DOVER, Del. — Mark Martin has more poles than candles on the birthday cake.
Not bad for a driver pushing limits in a stock car long after so many elite athletes have settled into retirement.
Martin took the last qualifying ride of the day and turned a lap of 158.297 mph on Saturday to win the pole at Dover International Speedway.
The 53-year-old Martin now has 54 career Sprint Cup poles and won it in the No. 55 Toyota.
That 53-54-55 trifecta paid off big for Martin. Even with all those 50s, Martin is no golden oldie.
He has three poles this season in 10 races while racing a limited schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing. He’s looking for his first Cup win today since 2009.
“I feel like a lucky guy to be strapping in that 55,” Martin said.
Waltrip was among the first to greet Martin after the winning lap.
“I’m so proud of you. That’s amazing,” Waltrip told him.
Martin has turned into a driver-for-hire over the latter stages of a career that has seen him do it all except win a Cup championship.
He spent the past three seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, but changed teams during the off-season, joining Waltrip for a partial season.
Martin is slated to run 24 of 36 races this season while sharing seat time with Waltrip. He has four top-10 finishes over his first nine races and was third at Texas.
“They’re learning about me, I’m learning about them, and we’re having a blast,” Martin said.
Jimmie Johnson, who was six career wins at Dover, was poised to earn the top spot with a lap of 158.263 mph until Martin knocked him off.