INDIANAPOLIS Mark Martin picked Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the spot he plans to end his 97-race winless streak.
Then he announced it to all of NASCAR, an uncharacteristic burst of boldness that literally raised eyebrows.
"When Mark said that, I looked at him ... because Mark never is optimistic about things," said two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. "The fact that he was so confident about it, I couldn't believe it was Mark Martin.
"I think that's a huge statement."
Was it ever.
Martin turned a lap Saturday at 181.393 mph in his Chevrolet to beat everyone in qualifying except Johnson. His lap of 181.763 gave him his first pole at the Brickyard and an up-close look at what Martin has in store for the field in today's race.
"He's a much better racer than he is at qualifying, so I would assume he's going to be one of the guys to beat," said Johnson, winner of the 2006 race here. "Of course, I'm very optimistic about our car and what we're doing. But for Mark to go out and say that type of comment, he's got something in store for us."
Martin, as is his manner, downplayed his alleged guarantee after qualifying. Made in June at Pocono Raceway, the veteran said he didn't mean to sound so certain victory was his to take.
"I didn't feel like when I made the statement, like (it was) Babe Ruth pointing. Maybe it was, but I didn't mean it that way," Martin said. "But I did mean that we were going to come here and be strong, and I feel like no matter what happens tomorrow I can halfway save face on that because Top 10 in both practices and we've qualified second, so I feel that prediction is coming true."
Ryan Newman qualified third in a Dodge and was followed by Kasey Kahne and four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon. He was followed by Elliott Sadler and Kurt Busch, then the Roush Fenway Racing Fords of Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.
Defending race winner Tony Stewart had the highest-qualifying Toyota at 14th and teammate Kyle Busch, the series points leader, was 19th.
KYLE BUSCH WINS SIXTH NATIONWIDE RACE: Kyle Busch led all but three laps Saturday night to win the Kroger 200 at Clermont, Ind., his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season. Busch's win was Toyota's 15th in 22 Nationwide races, but the first event since NASCAR's mandate Wednesday to cut down the horsepower in Series engines knocked 15 horsepower out of Toyota's engines. NASCAR changed the parameters after rival teams complained, even though Toyota was within the rules.
DIXON GETS FIFTH WIN: At Edmonton, Alberta, Scott Dixon took another big step toward a second IndyCar championship Saturday, holding off Helio Castroneves, his closest pursuer, for a victory in the Rexall Edmonton Indy. Castroneves, still looking for his first win of the season, kept the pressure on Dixon lap after lap on the temporary airport circuit. But Castroneves nearly slid off course on worn-out tires six laps from the end, allowing the New Zealander to cruise to his fifth victory of the season.