BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Rocket Man laid down a blistering qualifying lap at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon, but it wasn’t fast enough to knock the old man off the pole.
Mark Martin won back-to-back poles for just the second time in his career by putting up a lap of 15.256 seconds and beating out Ryan Newman by four-thousandths of a second. Martin and Newman will lead the field to the green flag on the front row of Sunday’s Food City 500.
“It’s no secret that we haven’t had the best of luck this year, but we’ve got speed,” said Martin, who also won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole at Atlanta two weeks ago. “It’s nice — we’ve got a great race team.”
Martin last won consecutive poles 20 years ago when he put down the fastest laps two weeks in a row at Darlington and Bristol in 1989. At 50 years old, he is the oldest driver to win multiple poles in the same season.
Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five qualifiers under a sunny sky that made the racetrack slick in the turns. Several cars got loose in the corners, but all the drivers managed to keep their entries out of the fence.
After Martin slipped and slid through his pole-winning first lap, he said he was ready to pack it in.
“The car was going so fast at the finish line that I said I was going to quit,” he said. “But I was going so fast there was no way I could get it to pit road, so I had to make a second lap.”
Newman narrowly missed out on catching Martin.
“The car came off the truck real good and we just had a tweak here or there,” Newman said. “It worked out the way it was supposed to with the exception of the four-thousandths of a second we lost by.”
Johnson ripped off a lap of 15.295 seconds, good enough to give him the fifth career top-five start at BMS. After several frustrating races at Bristol, Johnson said he studied plenty of tape during the off week.
“I really did study those tapes and tried to do everything that I could to come up here and do my part,” he said. “Spending the time and going through all that stuff paid off today.”
David Reutimann, Reed Sorenson, Dave Blaney, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top 10, while Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield missed the show.