“So in the last eight races he has only participated in three of them?" marvelled Carl Edwards when this was pointed out to him in the post-qualifying press conference. "He is living the dream! He has had a successful career and is able to pick and choose which races he is going to run and he performs well at them. I think that is pretty amazing, especially at his age. He is an inspiration for me as to how well you can do for such a long period.
"I had Mark Martin toys when I was a little kid and here he is," Edwards added. "There are generations of people who have all had little Mark Martin toys and who knows, my kids someday might be racing against the guy. And they will probably be just as frustrated. How old is he? 53? He can probably bench press more than all of us and go faster than all of us. He is a pretty spectacular guy."
Starting in second place alongside Martin, Edwards will have the best early opportunity to take control of proceedings from the veteran. And he needs to seize the opportunity if he's to have any chance of getting into the Chase shootout for the Sprint Cup championship via a "most wins" wildcard.
"I believe a good starting spot is key here," he said. "I think that it will go long green flag runs and if the speeds are as high as they seem to be – at least for the first part of the race it could be pretty tough to pass, so this could be big for us."
On the second row of the grid, Jimmie Johnson will be lining up alongside Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing team mate Matt Kenseth for the start.
"We were in qualifying trim the whole time," admitted Johnson of his Friday activity at Michigan. "In race trim we have a few more things to sort out, but the car's been quick, it's been great." He'll have the chance to work on his race set-up on Saturday morning, when the Cup cars have two practice session opportunities.
Kenseth said that he had benefited from some shade during his qualifying run, which had given him just that critical edge when it came to grip.
"I did the first lap and thought it was good but I thought maybe I could do a little better the second lap," he said. "The car is really good and we drew a cloud, which was good. Hopefully the sun will come back out - I don't know how fast the rest of these guys will go. That was a good lap though."
Johnson's team mate Kasey Kahne - the driver who replaced Mark Martin in the Hendrick Motorsports #5 at the start of 2012 - will start from fifth place, alongside youngster Trevor Bayne.
"Lap one I was just too loose getting into turn one," said Kahne, who was clearly frustrated at not having done even better in qualifying. "It just slid and I tried to get back to the throttle and it slid some more. I knew I had to make a good lap the second lap because I figured we were able to. Between turns one and two I struggled a little bit, even on the second lap I slid a little more than I would have liked. We ended up fifth."