's pretty crazy. I just thought of that, because we got the pole here in 1981 when I was just doing five races with my own car. I've been so fortunate to drive fast race cars and work with great people and I can't believe that Aaron's and MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) are giving me a chance to drive this stuff at this stage of the game. I'm just a really lucky guy.
||Aaron's Dream Machine
||Roush Fenway Racing
||Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
||Shell / Pennzoil
||M&M's Ms. Brown
||Martin Truex Jr.
||Dale Earnhardt Jr.
||National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew
||Smithfield "Helping Hungry Homes"
||Phoenix Construction Services
||Furniture Row / Farm American
||The Home Depot
||Bush's Baked Beans
||Burger King / Dr Pepper
||Mobil 1 / Office Depot
||Roush Fenway Racing
||3M "Give Kids A Smile"
||Burger King / Dr Pepper
||NIBCO / Menards
||Morristown Driver's Service
||Tommy Baldwin Racing
||AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves
||Tommy Williams Drywall
||Front Row Motorsports
||Humphrey Smith Racing
||Little Joes Autos.com
||Long John Silver's
||FAS Lane Racing
||Turn One Racing
||Did Not Qualify
||North Texas Pipe
||America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents