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Martin grabs the pole

RICHMOND, Va. -- Mark Martin watched and waited as 44 other drivers made two qualifying laps around Richmond International Raceway on Friday night, then went out and beat them all.

Martin turned the second-fastest lap on his first circuit around the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval, then nudged Carl Edwards to the outside of the front row with a lap at 128.327 mph to win the pole for tonight's Sprint Cup race (7 p.m., Ch. 29, 550-AM). It's his 53rd career pole.

"I was very close to skinning the car up, especially off of (turn) four (on) the second lap," Martin said. "I'm driving it as hard as I can go, and at the very limits of my talent."

Edwards' top lap at 128.290 had hung on through 17 drivers, but when Martin moved to second on the scoring tower with his first lap, Edwards paid closer attention.

"I thought we had him, and then he shot up to the top of the scoreboard," he said.

It's Martin's fifth career pole at Richmond, and comes 31 years after his first.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is just as big a deal," he said.

It also was Michael Waltrip Racing's third pole in eight events this season.

Kevin Harvick will start third, followed by A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch.

Also on Friday night, Kurt Busch blew past Kevin Harvick after the last pit stops with under 50 laps to go Friday night and held on in a side-by-side, last-lap duel with local favorite Denny Hamlin to win the Nationwide Series race.

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