by Jeff Wackerlin
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 GoDaddy.com 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."
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