Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - At age 53, Mark Martin still knows how to win
a pole position in NASCAR's premier series.
Martin, who is making just his second start for Michael Waltrip Racing, earned
the pole for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 after posting the fastest lap in
Saturday's qualifying session at Phoenix International Raceway. He was the
second-to-last driver who made his qualifying run in the 44-car field. Martin
is running a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule in MWR's No. 55 Toyota this
"I can't tell you how thankful I am for [team sponsor] Aaron's and everybody
at MWR for giving me these awesome Toyotas," he said. "It's been so much fun
already to drive, and having an owner like Michael Waltrip, he gets the last
little tidbit of credit for that pole."
Martin claimed his 52nd career pole in the series, which places him eighth on
the all-time pole winners list.
His first pole at Phoenix came in April 2009. He also won that race, leading a
total of 157 laps.
Earlier in the day, MWR announced that Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 55
car in five races this season, beginning with the March 18 event at Bristol
Tony Stewart, the defending Sprint Cup champion, qualified 0.133 seconds
behind Martin to capture the outside pole. Stewart turned in the fastest
overall lap in Friday's practice sessions and therefore was the last driver in
the qualifying order.
Regan Smith qualified third, followed by Jimmie Johnson, who is hoping to
rebound after a disappointing 42nd-place finish in last Monday night's rain-
delayed Daytona 500. He is also minus-23 in points after NASCAR penalized his
No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team earlier this week for rules violations that
occurred during Speedweeks at Daytona.
"I'm very proud of the lap," Johnson said. "The car has been great all
weekend, and I look forward to tomorrow's race."
Juan Pablo Montoya placed fifth in qualifying, and Ryan Newman took the sixth
spot. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne, who won at this
track three and a half months ago, completed the top-10.
Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth will start 26th in a backup car. Kenseth
wrecked his primary vehicle in practice. Newman also crashed in practice and
will have to use a backup car as well.
Timmy Hill was the only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday's race, which
is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. (ET).
The Sports Network