Mark Martin weathered a determined run from Greg Biffle on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway to win his second pole of the season at the 0.533-mile short track - and his fifth of the year overall.
Martin, who is trying to give Brian Vickers, a driver half his age, a run for his money, posted a 15.414 second lap (124.484 mph).
The starting position is especially important to Martin in his quest to solidify a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Martin is 12th in the standings - the last Chase-eligible spot - 12 points ahead of Vickers, who has claimed a series-best six poles this season. Vickers qualified 14th, which puts him on the outside of the seventh row for the start of the race.
Rookie Scott Speed (124.146 mph) qualified third and will start next to fourth-place qualifier Dave Blaney (123.970 mph). Matt Kenseth (123.897 mph), 11th in the standings and 20 points ahead of Martin, will take the green flag in the fifth position.
Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, rookie Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Reed Sorenson will start sixth through 10th, respectively.
Knowing he had a fast car, Martin said he would have been on 'suicide watch', had he botched his qualifying lap.
“I have gotten a number of really nice laps qualifying this year,” said Martin, who has won nine poles in 42 races at Bristol. “Not every lap can be like that, and I was afraid that the law of averages was going to get me here, and I was going to choke.
“This is the one place where we don't need to be choking right now. We went out, and instead of playing it conservative, we put it out there and got another good lap. But I'm so relieved it's over with. I feel like there's a 200-pound gorilla off my back right now.
“I felt I was carrying it around there for about an hour and a half after practice. I knew we had a good car, but it's really close out there, and in order to qualify good, you have to get a spectacular lap, because you're driving against a bunch of other spectacular guys that are getting them, too. So it's cool to have it in the books and all done.”
Meanwhile Denny Hamlin made a spectacular save after his #11 Toyota got sideways during his qualifying run. Though Hamlin kept the car off the wall, he had to use an owner points provisional to make the field. He'll start 41st.
Mike Skinner, Max Papis, Mike Wallace and Aric Almirola failed to qualify for the race.
by Reid Spencer