Photo by Russ Hamilton Sr.
DOVER, Del. -- Martin Truex Jr. has been first to finish at Dover International Speedway and now he'll be first to start.
Truex turned a lap of 157.315 mph and won the pole on Friday -- nearly three years after he won his only career Cup race at Dover. Truex won his first pole of the season and first since last November at Phoenix.
"Hopefully, the best is yet to come and we'll be in here talking to you Sunday," Truex said.
The native of Mayetta, N.J., has long considered Dover his hometown track. He made his first career start in NASCAR's second-tier series at Dover in the No. 56 -- the same number he uses now in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing.
"All those little things make it special for me," Truex said.
Truex could use a strong run to make the jump into the top 12 and move closer to securing a spot in the Chase for the championship. He's 13th entering Sunday's race, only 16 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. for 12th.
Truex was in the Chase in 2007 when he drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
He's had seven straight top-20 finishes this season and was sixth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Truex has appeared to work well with new crew chief Pat Tryson and made an easy transition to MWR.
"It took us a while to kind of put all that together and figure out what the cars at MWR wanted and what I wanted," Truex said. "I feel like we've got a better understanding of the race cars now and what we need in them for us to be competitive."
He won his fifth career pole.
Kasey Kahne was second and Mark Martin third in Friday's qualifying. Points leader Kevin Harvick was 30th.
Kahne is still waiting to find out what team he'll drive for next season. He signed a long-term deal with Hendrick Motorsports that ensures his departure from Richard Petty Motorsports after this season, even though he is not scheduled to replace Mark Martin in the No. 5 car until 2012.
He has steady talks with team owner Rick Hendrick about where he'll drive next season.
"I think we are about three or four weeks out from finding anything out," Kahne said. "I know I am getting a little anxious about it. They are working hard and want it to be the right decision. Whatever is decided they want to do the right way and make sure that they come up with the perfect place for me for next year."
Martin's strong qualifying run at Dover was no surprise. He's a four-time winner on the concrete in the Cup series and won two more times in the second-tier series. He had two top-10s at Dover last year, including second place in September.
Martin has 29 career top-10 starts at Dover
"We weren't expecting to be a pole contender, for sure," he said. "There are times when you think you're going to be a pole contender, you're not and you wind up sorely disappointed, and today we really got a great lap."
Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson round out the top five. Casey Mears was 39th subbing for Brian Vickers, who is hospitalized with blood clots in his veins around his lungs and in his legs.