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Mark Martin on pole for Phoenix

Mark Martin proves that he's only getting better with age, as the 53-year-old claimed his 52nd Sprint Cup pole position with the top spot at Phoenix.
Mark Martin pulled out a lap of 26.313s (136.814mph) to claim his 52nd pole position of his 31-year Sprint Cup career comprising a formidable 832 races at the top level of US stock cars. So much for the plan to retire in 2005, then.

"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," said Martin. "I'm willing to do that to be able to continue to compete. But make no mistake: Michael Waltrip Racing and [crew chief] Rodney Childers have good stuff."

Martin is only running a part-time season in 2012, and earlier in the day it was announced that Elliott Sadler would be splitting the driving of the ten remaining oval races in the #55 with car owner Michael Waltrip; the races at Infineon and Watkins Glen will be driven by a road specialist still to be confirmed.

Martin had pushed Regan Smith off the top spot at Phoenix with his fast run, and Smith was subsequently demoted to third place on the grid when the last car to make its qualifying run, the #14 of reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart, managed to pip him by a little over two hundredths of a second to join Martin on the front row.

Joining Smith on the second row is Jimmie Johnson, shrugging off the controversy of the #48's penalty for a regulations infringement at Daytona. Juan Montoya bounced back from his own fiery exit from the Daytona 500 on Monday evening with a lap of 26.559s (135.583mph) to start from immediately behind them in fifth place.

Rookie of the Year contender Timmy Hill in the #37 car was the only driver to fail to make the 43-car starting grid for Sunday afternoon's Subway Fresh Fit 500. Mike Bliss spun during his qualifying run, but made the field after a deal which gave him the 2011 car owners points from the now-defunct #6 Roush Fenway car.

Martin's pole confirmed the impressive performance of MWR, after Martin's team mates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer topped the times for Friday practice with laps of 25.810s (139.481 mph) and 25.857s (139.227 mph) respectively in the second session. Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth hit the wall early on in the session and was forced to his backup car.

In the earlier practice session, Ryan Newman, Brendan Gaughan and Michael McDowell all also managed to find the wall.

Full Cup qualifying times and practice session details available.

In qualifying for Saturday evening's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 Nationwide Series race, Denny Hamlin claimed his 16th pole in 130 NASCAR Nationwide Series races, and his third pole in ten races at Phoenix, with a lap of 27.072s (132.979 mph) on the one mile tri-oval track. He'll start alongside reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Full Nationwide qualifying times and practice sessions are also available.



Related Pictures

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55 Aaron`s Toyota (Mark Martin) [Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Mark Martin celebrates winning his 52nd career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole Award backdrop after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, races to his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career win with a victory lap and checkered flag, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory with a wave of the chequered flag Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 77th career victory, Sunday, March 20, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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