Joe Jennings, NASCAR Correspondent
Veteran Mark Martin has raced 53 times at the Michigan International Speedway but he had never captured a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole position until today. The 53-year old Martin pushed his Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota around the two-mile oval at a speed of 199.707 miles per hour.
Qualifying for the Pure Michigan 400, the 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season, took place Friday afternoon.
It is great when you know you have the fastest race car of the day.
For Martin, he earned his fourth pole of the season and 56th of his career. His pole moved him into a seventh place tie with Bill Elliott in career tallies.
“It was fun,” the likable driver said. “Momentum is such an important part when you have speeds like this and around race tracks like this with so much corners, you have to be committed. Last time we thought we had a car to contend for the pole but when we went out to run, it didn’t give me the right feel and I couldn’t commit to it. It is very important to have the feel you need to carry the momentum into turn 1. I had no idea it was a pole run, and I gave it everything I had. I am not a two-lap qualifying guy, and I stretched the limits of my talent level qualifying in one lap. I know I can’t cheat and go for another time, but I tried it and couldn’t get past turn 1 without a wobble. It is what it is. It is great when you know you have the fastest race car of the day.”
Second fastest came Carl Edwards, who put his Geek Squad Ford to the outside of the front row with a speed of 198.626 mph.
Said Edwards about his run, “It was a good lap but I am really surprised at how fast Mark’s (Martin) was. He really stepped it up, and it was a great lap for him. We wanted the pole bad, but a good lap for us and a good starting spot. I think a good starting spot is key here, and if this race goes to long green-flag runs, it could be pretty tough to pass, which will be good for us.”
Jimmie Johnson took the third spot with a run of 198.440 mph in the Lowe’s Chevrolet with Wisconsin’s Matt Kenseth taking the fourth starting position with a speed of 198.183 mph in the Fifth Third Bank Ford.
“It was a solid lap for us,” said Johnson, the current Sprint Cup point leader. “Qualifying historically isn’t my best lap of the weekend, but we have been qualifying better the last couple of months. I am really happy about that, and the ease it gives you for the start of the race and the options on pit road. When you qualify in the 20s, it is so hard to overcome that stuff, so I am very happy with the effort. But I would liked to have been a little faster and to get the pole, but it was a great day.”
Third-row qualifiers were Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne with Martin Truex Jr. and Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose gaining fourth-row starting positions.
Landon Cassill and Paul Menard rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Other notables and their qualifying positions were Jeff Gordon (11th), Greg Biffle (13th), Tony Stewart (14th), Brad Keselowski (19th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (22nd) and Kyle Busch (23rd).
Failing to qualifying for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 were Stephen Leicht and J. J. Yeley.