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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]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ParkerStore Chevrolet, poses with the Keystone Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney on track during Nationwide practice (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton drives the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 13, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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