Sunday, July 26, 2009
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INDIANAPOLIS - So excited for last year's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mark Martin predicted victory six weeks before the event.
His ability to forecast the future ultimately fell flat, as Martin finished 11th in a race that was ruined by a Goodyear debacle and dictated by the cautions NASCAR had to call every 10-to-12 laps to prevent dangerous tire failures.
Martin has a chance at redemption today, when the 50-year-old racer will become the oldest driver in Indianapolis' 100-year history to start from the pole. But he refused to make another Babe Ruth-style statement about his prospects.
'I'm not even thinking about it,' Martin said after posting a lap at 182.054 mph in Saturday's qualifying.
'I prefer not to think about what possible result could be tomorrow,' he said. 'I can tell you I think it's gonna be a dogfight for this race. I really do. I'd like to be in the fray. That's about as far as I'll go thinking about it.'
Martin blew away Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2000 Indianapolis 500, for the pole. Running a retro Target paint scheme that duplicates his Indy 500 car, Montoya qualified second with a lap at 180.803.
Montoya has always been good at Indy - he also raced on the track in Formula One - and many competitors have predicted he'll contend for his first win of the season on Sunday. But he's also clinging to a spot in the Chase for the championship, and Montoya has raced cautiously all season in an effort to earn one of the 12 berths.