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Martin makes his mark with pole run at PIR

March 03, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Earns MWR its eighth Cup pole; Stewart on front row for first time at Phoenix

Mark Martin didn't need a second qualifying lap Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Driving the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, Martin claimed the pole for Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the 1-mile track with a speed of 136.815 mph (26.313 seconds) on his first qualifying lap.

Subway Fresh Fit 500

2.Tony StewartChevrolet
3.Regan SmithChevrolet
4.Jimmie JohnsonChevrolet
5.Juan MontoyaChevrolet

The next-to-last driver to make an attempt, Martin waited as Tony Stewart tried to knock him off the pole but fell one position short, qualifying on the outside of the front row at 136.126 mph.

Video: Out Front with Miss Coors Light

The pole award was the 52nd of Martin's career -- eighth-most all-time -- his second at Phoenix and his first since joining MWR this year.

Regan Smith (135.998 mph) qualified third, followed by Jimmie Johnson (135.583 mph) and Juan Montoya (135.547 mph). Ryan Newman (135.491 mph) was sixth-fastest in a backup car necessitated by a brush with the Turn 3 wall in Friday's practice.

Martin credited the equipment he's driven over the years with his success at winning poles and winning races.

"I've driven really good stuff, ever since 1988," Martin said. "I did drive a couple of slugs back in the early '80s, but since then ... you can't do that without superior effort and equipment -- but effort on top of that. It's more than equipment that does that.

"I think all of you know that I do work real hard at it, and I know that I have to work harder at it than the guys that are 20 years younger than me. I'm willing to do that to be able to continue to compete. But make no mistake -- MWR and [crew chief] Rodney Childers have good stuff."

Martin turned his pole-winning lap on a track that was appreciably warmer and slicker than it was during Friday's practice sessions. The forecast for Sunday calls for even hotter temperatures, in the mid-80s, and that suits Stewart's driving style.

"I always like it when it's hotter and slicker, to be honest," said the 2011 Sprint Cup Series champion. "I'm actually more excited that it will be hotter [Sunday]. I think that'll hopefully separate some of the cars that we think are good cars now [but] may not be quite so good [on Sunday]."


• Mark Martin earned his 52nd career pole in 832nd start
• Mark Martin now has 52 poles -- he remains eighth all-time in the Cup Series.
• This is Mark Martin's second pole at Phoenix in his 31st start. He Won from the pole in this race in 2009.
• Mark Martin leads all drivers at Phoenix in starts (30), top-fives (12), and top-10s (19)
• Michael Waltrip Racing won its eighth career pole and this is the team's first pole at Phoenix.
• This is Toyota's first pole at Phoenix.
• Tony Stewart (second) will make his best start at Phoenix in 21 races. He led the most laps at Phoenix in the November 2011 race but finished third.
• Regan Smith (third) has top-10 starts in four of the past six races at Phoenix but hasn't finished better than 23rd.
• Jimmie Johnson (fourth) has top-five finishes in 10 of the past 11 Phoenix races.
• Juan Montoya (fifth) earned his best Phoenix start in his 11th race.
• Ryan Newman (sixth) secured his first top-10 start in his seventh race with Stewart-Haas Racing at Phoenix. Newman has finished in the top five in the past four races at Phoenix.

Timmy Hill failed to qualify for the 43-car field. Last year's Nationwide Series rookie of the year had hoped to make his Cup debut at Phoenix.