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Kyle Busch on pole at Phoenix

Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch will start from pole position for the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, while there was a setback for Jimmie Johnson's hopes for a hat-trick.
Jimmie Johnson's hopes of continuing a pole-winning streak crumbled early in qualifying on Friday for this weekend's penultimate race in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

After starting from the front and going on to win at both Martinsville and Texas to take the lead in the Chase, Johnson slipped to 24th position on the grid for Sunday's race after qualifying on the one-mile oval. His chief rival for the title, Brad Keselowski, couldn't take maximum advantage of Johnson's qualifying slump but will start start ten places ahead from 14th place.

“I expect for Brad to be strong here,” admitted Johnson. “He and I raced real hard for third or four positions in the closing laps of the spring race. I would assume that we would be right there running nose to tail once again when the chequered flag falls on Sunday."

Keselowski said that qualifying didn't change any of his plans for the race: "I'm running to win whatever that means," he laughed. "Win the race and things become a lot easier. You don't have to worry about those things."

Instead, it's non-Chase contender Kyle Busch who claimed pole position for Sunday afternoon's race, with a new track record lap of 25.943s (138.766mph) putting him ahead of Martin Truex Jr. on the front row of the grid.

"We'll take it and it will be a good starting spot for us," said Busch. "Obviously, getting first pit selection and all that's good for us. The M&M's Camry was awesome all day today, can't wait for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get this thing dolled up for race trim and have a good race car come Sunday."

Although Busch isn't in the Chase this season after missing out on a spot to Jeff Gordon, he explained that he was still very motivated to finish the season on a high and that wins were still as important as ever.

“I think getting a win would be nice," he agreed, talking with reporters after qualifying. "We don't necessarily need a win, but we need to finish well these final few races," he added, pointing out that he'd been right up there competing at the front with the Chase leaders in the most recent events. "We were up there battling Brad and Jimmie at Texas all night long, but we just didn't have the car in the end and of course we've been bitten by fuel in the past, but to win would definitely be a big boost to this team."

Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin will start on the second row alongside Johnson's Hendricks Motorsports partner Kasey Kahne. After that, the next two rows of the grid are free of Chase contenders: Aric Almirola starts from fifth place in his effort to do enough to win him another year at Richard Petty Motorsport, putting him alongside Kurt Busch in the Furniture Row Racing #78.




Related Pictures

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Kyle Busch drives the #18 M&M`s Toyota during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 9, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 9, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, climbs in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 9, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz. (Photo  Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, poses after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 9, 2012, in Avondale, Ariz. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks with the media following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished in 9th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Harvick, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The crew of Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Crew members work on the Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, in the garage area during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, leads the field near the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, races Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with an American flag after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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