Anyone who contends that motor racing is a young man's game clearly hasn't met Mark Martin yet.
Even at 53 years of age and after more than three decades and 845 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver is still finding new 'firsts' to add to his career haul - such as his first-ever pole position at Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400, in his 54th event here.
"I have to drive these things fast, I'm trying to keep a job here!" he quipped as he stepped from the #55 car after his run, adding dryly: "So far it's going well."
Indeed it is: his lap of 36.053s (199.706mph) on the two-mile tri-oval almost two-tenths faster than that of Carl Edwards, who will share the front row with him for Sunday's noon start.
"I am surprised how fast Mark's lap was. Ours was good so Mark really stepped it up, that was a great run for him," said Edwards. "Mark pulled one our there. He was excited when he came in. I got to talk to him and he was wound up."
"I'm designed and geared for one lap qualifying," said Martin. "I didn't almost wreck the first lap, so I tried to go a little harder on the second lap and there was no way. I wobbled into one and there was no way I was going to beat it after that."
As well as the fastest car in qualifying, Martin seemed optimistic that he had the car to beat on Sunday, too. "We posted some pretty fast laps in race trim before we switched to qualifying trim today," he said. "All that bodes well, but you know me — I know how hard these things are to win and I know that not only does the fastest car not always win the race, but it just takes a whole lot.
"I believe this race team is up to the challenge of contending and winning a race somewhere along the way," he continued. "I can't know if it could possibly be this one or not. I just can't say. All I know is we're probably not going to have to take a middle of the pack race car and try to win with it."
One possible reason that Martin seems so energised this week is that he's organised a light schedule for himself over the summer, using his reduced season commitment to allow him to skip over half the races in the last two months - but then crucially, far from being rusty upon his return he's coming back faster than ever.
"I've had a few years of practice," Martin pointed out. "I don't need a whole bunch of practice - I just need a race car like what I drove today."