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Velocity vet

Mark Martin, 51, became the oldest pole winner for the NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500.  (Associated Press)
Mark Martin, 51, became the oldest pole winner for the NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500. (Associated Press)

Martin captures Daytona 500 pole

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Go Daddy could represent more than Mark Martin’s sponsor. It also could be his rallying cry.

Martin got off to a fast start Saturday in his quest for his first Daytona 500 victory, winning the pole for next Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series opener.

Martin’s lap at 191.188 mph knocked off his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and made Martin, a 51-year-old father of one, the oldest pole winner in the track’s 51-year history.

The previous oldest Daytona pole winner had been Dale Jarrett, who was 48 when he had the top qualifying speed for the 2005 Daytona 500.

“You know we haven’t done it yet, so this is the best shot I’ve had, or as good,” Martin said of winning the 500. “I had some really good shots and didn’t get it done, but think we have our best chance now.

“This is something I’ve stood and watched for 26 years or so with envy.”

Martin has come close to winning NASCAR’s biggest race, most recently when he and Kevin Harvick were in a tight battle for the lead when a late caution secured Harvick’s 2007 win.

“I almost won two different races in the No. 8 car (for Dale Earnhardt Inc.). I had a chance to drive the No. 5 car, I knew more than anything else, I knew that I would regret for the rest of my life not taking that opportunity,” Martin said.

“And, boy, was I right about that.”

It should come as no surprise that Martin is joined on the front row by a teammate, considering Hendrick drivers finished first, second and third in points last season.

Having Earnhardt in the second spot might have come somewhat as a shock considering he went winless and was 25th in points last year.

“No one will know the amount of effort and work this 88 shop put in over the offseason,” said team owner Rick Hendrick.

Earnhardt was fastest during Friday’s lone practice that was cut short by rain, with teammates Martin and Jeff Gordon right behind. Earnhardt was the first Hendrick driver to qualify and went to the top of the speed chart, but Martin bested him not long after.

Tags: racing