CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ David Green ended a nearly three-year drought without a pole by winning the top starting spot today for the Carquest Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Busch Grand National race.

Green turned an event-record fast lap of 176.569 mph at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte to win the 19th pole of his Grand National career but his first since June 1996 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.

``This pole probably stands out as one of the sweetest and most memorable because this is the first here at Charlotte,'' said Green, who had never started higher than third on the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked oval. His best finish at Charlotte was a 16th in 1993.

``This track hasn't always been the easiest for me,'' Green said. ``Hopefully we can translate this into some success in Saturday's race.''

Defending champion Mark Martin was second Thursday with a 175.575.

``My car was good. We just got beat by two-tenths of a second,'' said Martin, who has won two of the last three Carquest 300s. ``Charlotte is one awesome place to drive. It's one of my favorite racetracks. It's right up at the top of the list because we can really race here.''

Dave Blaney, Mike McLaughlin and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five qualifiers Thursday, when the top 25 starting spots were set for Saturday's event. A second round of time trials was scheduled for Friday to set the remainder of the starting grid.

Grand National points leader Matt Kenseth was ninth-fastest in the opening round and defending series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is second in this year's points chase, qualified 22nd.