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Martin On Pole At Kansas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2009
Mark Martin won his seventh pole of the season Friday at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mark Martin won his seventh pole of the season Friday at Kansas Speedway. (File photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Correspondent

Kansas City, Kan. – As Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was at the podium for his post qualifying press conference, Mark Martin sat relaxed in a chair with his legs propped up.

Then, Earnhardt started speaking about Martin.

“There’s something unique in his personality that has maintained his youthfulness as far as his exuberance for competing and just overall competition,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You see a lot of guys and their temperament softens over time and he seems as excited to be going around the race track as I guess when he first strapped in a car.

“I’m really happy for him to be able to – you know he was the bridesmaid for so many years, so here’s one guy who’s pulling for him to win the championship this year because he’s deserving.”

As Earnhardt Jr. spoke those words, Martin lowered his head, almost trying to hide from the praise. A bashful grin crept over his face.

Of course, Martin already knew that Earnhardt Jr. would be rooting for him, as it seems almost everyone inside and outside NASCAR is. But Martin would prefer not to be reminded about it.

“I try not to think too far forward right now. I’m thinking about the present and not much far forward because I don’t want to think about the possibility of letting all those people down,” Martin said.

Then, he was quick to lavish praise on his organization and Earnhardt Jr., who qualified second.

“You know, Hendrick Motorsports swept the top three spots in qualifying and I’m really excited for Dale Jr,” Martin said. “He really needed that shot in the arm and gosh it would have been nice to see him on the pole, but front row’s great.”

Not as nice as Martin winning the pole himself, however.

Martin ran a lap of 175.758 mph for his seventh pole of the season and 48th of his career. That’s a new season high, besting his total of six poles in 1989.

Yes, it’s yet another milestone in what Martin hopes has the makings of a career season.

“May I ask you guys something?” Martin halfway rhetorically asked the media center, “Have any of you ever stepped on a cat’s tail? Have you?”

After a bit of laughter, Martin completed the analogy.

“I have accidentally stepped on a cat’s tail before. And it’s pretty funny how they make a noise and go really fast. That’s kind of like when I stepped on the gas on that 5 car today. It was like stepping on a cat’s tail. That thing had so much horsepower,” Martin said.

That was from a car that Martin said immediately after qualifying wasn’t very good in practice, and that he would have been happy with just a top 20.

But crew chief Alan Gustafson and the crew made the right changes.

“What Alan and I have going is really something special,” Martin said.

Brad Keselowski was the final Hendrick car in the top three. In all, six of the seven Hendrick cars (counting Stewart-Haas Racing) qualified in the top 11.

Nine of the 12 Chase drivers qualified in the top 20, with Kurt Busch having the worst day of any Chaser, qualifying 41st.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 2 2009
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