Saturday, July 25, 2009

Martin on Pole at Brickyard: Fourth Pole in 2009

by M Roberts

After being nearly four hours delayed, qualifying for Sunday’s All-State 400 at the Brickyard was case of all the youngsters not being able to catch the old man.

Mark Martin set the pace early in qualifying with a blistering lap of 49.44 seconds and joked on his headset to his team that he might have hit 49.00 flat if he weren’t so old. Martin won his fourth pole of the season and first ever at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Martin is one of only four drivers to race in all previous 15 NASCAR races run at the Brickyard. His best career finish was second in 1998 and has a total of nine top-10 finishes in the 15 races. His best start position previously was second which he did twice, once last season and the other back in 1996.

Starting on the front row outside of Martin will be Juan Pablo Montoya who came in with the second fastest lap of 49.78 seconds. The 2000 Indy 500 Champion had a spectacular first day of practice on Friday in both qualifying and race trim set-ups and was able to keep the momentum going in qualifying.

The most pleasant surprise of the day for many was finally seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr qualify well with the third best time of 49.84. Earnhardt Jr ran the fast lap in a brand new car, the first completely re-hauled chassis by his new crew chief Lance McGrew. Junior has been fighting stomach sickness for the last two days and there is a possibility that Brad Keselowski may have practice the car if he’s not feeling better, and possibly be ready for Sunday as a fill in driver.

Former Brickyard 400 winner, Bill Elliott qualified fourth and David Reutimann rounded out the top-5 with a strong lap to start fifth.

This seasons top pole winner, Brian Vickers will start sixth and he’ll be followed by two-time
Brickyard 400 winner and current points leader, Tony Stewart. Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, and Clint Bowyer finish out the top-10 start positions.

Last seasons winner, and two-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson will start 16th, while his teammate and four time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon starts 22nd.

The two surprisingly poor qualifiers of the day were Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards who came in a with disappointing 40th and 41st best time. Edwards plainly said, “It’s bad, but optimistically added, “ luckily, we were faster than that in race trim yesterday“.

Final practice sessions are scheduled to begin shortly after qualifying which should be further telling in who will be the top contender to win on Sunday.

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