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Martin continues to impress in part-time role

August 18, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM,

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Carl Edwards thought he had the pole locked up at Michigan International Speedway until the old man took it away at nearly 200 mph.

"I had Mark Martin toys when I was a little kid," Edwards said, shaking his head after Martin knocked him off the pole in Friday qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400. "I am surprised how fast Mark's lap was. Ours was good, so Mark really stepped it up."

At 53, Martin continues to amaze -- all 5-foot-6, 135 pounds of him.

"I just really feel like this is a very, very lucky time in my career and in my life because I get to race on my terms and do things the way I want to do them."


Pure Michigan 400

2.C. Edwards 198.626 36.249
3. J. Johnson 198.440 36.283
4.M. Kenseth 198.183 36.330
5. K. Kahne 197.878 36.386

"There are generations of people who have all had little Mark Martin toys," Edwards said. "Who knows? My kids some day might be racing against the guy. ... And they will probably be just as frustrated."

Martin's pole at Michigan comes as he drives a part-time Cup schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing. It's his fourth pole in 15 starts this season.

Related: Martin first in qualifying | Out Front with Miss Coors Light

"He is living the dream," Edwards said. "He has had a successful career and [now] he's able to pick and choose which races he's going to run -- and he performs well at them. I think that is pretty amazing, especially at his age. ... He can probably bench press more than all of us."

Martin would be hard-pressed to disagree, at least when it comes to living the dream.

He said the best component of the part-time schedule is his ability to do more of what pleases him. He said there's no substitute for the opportunity to "put my arms around my wife. ... It's a piece of life that I didn't have before."

Twenty-seven years into his marriage to Arlene and 30 years into his Sprint Cup career, there are still times, like Friday afternoon, when he even surprises himself.

"I am surprised," he said after winning his 55th career pole, a mark that ties him with Bill Elliott for seventh on the all-time Sprint Cup list. "I was surprised in 2009 at what we were able to accomplish [five wins for Hendrick Motorsports].

"I feel a little bit of the magic that I felt in 2009, working [now] with Rodney Childers [crew chief] and working with my teammates and all the incredible staff at MWR. I just really feel like this is a very, very lucky time in my career and in my life because I get to race on my terms and do things the way I want to do them."

Martin appreciates extra effort behind the scenes because, he said, that's been a secret to his own success.

"The one thing that you'll get from me is every ounce that I can find," Martin said. "You get that no matter what the result may be."

Martin was able to savor the way all the effort came together for the lap at 199.706 mph that put him on the pole.

"It was obscene. It was crazy," he said. "To be able to get that lap is a nice thing [but] the fastest car does not always win the race."

Martin knows a little something about winning. He's done it 40 times in Cup and sits second on the all-time Nationwide Series wins list with 49.

Although it's been 95 races since his last Cup Series triumph, Martin refuses to discount his chances to put an MWR Toyota in Victory Lane.

"I believe this race team is up to the challenge of contending and winning a race somewhere along the way," he says. "I can't know if it could possibly be this one. All I know is we're probably not going to have to take a middle-of-the-pack race car and try to win with it. That is a feather in our cap."

Pure Michigan 400: Practice 1 | Practice 2 | Final Practice