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Martin claims third Cup pole of the year

2 June 2012

Mark Martin certainly isn't easing into retirement anytime soon. With his third pole position of 2012, his lap of 22.742s (158.297mph) at his favourite track - the one-mile concrete Dover International Speedway - was enough to scare even the grand old man of NASCAR.

"I'll never do that again!" said Martin with a laugh afterwards. "I knew that I only had to make it one mile without wrecking, and I was going to drive to the limit and slightly beyond, and I felt like I did that. I wouldn't want to do that again."

The records that Mark Martin can now lay claim to are formidable: it's his 54th pole position in 840 starts, putting him eighth of all time. He's started on pole here five times (tying Rusty Wallace for the second-highest total of all time) and he's now the oldest pole winner at Dover.

Martin's time was just 0.005s ahead of the comparatively boyish Jimmie Johnson, who will join Martin on the front row of the grid for Sunday afternoon's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

"I knew off the corner, off 2 and 4, I just couldn't get the power down, being loose, and [that] I left a little on the table," he admitted after his qualifying run. "I felt it was more like a tenth, tenth and a half that I left out there - and Mark found five thousandths."

Johnson hasn't had a pole position in the series since September 2010 - which ironically was right here at Dover - and he'd been hoping to put an end to that particular drought, but it wasn't to be.

"Qualifying's never been my strong suit, but I've been second a lot," he said. "I'll just have to take care of it and do a little better job there."

Asked if he could envisage himself putting in the sort of qualifying performances Martin's coming up with in 2012 when he himself is 53 years old, Johnson could only laugh.

"I hope that I can," he said. "I've been able to pick his brain and understand him on many levels. One, his passion for the sport; he's tried to retire a few times, but just can't do it. That fire still burns in him.

"The other part that's really cool is he's created this opportunity," Johnson continued. "He's wanted to run a limited schedule. He's been able to do it a couple of times and he's found a great situation there at Michael Waltrip Racing. And then mentally and physically, the work that he puts in and has put in over the years keeps him in this position.

"There are guys a decade younger than he is with back issues and knee issues at a much younger age. Mark has worked through some of those issues himself but has worked hard on his physical fitness. If you are strong physically, it's also good for the mind. And he's covered those bases and continues to show it," he finished.

Martin and Johnson will line-up ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman and Martin's MWR team mate Clint Bowyer on Sunday for the 400-mile Cup race.

"I'm happy to be back in better qualifying order than we have been," said Newman. "It was a good run for the Quicken Loans Chevrolet that is the most important part. It gets us good pit selection and things like that on a pit road that can be treacherous at times."

Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Kyle and Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the top ten starters for the race. Johnson's Hendrick team mates Kasey Kahne (13th), Jeff Gordon (14th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17th) had solid qualifying runs even if they couldn't quite match the five-time champion's achievement, while Newman's team mate and car owner Tony Stewart will be disappointed with only managing 29th.

Scott Speed was the highest-placed of the cars having to qualify on pace, but Josh Wise and Cole Whitt failed to make it onto the 43-car grid.

Full qualifying times and positions are available.


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