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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]
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, walks through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position, Saturday June 27, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position, Saturday June 27, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award decal after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, left, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, talks with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #9 Jacob Companies Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Special Olympics World Games Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway on June 19, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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