Qualifying: Busch takes pole

Mark Martin's bid to overtake Tony Stewart for the NASCAR championship took a short-term wrong turn in qualifying for the Ford 400 season finale at Homestead Speedway

Qualifying: Busch takes pole

Martin, 89 points behind Stewart with one race to go, came out of the truck all wrong and staggered to 34th place in the starting order for Sunday's race. Stewart qualified sixth.

Meanwhile, Martin's young team-mate, Kurt Busch, won the pole, his first of the season and second of his career. Busch, 141 points behind Stewart in third, actually remains mathematically in contention to win the title.

If Stewart finishes last on Sunday, if Martin finishes 12th or worse, and if Busch wins, Kurt yet could win the Winston Cup. Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon also remain on the fringes of the championship universe.

Busch is on something of a roll, having won two of the past four races, finishing no lower than sixth. Friday, he lapped the 1.5-mile Homestead oval in 34.982s (154.365mph) to deny Dale Earnhardt Jr. (35.092s) pole.

"It's somewhat of a shame to know that we've rallied and gained so many points in this last quarter, but all good things must come to an end," Busch said of his sophomore season."

At Rockingham last week, Busch kindly stepped aside to allow Martin to lead the most laps, gaining 10 points under the system. Busch won the race, with Martin second, so no harm done.

There is a fear that team orders could somehow disrupt Sunday's race, but that won't happen. Roush has four cars, and in a closer points race, that could make a difference. But with the lead at 89 points, and with no more than five points per position, it won't be much of an issue.

Behind Junior were Jimmy Spencer (facing an uncertain future), Joe Nemechek, and Greg Biffle, who although driving the Pettys' No. 44 is a Roush contracted driver.

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