BROOKLYN, Mich. — Carl Edwards joked that he played with Mark Martin toys as a child.
But it was Martin, 53, who had the last laugh Friday, as he blew away the rest of the field in qualifying for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Martin toured the two-mile track in 36.053 seconds (199.706 mph) for a decisive edge over second-place Edwards (198.626 mph). The Coors Light pole award was Martin’s series-best fourth of the season, his first at Michigan and the 55th of his career, tying him with Bill Elliott for seventh on the all-time series list.
Series leader Jimmie Johnson qualified third at 198.440 mph, followed by Matt Kenseth (198.183 mph) and Kasey Kahne (197.878 mph).
Despite having driven the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota just twice since the Cup series last visited Michigan in June, Martin showed no rust at all in beating Edwards by .196 seconds.
“Gosh, I’ve had a few years of practice,” Martin said. “I don’t need a whole bunch of practice. I just need a race car like what I drove today. I need fast race cars, and that’s what (crew chief) Rodney Childers is giving me.
“All it is is driving the car — I’ve been doing that since I was 15.”
Edwards, who ran what he thought was a very strong lap, knows about Martin’s longevity only too well.
“He is an inspiration for me as to how well you can do for such a long period,” Edwards said. “The guy — I had Mark Martin toys when I was a little kid, and here he is. There are generations of people who have all had little Mark Martin toys and who knows, my kids someday might be racing against the guy, and they will probably be just as frustrated.
“How old is he? 53? He can probably bench press more than all of us and go faster than all of us. He is a pretty spectacular guy.”
Trevor Bayne, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Landon Cassill and Paul Menard will start Sunday’s race from positions six through 10, respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lost the series lead last Sunday at Watkins Glen, qualified 22nd.
Stephen Leicht and JJ Yeley failed to make the 43-car field. Parker Kligerman subbed for Sam Hornish Jr., who is racing in the Nationwide Series in Montreal on Saturday, and qualified 17th. Hornish will take over on Sunday at Michigan but must start from the rear because of the driver change.