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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.


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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)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford tangle during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won the Pole position Friday, April 11, 2014 for Saturday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick (Photo Credit: NASCAR)

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