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Martin captures second straight pole

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A week away from the racetrack gave Mark Martin the break he needed from his disastrous start to the season.

It certainly didn’t slow him.

Martin won his second straight pole Friday with a lap of 125.773 mph around Bristol Motor Speedway in qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500, giving him the top starting spot in consecutive races for the first time in 20 years.

Two weeks ago in Atlanta, Martin, 50, became the second-oldest driver in NASCAR history to win the pole. That pole had been Martin’s first since May 5, 2001, at Richmond.

“It’s the (No.) 5 car,” Martin said in giving all the credit to his Hendrick Motorsports crew. “We have learned so much through each individual event that, man, I feel good. We unloaded here rolling.”

It’s the lift Martin and his team need after falling far short of their early-season goals. His motor blew up at California and Las Vegas, leading to consecutive 40th-place finishes, then he cut a tire at Atlanta while running fourth. That caused him to finish 31st, and he heads into Sunday’s race 34th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

“As soon as we have one good run, one good finish, we’re going to start feeling better,” he said. “We’ve been a little bit nauseous.”

Ryan Newman qualified second at 125.740 mph, and three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was third with a lap at 125.453.

Greg Biffle qualified fourth, and Kasey Kahne was fifth. He was followed by David Reutimann, Reed Sorenson and Dave Blaney. Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top 10.

Brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch of Las Vegas qualified 19th and 32nd.

NATIONWIDE — Greg Biffle bruised his ribs while fishing this week and will not race in today’s Nationwide Series event at Bristol.

Biffle, who will race in the premier Sprint Cup Series event, said he was hurt Tuesday when he jumped from the dock to the boat and slipped in a wet spot. He banged his right side on the boat.

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