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Martin to make first start on pole for the 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2010) – Although Mark Martin will be making his 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, this will be the first time the racing veteran has started from the legendary event from the pole position.

Last weekend, Martin wheeled his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet around the 2.5-mile speedway to post a lap of 47.074 seconds and capture the pole from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. At 51 years old, Martin is the oldest driver to earn the pole for the season opener.

In 49 Sprint Cup starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Martin has tallied nine top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. In 2007, he nearly won his first Daytona 500, crossing the finish line only .020 seconds behind Kevin Harvick. This marked the closest margin of victory ever in the Great American Race.

“The Daytona 500 is a big deal,” Martin said. “We can see that in the fans that come out and stay for weeks. The amount of time that is spent preparing the cars for this one race. The level of excitement is up on that day. It’s just a different feeling. But once you’re strapped in that car, it’s the same. It’s just like any other race, and you want to win.”

Crew chief Alan Gustafson and the team will work throughout the race to perfect the No. 5 Chevrolet, in this case Chassis No. 5-560 which has never been raced or tested before. They also will have to adjust to the new procedures NASCAR has implemented for superspeedways.

“NASCAR added some wing end plates that slowed the cars down and put a little drag on the cars,” Gustafson said. “I don’t know for sure, but the restrictor plate should be, in single-car runs, a pretty direct replacement for the drag that they added with the curved end plate. That should be the same. They will probably suck up better and faster than they did before in a pack. If that’s the case, the drivers will like it. In overall speed, I don’t think they’ll be a whole bunch of difference.”

Race coverage for the Daytona 500 begins this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.