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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, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualified for seventh position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, qualified for second position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s Chevrolet SS, won the pole position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Harvick is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with his wife DeLana, son Keelan, and the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #19 DrawTire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #19 DrawTire Ford, poses with the trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #19 DrawTire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jake Crum, driver of the #01 My Freedom Smokes Chevrolet, and Bryan Silas, driver of the #99 Bell Trucks America Inc. Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #19 DrawTire Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, and the rest of the field during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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