Biffle sets new track qualifying record at Charlotte

Greg Biffle will start on the pole for the Bank of America 500 -- the fifth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- after posting a new track record in Thursday night's qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Biffle, who is one of the 12 drivers in the Chase field, turned a lap at 193.708 mph. He topped the old record of 193.216 mph at Charlotte, set by Elliott Sadler in Oct. 2005. The Roush Fenway Racing driver claimed his third pole of the season and the 12th of his Sprint Cup Series career. It was also his first pole in 20 starts at this 1.5-mile racetrack.

After the first four Chase races, Biffle sits ninth in the point standings, as he trails leader Brad Keselowski by 49 points.

"We've kind of been down in the dumps a little bit, because we haven't started this Chase as strong as we've been all season, so there's been a lot of hard work," Biffle said. "We've been at six racetracks during the past two weeks, between testing and everything we're doing in racing. I just got home last night from Texas (Motor Speedway). We learned a little bit there that has helped us tonight."

Biffle has yet to win a Sprint Cup race at Charlotte.

Mark Martin earned the outside pole with a lap at 193.361 mph. Martin is scheduled to make his 850th career start in NASCAR's premier series. He is driving a limited Cup schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing this year.

"I knew I was flying when I went down into (turn) one, and it was dragging, scraping and smoking, and I was smelling rubber from the tires rubbing," Martin said.

Ryan Newman qualified third, while Clint Bowyer, who is also a Chase driver, took the fourth spot.

"This was an intense qualifying session right here," Bowyer said. "It was so much fun. The car was wiggling when I was getting down there in (turns) one and two, and there's no feeling like that in the world. It definitely wakes you up and gets your attention."

Jimmie Johnson, who presently trails Keselowski by 14 points, qualified fifth. Title contenders Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth, who won last Sunday's race at Talladega, placed sixth and seventh, respectively. Kenseth also won at Charlotte one year ago.

Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne completed the top-10. Hamlin and Kahne are in the Chase.

The other Chase members and their starting positions include: Kevin Harvick (11th), Jeff Gordon (13th), Keselowski (20th) and Tony Stewart (32nd).

Earlier in the day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed that he will skip at least the next two races after being diagnosed with a concussion days after Talladega, where he was involved in a 25-car wreck on the final lap. Earnhardt Jr. also sustained a concussion during a crash while testing at Kansas six weeks ago. He presently trails Keselowski by 51 points.

Regan Smith, who is substituting for Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, qualified 26th. It will be the first time since 1979 that an Earnhardt has not competed in a Cup race.

"I think the most important thing is that we want to send best wishes to Dale to get better soon," Smith said. "I'm just trying to fill in some big shoes here this weekend."

Smith is also scheduled to drive Earnhardt Jr.'s car in next week's race at Kansas.

Kurt Busch will start 21st in his first race as driver of the No. 78 car for Furniture Row Racing. Smith had previously been behind the wheel of that car and was slated to drive the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing. A.J. Allmendinger, who is returning to competition after being suspended for a failed drug test earlier in the season, will start 38th in the No. 51.

Joe Nemechek, Josh Wise, Scott Riggs and Cole Whitt failed to qualify for Saturday's 500-mile race at Charlotte, which is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. (ET).