Ageless Martin Wins 500 Pole
Apparently Mark Martin’s wonderful 2009 story was not a fluke, apparently Dale Earnhardt’s Jr.’s horrible 2009 story was and apparently Hendrick Motorsports will again be the team to beat in Sprint Cup this season.
All of that being apparent, that is, if qualifying for the 2010 Daytona 500 means anything.
Martin, who turned 51 in last month, won the pole for next Sunday’s 500 with a lap at 191.188 mph on Saturday. It was his first 500 pole and he becomes the oldest driver to win a 500 pole.
Earnhardt was second fastest in the session and will start next to Martin thanks to posting a lap at 190.913 mph.
That means the grid for this year’s 500 will have an all-Hendrick front row.
“This is just a great accomplishment for this GoDaddy.com team, Alan Gustafson and all of the guys,” Martin said. “I want to thank Bob Parsons (his sponsor) for stepping up to the plate here. It is pretty exciting to have them on board. It is all about the team. That was not accomplishment of mine, it is one of all of our guys on this team. To have Dale, Jr. on the outside of the front row, locked in, just means that we are doing stuff right.”
“That’s a tribute to a great organization,” Earnhardt said. “That’s all race car right there.
“I would have like to have had the pole, but at least we got two Hendrick cars on the front row.”
Speeds for the cars, which are using larger restrictor plates, were well up from a year ago when Martin Truex Jr. won the poll with a lap at 188.001 mph.
The look of the rest of the starting grid will be determined in Thursday’s Gatorade duel 150-mile qualifying races.
Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing was third fastest, giving Chevrolet the top three times of the day.
Fourth was another 50-plus driver, Bill Elliott, who was driving a Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
“That was a great run,” Elliott said. “You never can tell about circumstances – when you go, what happens, how the wind blows for this guy or that guy, but the Hendrick guys are hard to beat. Week in and week out, they’re the most stable team in the garage as far as what they need to do and what they’re trying to do. We worked all winter to come down here for today and now we need to work on once we leave here today, work on what we need to do for Wednesday to be as good as we can on Thursday, and, hopefully, everything works out and we’ll be in the 500.”
Fifth fastest was Juan Pablo Montoya while Jimmie Johnson, who is going for his fifth straight Sprint Cup championship, was sixth. Johnson’s lap gave Hendrick cars three of the six fastest times. Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon was 10th fastest.
Rounding out the top 10 in speed were Kurt Busch (seventh), Clint Bowyer (eighth) and Kyle Busch (ninth).
In all, 54 drives made qualifying runs.
Last year’s race winner, Matt Kenseth, was 11th fastest.
Have a good day was Penske Racing. In addition to Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. (12th) and new man Brad Keselowski (15th) had top-15 speeds.
Not having a good day was Roush Fenway Racing. After Kenseth, David Ragan was 24th, Carl Edwards was 26th and Greg Biffle was 37th.
“It’s hard to feel that extra mile an hour, but our Aflac Ford Fusion was not as fast as we wanted it to be, but it is cool standing down here with all these fans,” Edwards said. “You have a bad lap like that and you come down here and they’re all pumped up ready to go racing. We’ve got a race tonight with our Scotts Fusion in the Bud Shootout. That should be a lot of fun, but we’ve just got to go race in those qualifiers and try to get the best spot we can, and then go into this Daytona 500 not thinking about qualifying.”
“I slowed down in (turns) three and four for some reason,” Biffle said. “Practice doesn’t make the car faster. It is what it is. Basically, when you unload here and you start making laps, that’s about the speed of your car. I don’t know. That’s as fast as it’s going to be, I guess.”
The top three go-or-go home drivers who locked in spots in the race were Elliott, Scott Speed 13th fastest) and Joe Nemechek (16th).
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