Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Martin earns Cup pole at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Mark Martin might be getting better with age.

Coming off a third-place finish at the Daytona 500, Martin became the second-oldest driver to win a Sprint Cup pole on Friday by earning the top spot at Phoenix International Raceway for the second straight year.

"A lot of people describe Mark by saying 'Mark's on it,' " said Martin's crew chief, Rodney Childers. "Well, for 2013, Mark's on it squared."

Martin went around PIR's mile oval at 138.074 mph for his 56th career pole, passing Bill Elliott for seventh all-time.

Martin turned 54 in January, leaving him a few months behind Harry Gant, who was 54 years and 7 months when he earned his last pole in the then-Winston Cup series in 1994 at Bristol.

Kasey Kahne starts second in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500, with Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch in the second row.

"I said it last week and had some people make some snide remarks about it, but at this stage of the game it's pretty amazing I get to drive something like this," Martin said.

Martin started on the pole at PIR last year before finishing ninth and won from the pole in 2009. He had a solid opening to 2013, starting 14th Sunday at Daytona and working to the front to make a big move on the final lap to finish behind Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Not bad for a driver who has a part-time gig with Michael Waltrip Racing this season.

"I deeply admire him and his passion for the sport," said Johnson, a five-time Cup series champion and Martin's former teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. "He's tried to walk away a few times — I think we had a farewell tour for him once — and he came back."

Tampa's Aric Almirola (136.266) qualified 18th and David Reutimann (133.814) of Zephyrhills lines up 34th. Danica Patrick struggled in practice and qualifying and will start 40th.

Grand-Am: Jon Fogarty earned the pole for the inaugural series race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

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