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Martin after qualifying 12th at Martinsville: We have a fast race car

Martin after qualifying 12th at Martinsville: We have a fast race car

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Quaker State/ Chevrolet, earned the top qualifying spot among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway.

Martin scored the 12th-place starting spot. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, will line up 17th, and Jeff Gordon will roll off the grid 21st in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 26th in his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet.

Pre-race coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX, and the green flag is scheduled to drop at 1 p.m.

In 46 Cup appearances at Martinsville, Martin has two wins, 12 top-five finishes, and 24 top-10s. Martin will be making his 800th career Cup start on Sunday.

“We missed a little bit on the balance, but it was a good run,” Martin said. “We have got a fast race car. The car is just beautiful. Glad to have Quaker State on board this weekend on the Chevy. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and all the guys on the team are doing an incredible job. I really think we are just going to get better as the season goes on. Like I say, we have a lot of speed this weekend. We missed the balance just a little.”

Johnson has reached Victory Lane six times in his 18 Cup starts at the Virginia short track and most recently won there in March 2009. Despite his starting position, Johnson has finished outside the top 10 just once during those 18 events, and he has 13 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s.

“I did lock up the brakes, and the brake locking was uncomfortable,” Johnson said. “I think I had decent lap on my second lap. I was afraid to brake lock up in (Turn) 3 and kind of got out of rhythm in between (Turns) 3 and 4. It is a decent lap; we’ll take it. I’m usually not the best at qualifying here so I’m kinda proud of that lap right now.”

Gordon leads all active drivers in wins at Martinsville with seven victories there. He also has 23 top-five finishes and 29 top-10s in those 36 Cup starts.

In 22 Cup starts at Martinsville, Earnhardt has eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. Most recently, he guided the No. 88 Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish after lining up 28th in the October 2010 event.