Martin makes Chase statement with Richmond pole

Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - Mark Martin gave his Chase championship hopes a boost by winning Friday's qualifying for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Martin, who is currently 10th in points, grabbed the top starting position for Saturday's Chase cut-off race at Richmond with a lap at 126.808 m.p.h. (21.292 seconds). The 50-year-old driver matched a career-high with his sixth pole of the season, placing him in a tie with Brian Vickers for most Sprint Cup Series poles so far this year.

"I didn't really expect to sit on the pole," Martin said. "I hoped to be fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth, in that range. But we got a stellar lap with a stellar race car."

Martin is just 69 points behind 13th-place Vickers. If Martin finishes 12th or better, regardless of any other driver's performance, he will make the Chase for the fourth time in his career.

"Some of the teams need to make that Chase to save their year, but for us, it'll be icing and then we'll have to see if we can get a cake to put it on," he said. "If we miss it tomorrow night, their isn't going to be no icing or cake. It'll just be a great year."

Martin Truex Jr., last weekend's pole winner at Atlanta, will start on the outside pole after qualifying 0.013 seconds behind Martin.

Denny Hamlin qualified third, and Jimmie Johnson was fourth. Both drivers have already clinched a spot in the Chase.

Atlanta race winner Kasey Kahne completed the top-five. Kahne holds the sixth spot in points.

Vickers will start sixth, followed by Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. Busch, who won at Richmond in May, is 14th in points and trails 12th-place Matt Kenseth by 37 markers. Kenseth qualified 28th, which is the lowest among the 11 drivers vying to secure the eight remaining positions in the 12-field Chase.

Tony Raines was the only driver who failed to qualify.

Saturday's 400-lap race is scheduled to start just after 6:30 p.m. You can watch on KAIT with coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m.