DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mark Martin, who started on the outside pole for the 2009 Daytona 500, captured the pole for the 2010 edition of “The Great American Race” after running a fast lap of 191.188 mph in his No. 5 Chevrolet during Daytona 500 Qualifying Presented by Kroger on Saturday afternoon.
Martin, who also became the oldest driver to win the pole for the Daytona 500, will start alongside his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and 2004 Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who turned a lap of 190.913 mph to take the outside pole.
The sweep of the front row was part of a dominating qualifying effort for Hendrick Motorsports, who put all four of their Chevrolets in the top 10 of the speed chart with four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson qualifying sixth and three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon taking 10th.
“It’s just incredible to be behind the wheel of that 5 car,” said Martin, who is still seeking his first Daytona 500 win. “This is something that I’ve stood and watched for 26 years or so with envy of the guys that sit on the front row – last year was my first experience to do that. We were really close (to winning the pole) last year and the (team) just stepped up their game this year.”
“I’m real proud to be on the front row with my teammate,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We’ve been waiting – for what seems a lifetime – through the offseason to get to the race track and do something good, so this is definitely a good day.”
Only the front-row starting positions in the Daytona 500 were secured Saturday. In addition, the top 35 on owner’s points from 2009 are also guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500.
Two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott (190.573), Scott Speed (189.958) and Joe Nemechek (189.709) also qualified for the Daytona 500 on Saturday as they were fastest among teams not in the top 35 in 2009 owner’s points.
The remainder of the Daytona 500 field will be finalized in Thursday’s Gatorade Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races.
Tickets for all Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes Speedweeks events, including the 52nd annual Daytona 500, are available on your web-enabled phone at mobile.daytonainternationalspeedway.com, online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.