DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Mark Martin will start this year's Bud Shootout in the same position he finished last year's race -- in first place.
Less than three months after having back surgery, Martin got a quick step on the rest of the field Thursday by winning the pole position in a random drawing. That put his Valvoline Ford Taurus out front for the start of the 25-mile race open only to pole winners from 1999.
"Winning the pole sums up kind of like how I feel right now," Martin said. "I feel that good. Hopefully we can stay up front."
Sunday's $570,000 race at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway is the kickoff to the stock car season. The green flag will wave at noon (CBS) for a race that doesn't count toward the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. The first official points race of the new season is the Feb. 20 Daytona 500.
"I can't believe that," Martin said of his 1-in-14 chance of drawing the pole position. "It's fitting to start up front because I feel like a brand new man."
Martin raced last year with a bad back. He had surgery on his spine the day after the 1999 season ended and he's spent as many as 20 hours a day in bed in the off-season trying to recuperate.
The all-star afternoon features a qualifying race among the fastest second round qualifiers. That winner will move into the main event.
The race lasts 25 laps, and each car must make at least one pit stop. The winner is guaranteed at least $100,000.
Sterling Marlin drew the outside pole position. He will be followed by Tony Stewart in third, Ward Burton in fourth, Mike Skinner in fifth, Jeff Gordon in sixth, Bobby Labonte in seventh, David Green in eighth, Ricky Rudd in ninth, Ken Schrader in 10th, Kevin Lepage in 11th, Joe Nemechek in 12th, Kenny Irwin in 13th and Rusty Wallace in 14th.
A year ago, Martin improved his position on the track by two spots following the pit stops. After that, he had little trouble moving through traffic to lock up the victory.
"Every move I made last year was the right one, every change, everything -- before I even knew what was going on," he said. "Certainly I'm not smart enough to plan something like that'
Last year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion Dale Jarrett didn't win a pole, so he's forced to run in the qualifier. And Dale Earnhardt, the winningest driver in the all-star event, failed to win a pole or be the fastest in second round qualifying last year, so he will watch this year's event from the sidelines.
Ricky Craven will start on the pole in the qualifier, followed by Jimmy Spencer, Jeff Burton, Rick Mast, Kenny Wallace, Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip, Stanton Barrett, Derrike Cope and Terry Labonte.
Kirk Shelmerdine and Ricky Bryant won pole the postition for Sunday's ARCA 200 and Saturday's Discount Auto Parts 200, respectively.
Shelmerdine, a former crew chief to three of Dale Earnhardt's Winston Cup Series championships, posted a fast lap of 189.358 mph in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo to earn the top spot for the ARCA Series' top race of the season.
Bob Strait was second, followed by Chad Chaffin in third, Bill Baird in fourth and Joe Knott in fifth.
Saturday's race is the main event for NASCAR's four-cylinder Goody's Dash Series.
Bryant, who was third in points last year, won the pole at 162.431 mph. He was followed by Randy Humphrey in second, Robert Huffman in third, Johnny Chapman in fourth and Shanon Bryant in fifth. Ricky Woodward of Martinez, Ga., failed to qualify for the 43-car field.
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