INDIANAPOLIS — Not many times in Mark Martin's success-filled NASCAR career has he been willing to make bold predictions.
Yet after winning the pole for today's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was certain of this:
"I can promise you one thing. There is nobody in NASCAR having more fun than me. I'm sure about that," said Martin, 50, who Saturday became the oldest pole winner of a major racing event in the 100 years of the track with a lap at 182.054 mph.
The previous record was set by Cliff Bergere, who was 49 years, 175 days old when he won the pole for the 1946 Indy 500.
Why shouldn't Martin be having fun? He leads the Sprint Cup series with four wins this season, is on pace to contend for his first series title and is looking forward to being "in the fray" to win his first Brickyard 400.
"I like making history," Martin said Saturday before final practice. "The very most fun of the whole thing that we're doing here is to see (my team's) faces.
"I love those guys, and I'm a pretty tough unit, and I've had a lot of disappointment. But I feel toward them like you do toward your children. I don't want them to suffer through disappointment.
"So, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get a good lap so I wouldn't let them down."
The pole didn't come easily. First, NASCAR had to wait through a four-hour rain delay before it could begin qualifying. Then with Martin among the first three cars to take the track, he had to wait nearly 1½ hours more before securing his fourth pole of the season. He is 10th with 45 career Cup poles.
Bill Elliott, 53, qualified fourth-fastest. "I'm going to give it my best shot," he said. "If a 50-year-old can win, I think a few more years ain't going to hurt a thing."
Juan Pablo Montoya, who like Martin is trying to secure a spot in the Chase for the Championship, qualified second (180.803 mph), just ahead of Martin's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt has battled flu symptoms but is trying to take advantage of a fast car, the first built from the ground up by new crew chief Lance McGrew.
"I feel a lot better," Earnhardt said after qualifying. Friday "was just really a frustrating, miserable day for me physically. You know, though, it didn't really seem to bother us, how we ran, what we needed to get done or accomplished."
Jeff Gordon, starting 22nd, and Montoya are looking to make speedway history. Montoya can become the first driver to win the Brickyard 400 and Indy 500. A win for Gordon would be his fifth at Indy, tying the track record held by retired Formula One star Michael Schumacher.