CONCORD, N.C. — Greg Biffle won the pole Thursday night for Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the first NASCAR Cup race without an Earnhardt in 33 years.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will sit out the next two races after sustaining his second concussion this year during a 25-car car pileup Sunday at Talladega. Regan Smith, who'll drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet, qualified 26th.
"It's incredibly sad anytime you have to have something like this happen, especially with how hard Dale has worked to get into the Chase and become a contender," said Mark Martin, who'll start on the front row alongside Biffle.
"I saw his commitment to get there and I feel really bad for him."
The 53-year-old Martin will make his 850th career start Saturday night.
"There were Earnhardts in the races before I got here and there have been ever since," Martin said. "It's a tough one for our sport. On the positive side, he'll be back in two weeks. And I prefer to look at the positive side. It could be worse."
Biffle couldn't have been better.
He set a track record with a lap of 193.708 mph in his No. 16 Ford to earn the pole for the fifth race in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
He called the lap "nerve racking" and was cackling as he crossed the line.
He said he had a perfect lap.
"That is the fastest I've been around this race track, the fastest anyone has, I guess," Biffle said. "I couldn't believe the speeds I was seeing. I knew it was going to be tough to (break the record) and I dug deep. I knew it was going to be hard to beat. These cars won't go much faster."
It was Biffle's 12th pole overall and third this year, but his first ever at Charlotte. He hopes it will give his team momentum heading down the stretch.
"We've been down in the dumps because we haven't started out the Chase very well," Biffle said.
Biffle is ninth in the Cup points race, 49 points behind leader Brad Keselowski.
Bank of America 500
Charlotte Motor Speedway
7 p.m. Saturday, ABC