TERRY RENNA / AP Enlarge
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Some nicknames make a lot of sense. Joe Nemechek just keeps living up to his.
"Front Row Joe" swept his way to the pole for today's Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway - the 18th pole of his Busch career.
"I've been fortunate in my career to find the fast way around places," Nemechek said following yesterday's qualifying.
"It gets harder and harder to get an advantage, so I'm kind of surprised that we ran that fast."
Nemechek posted a speed of 182.52 miles an hour early in the qualifying session, and edged Kyle Busch, who joins him on the front row.
Busch ran 182.216 mph. Nemechek, who has two Busch Series wins at Daytona and has been on the Busch pole here four times, said yesterday's gusty wind made things a bit tricky.
"Coming down here and getting the pole is pretty special," he said.
"The wind was blowing real hard down the backstretch, so you're just hoping the gusts don't get you. Qualifying is all about aerodynamics and horsepower, and we were strong in both areas.
"This really starts my year out right."
Busch, who will run in the Nextel Cup Series as a rookie this year, said he got the most out of his car when he made the final qualifying run of the evening, and is confident going into today's race.
"We know Joe's always tough and starting up front down here, but its good to be up there with him," Busch said.
"We worked hard on that car, really massaged it, tested, and maintained it. I wish we could have got the pole, but we're happy being up front."
Former Winston Cup champion Matt Kenseth was among a group of 12 drivers who failed to qualify for the Busch race.
SORE JOE: Nemechek was involved in a six-car mash during Thursday's first Gatorade Duel 150, and it left him nursing sore ribs and an aching neck. He was well enough to qualify first for today's Hershey's Take 5 300, but aware he had been in a mishap. "I don't know how hard I hit, but I hit pretty hard," Nemechek said.
"When the engine gets knocked back into you, that means you got hit pretty hard."
Mark Martin slipped past Matt Kenseth on a restart with just four laps remaining to win last night's International Race of Champions at the Daytona International Speedway. For Martin, it was a record 12th win in the Crown Royal IROC series. "I didn't think that much about making history tonight," Martin said, "but I must be blessed, because nine times out of 10 when I climb in an IROC car, I seem to have the best car in the race." Kenseth had led most of the race and was out front when a melee took out Helio Castroneves, Steve Kinser, Scott Pruett and Kurt Busch. Champ Car series champion Sebastien Bourdais, who started on the pole, triggered the crash when he was tapped by Busch and went careening sideways across the pack. Martin had to hold off Martin Truex, Jr. on the final laps for the win. "The king of IROC won the race, and I'll take second to him any time," Truex said. The IROC format takes 12 of the world's top drivers from different types of racing, and puts them in identically-prepared cars. With no qualifying and no adjustments to the cars, the playing field is as even as it can get. Last night's IROC event was the first of a four-race schedule that will end at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Oct. 29.13.51877 -4.98073