Mark Martin Secures Pole for Kobalt Tools 500

Just when you thought you’re never gonna see Mark Martin lead a NASCAR field before Turn 1 of a Sprint race again, he pulled one of his last rabbits out of his hat and clinched the top spot in the qualifying session for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver rallied to his first pole position in 8 years – his last No 1 spot in qualifying was at Richmond, in May 2001 – after recording an impressive 29.640 seconds per lap performance (187.045 mph) on Friday night. And the 50-year old veteran was simply overwhelmed with his achievement.

“I live to scare myself like that. This is the first real solid step at turning our thing around. This is cool. This is really cool. It doesn't really have any implications for Sunday, but we won a competition (Friday night),” said Martin, who had started from the first row 16 times through the last 8 years, including the 2009 season opener at Daytona.

Clinching the second best time of the Friday qualifying was Kurt Busch – second time in a row, following his runner-up spot in the Las Vegas qualifying last week, promoted to No 1 after Kyle Busch’s relegation due to engine change – who admitted there wasn’t much he could do to match Martin’s effort.

“I think everybody saw that lap go up on the board and went, 'I can't touch that -- I'm not even close. I'm surprised that we're second. I think some people had better laps than we did, but we ran a different groove. We ran a lane up (toward the outside of the track). We were slower through the corners but faster down the straightaways,” said Busch.

The overall Top 10 on the grid for Sunday’s race were Jamie McMurray, Juan Montoya, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, reigning Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, Joe Nemechek, Las Vegas’ winner Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Leader in the overall point standings Jeff Gordon could only manage 16th place overall.

For the complete starting lineup for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 race, visit our "Results" section..
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