Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - Mark Martin continues to show no signs of
slowing down in NASCAR's top series.
Martin, who turned 54 years old on Jan. 9, won his 56th career pole in the
Sprint Cup Series on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. The Michael
Waltrip Racing driver turned a lap at 138.074 mph to earn the top starting
position for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. He also started on the pole for the
spring race at Phoenix one year ago.
Martin is the second oldest driver in the series to win a pole. Harry Gant
grabbed the pole for the August 1994 race at Bristol when he was 54 years, 7
months and 17 days old. Martin also took sole possession of seventh on the
series' all-time pole winners list. He had been in a tie with Bill Elliott.
"(Crew chief) Rodney Childers and all the guys on the (No. 55 team) do such an
incredible job," Martin said. "The car was right on the money. They started
talking about what they were going to do to it for qualifying, and I just
covered my ears up and left. (Childers) text me later and said, 'I wasn't
trying to scare you,' and I said, 'You just do what you do, man, and I'll
Martin's lap here did not surpass the track qualifying record, which was set
by Kyle Busch last November with a lap at 138.766 mph. Phoenix, a one-mile
oval, is the first race on a downforce track for the Gen-6 -- NASCAR's new
race car. The Gen-6, which made its competition debut the past two weeks at
Daytona, is 150 pounds lighter and has more downforce than the previous Cup
Kasey Kahne will share the front row with Martin after posting a lap at
137.862 mph. Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson qualified third at 137.804 mph.
Johnson has the most wins at Phoenix but his last victory here was in November
"I'm very excited about how things have started off this season, obviously
with Daytona last week," Johnson said. "We're now here for our first downforce
race, and we've been towards the top of the board. We're off to a good start."
Kyle Busch took the fourth spot, followed by Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and
Kevin Harvick, who won the most recent Sprint Cup race at Phoenix four months
Denny Hamlin, who won at Phoenix one year ago, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman
completed the top-10.
Danica Patrick placed 40th in the 43-car qualifying field. Patrick, who
started on the pole for the Daytona 500 last Sunday, complained of a loose car
during her qualifying run.
"The car was just loose, and I couldn't turn it," she said. "We knew that from
last year (fall race) being here that it was going to get loose in qualifying.
We made a change at the end of practice, and the car was dancing all around on
top of the track. We thought we fixed it for qualifying, but it had the same
Sunday's 312-mile race at Phoenix is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. ET.
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