First Daytona 500 Pole For Martin

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Mark Martin secured his first career pole for the Daytona 500 on Saturday when he topped a 54 car field to earn the top spot for the 52nd running of "The Great American Race."

Martin, who started second in last year's Daytona 500 with Hendrick Motorsports, posted a lap of 191.188 mph for his 49th career pole. He also became the oldest driver to win a pole for the 500 at 51 years, 27 days, and it was his first at the speedway since taking the top spot for the 1989 July race with Roush Racing.

"I'd like to thank Alan Gustafson (crew chief), the team and Hendrick Motorsports," Martin said. "I was just out there riding really fast. It sure is fun. It's quite an opportunity to get to drive their stuff here."

Martin will be joined on the front row by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to mark the first time one team swept the top two Daytona 500 qualifying positions since Yates Racing in 2007.

"Man, it is fun to drive a car that performs like that," said Earnhardt Jr. who matched his best Daytona 500 qualifying effort (qualified second in 2003). "We have a little bit different wind situation but we were able to put down a pretty good lap. It was hitting the ground a little bit yesterday and that is slowing it down some. Was hoping to get that fixed. We ran so much faster, we got such a good tail wind down the back straightaway today that we didn't do it enough. It hit the ground a little bit in three and four and slowed it down some."

Only Martin and Earnhardt Jr. have their Daytona 500 starting spots secured with the rest of the starting line-up determined by Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile races.

"After watching Shootout practice I'm glad we got two up front," said owner Rick Hendrick.

Ryan Newman and Bill Elliott qualified third and fourth, respectively and will start second and third in the first Duel.

Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the day's fastest five qualifiers and will start second in the second qualifying race.

Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth completed the top 10.

NASCAR's implementation of a bigger restrictor plate resulted in 40 cars topping Martin Truex Jr.'s pole winning speed of a year ago.

Elliott was the fastest among the drivers that needed to qualify on time with a lap of 190.573 mph in the No. 21 Ford. Scott Speed (13th) and Joe Nemechek (16th) joined Elliott for the top three go-or-go-homers and all will have a spot in the 500.

Bobby Labonte, who qualified 18th, is locked into the 500 regardless of his finish on Thursday because of the past champion's provisional.

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