An early qualifying draw helped, but so did the muscle under the hood of Mark Martin's #5 Chevrolet as the veteran translated practice pace into qualifying supremacy at Indianapolis.
Even though he felt he didn't get the maximum out of his qualifying lap for Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Martin dominated Saturday's time trials with a lap of 182.054mph. That was more than good enough for Martin's fourth pole of the season as the 50-year old was the only driver to top 182mph.
In fact, Martin was the only driver to top 181 mph as Juan Pablo Montoya, who will start beside Martin on the front row, turned a best lap at 180.803mph, while, driving the first car built from the ground up by new crew chief Lance McGrew, Dale Earnhardt Jr overcame a recent bout of stomach flu to qualify third at 180.567mph. Veteran Bill Elliott was fourth, followed by David Reutimann.
“It was a solid, fast lap we turned,” said Martin, who won his 45th career pole, tying him with Buck Baker for tenth on the all-time list, “The car just slid a lot more than [Friday practice]. I got an optimum lap yesterday, but that [qualifying] lap was far from optimum.
“The car was capable of more. The track takes so long to get around. By the time I got to turn three, I was scared. By the time I got [through] three, I had barely survived three corners, and that fourth corner, I just drew back a little bit.”
At 50, Martin is the oldest pole winner of a major event at the Brickyard.
“I like making history,” he said, having been the third driver to make a qualifying attempt and benefited from a cooler racing surface during a session whose start was postponed by rain, from 1010hrs ET to 1400hrs.
Earnhardt, meanwhile, said he felt much better on Saturday, having claimed his first top ten start of the season.
“We didn't come in till Friday morning, and I felt just terrible before we flew out,” he revealed, “I had a stomach bug, about a 24-hour bug, Thursday night. It was about the worst thing I ever went through in my life, but I am feeling much better. I'm just getting a lot of fluids. We're ready to go
"[Friday] was just a really frustrating, miserable day for me physically. It didn't really seem to bother us how we ran or what we needed to get done. But I felt a lot better [Saturday] and a lot more confident.
"The car is pretty good. We are hoping to get some more practice this afternoon to work on it some more. .I am going to run all the practice laps this afternoon but, just as a safety precaution, I got Brad [Keselowski] here and he might have to get in the car for a lap or two just in case something happens on Sunday, where we might need him. It is probably all just a waste of time, but we're going to do it, just to be safe."