28 April 2012
Martin clinches pole at Richmond
Anyone who thought that Mark Martin was set to ease himself into retirement has been given a rude awakening, by the 53-year-old rolling back time to take his second pole of 2012.
Remember Mark Martin setting a new record last month for the oldest man to start a Sprint Cup race on pole position? Well, scratch that one, it's been broken. A month and a half older, Martin is not only wiser - he's also still faster.
His qualifying lap of 21.040s (128.327 mph) was 0.006s ahead of Carl Edwards, with the younger man only able to marvel at Martin's longevity and continuing ability to set such high benchmarks at the age of 53 years, 3 months and 19 days.
Martin himself seems to be revelling in the challenge of helping his new team Michael Waltrip Racing step up to the proverbial next level, and reenergised by having opted for a less demanding 26-race partial season in 2012.
"I really want to make MWR better, said Martin. "That's more important to me than anything."
Martin was the last runner in qualifying for Saturday night's Capital City 400 Cup race having earlier topped the earlier practice 1 session on Friday afternoon. The later qualifiers typically benefit from the cooler conditions later in the day, but this time Martin was the only driver late in the session to really challenge for pole, let alone pull it off.
"I was really hoping that [crew chief Rodney Childers] would call me on the first lap and tell me to shut it down," said Martin. "I told him to tell me to shut it down if we happened to get the pole on the first lap. When he didn't, I was afraid, 'Oh, no, we're 15th-fastest. That wasn't near fast enough!
"I was very close to skinning the car up, especially off of 4 on the second lap, and that was my concern. "I was driving as hard as I can go, at the very limit of my talent, for sure. If I keep pushing the limits, I'm going to run out of talent here, one of these days!"
Fans and fellow competitors will be amazed if they ever see such a day come about, however. Meanwhile Edwards was left analysing his own earlier lap to see where he could have shaved off those six thousandths.
"We are happy, that is a good lap," he insisted. "We have a better race trim package than we do a qualifying trim package so I am excited about that."
Kevin Harvick will start from the second row of the grid alongside last weekend's polesitter AJ Allmendinger, a positive qualifying outcome for the Richard Childress Racing driver after a distinctly troubled day of practice.
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