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Qualifying rainout puts Johnson, Martin on front row

Rain at Talladega hands pole for the AMP Energy 500 to defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson
If Clint Eastwood had been at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday to ask Mark Martin his iconic movie question, "Do I feel lucky?" Martin's answer would have been an emphatic affirmative.

With the qualifying session for Sunday's AMP Energy 500 cancelled because of rain, Martin will start on the outside of the front row beside NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader and Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR's qualifying rainout rules stipulate that the top 35 positions are set according to owner-points rank. Consequently, the twelve drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will start from the top twelve spots, with the exception of Kasey Kahne, who will drop to the rear of the field in his #9 Dodge because of an engine change.

"This is the most relaxed I've been going into Talladega in the last ten years," said Martin, whose crash five laps into the April race at the 2.66-mile restrictor-plate superspeedway is emblematic of the struggles he's had there. "I just really feel good. I feel like this is going to be our lucky day."

Martin, who trails Johnson by 118 points in the Chase standings, said his car was "just average with the field" during Friday's practice and blamed himself for totalling two superspeedway cars in his last three plate races.

"We'll go out here tomorrow and race and hope that we can keep it in the front half, but my experience says that you're going to cycle throughout the field,” he said. “The one thing I don't see me doing is riding in the back. I'm going to race tomorrow (Sunday) - and I've told everybody this - I'm going to race tomorrow like there's no way that I can be in a wreck - and I feel lucky."

Behind Johnson on the front row, Jeff Gordon completes the Hendrick trifecta in the third starting position. Tony Stewart rolls off fourth, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.

With 44 entries for 43 starting spots, Regan Smith's #78 Chevrolet would have missed the race based on fewest number of qualifying attempts this season, but on Saturday, Front Row Motorsports withdrew the #37 Dodge driven by Tony Raines, and Smith inherited the 43rd position on the grid.

Smith was on the losing end of a NASCAR ruling in last fall's Talladega race, when he was dropped from first to 18th at the finish for a last-lap pass below the yellow line that separates the racing surface from the apron.

Tony Stewart, who crossed the finish line second, was declared the winner of the event.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

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Third-fastest in final practice, Jimmie Johnson drives the No. 48 Lowe`s Chevrolet as he prepares for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday in Talladega, Ala. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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