Mark Martin earned the pole position for Sunday's Brickyard 400, becoming the oldest pole winner of a major event in the 100-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"I like making history," said Mark Martin with a hearty laugh. Fastest in practice on Friday, Martin trimmed 0.386 of a second from yesterday, earning the pole with a lap time of 49.436 seconds. His speed of 182.054 mph was faster than Jimmie Johnson pole speed (181.763 mph) from last year.
Through the first three corners, Martin called his lap "eventful." That's a pleasant way to say that the car was slipping and sliding through the corners. Just before reaching the fourth turn, Martin said an image of his car on a wrecker flashed before his eyes.
"Turn four was the only corner where I didn't slip a single tire," Martin reported. "I thought, that's disgusting, now I hadn't drove it hard enough."
Thinking he'd left too much on the table, Martin still called his lap time "acceptable." Third in the qualifying order, Martin then spent the next hour and 46 minutes waiting to see if his time would hold up.
Martin will share the front row with Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 in his only appearance in that race. Montoya is making his third start in the Brickyard 400. He started second and finished second in his first Brickyard 400 in 2007.
Now Montoya will look to become the first driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. Despite making a small improvement from Friday (0.061 of a second), Montoya was disappointed in his qualifying run. "The first few guys had the coolest track. It was hard. I think we had the car to beat Mark."
Montoya said his car has been good since it rolled off the transporter. After making three runs on Friday, "I think the only thing we done to the car is changed 20 pounds on the left rear spring."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is battling a stomach virus, will start third. "It was a 24-hour stomach bug," he said. "I feel fine now. I lost a bunch of fluids during that whole deal. I just got to get fluids back in me."
After qualifying, Earnhardt said that he's looking forward to the final practice session. "We need to be a tenth or so quicker to back up what we did yesterday."
Bill Elliott averaged 180.357 mph on his qualifying run and will start fourth. The 53 year-old driver was the fastest of the nine drivers who were required to qualify based on their time.
"I keep saying it over and over again, these guys (Wood Brothers) have worked so hard on this stuff. I'm proud to get in this race car when we come to the racetrack," Elliott said. "We were here for the tire tests, and we really learned a lot. We were relatively quick then and had a pretty good race car, and we just kept whittling away at it to make it better."
A pair of Toyota machines fill the third row with David Reutimann and Brian Vickers starting fifth and sixth. Reutimann said he was surprised to hear his time because his lap didn't feel that good. "If you're comparing yesterday's run to today's run, it felt a whole lot better, but it didn't feel as good as it shows on the board."
Vickers was pleased with his run, but not satisfied. The car was good, "but we didn't get to go out when we needed to. The track was 14 degrees hotter when we went out versus when Mark martin went out."
Vickers noted that the track lost grip as temperatures went up, something learned during the tire tests.
Tony Stewart will start seventh, followed by Kasey Kahne and Reed Sorenson. Clint Bowyer rounds out the top ten. John Andretti, who competed in the Indianapolis 500 in May, will start 35th.
Qualifying was originally scheduled to get underway this morning but heavy rain started falling at approximately 7:55 a.m. today at the Speedway, ending by 8:10 a.m. Track-drying efforts started immediately thereafter. Light showers resumed from 10:05-10:15 a.m. pushing qualifying back to 2:00 p.m.