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Truex Jr. wins pole for Daytona 500

Feb 8, 2009 - 10:26 PM DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) -- No. 1 will lead the field to green for the 51st running of the Daytona 500.

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, won the pole for NASCAR's premier race on Sunday, lapping the 2.5-mile tri-oval in 47.87 seconds at 188.001 miles per hour.

It was Truex's first pole for the Daytona 500 and second career in the Sprint Cup series.

"That was exciting for all of us," Truex said. "This is the first time we've come down here and felt like we had a shot at the pole here.

"It's a big deal, the Daytona 500, starting on the pole. We've got a lot of hard work in front of us this week still, but I'm excited for all the guys. It's a great way to start out the season."

Truex's new team is a merger between Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing, two organizations that joined up in late November when sponsorship difficulties threatened their race teams.

Truex's EGR teammates, Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola, were also strong, posting the fourth and seventh fastest times, respectively.

"I think a lot of people put too much emphasis on the stuff that goes on during the winter," Truex said. "We felt like we did what was good for our company and what was the right thing for all of us to do.

"So far it feels like a step in the right direction. That doesn't guarantee success down the road at the other tracks, but it's a good start to the season, for sure."

Truex will start alongside Mark Martin in the front row for next Sunday's race. Martin qualified in 47.92 seconds, clocking 187.817 mph in a Chevrolet.

Martin, 50, is running a full-time Sprint Cup series slate this season for Hendrick Motorsports after running a partial schedule the past two seasons.

"Everybody on this race team is so charged up," Martin said. "It's just so fun to go to work every day and I'm glad it's just about ready to start.

"Rick Hendrick, what a guy. This is really something special that he's given me an opportunity to do."

In the 2007 Daytona 500, Martin finished a mere 0.020 seconds behind race winner Kevin Harvick. Martin led going into the final lap before Harvick stormed from seventh to win on the outside.

This year, Truex and Martin are the only two drivers guaranteed of their starting positions for the Daytona 500. The remainder of the lineup will be determined by Thursday's qualification races.

The top 35 in points from last season are locked into the race. Two of the non-qualified drivers will advance into the starting lineup from each of the two 150-mile duels.

Three more will be added to the lineup based on speeds from Sunday's session with a 43rd starting position reserved by a past Cup series champion.

Those three drivers that are first on the list of being locked in include the Fords of Bill Elliott and Travis Kvapil, along with Tony Stewart in a Chevrolet who wrapped up the final starting spot among the "go or go home" group.

Elliott appeared to a good chance at winning the pole after being the fastest in both of Saturday's practice sessions in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.

"I have such mixed emotions," said Elliott, who was fifth fastest in qualifying. "This whole Motorcraft team, they really put a good plan together to come down here for the 500 this year and I'm so proud of what they've done. I'm disappointed for those guys that we didn't sit on the pole."

Also locked into the race is two-time series champion Terry Labonte, who earned a berth in the field as the fastest former champion attempting to make the field.

"We still have some things to work on to find some more speed, but you never know how it will race," Labonte said. "Today was qualifying, and we accomplished one goal, now it's time to get ready for the next step."

Truex and Martin can now spend Thursday's Gatorade Daytona Duels qualifying races fine-tuning their race cars for the Daytona 500.

"I can't wait to get this (Chevrolet) out there in the draft," Martin said. "It's so fast. Everybody on this race team is so charged up."

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