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Mark Martin nabs pole position at Phoenix

Mar 1, 2013, 8:01 PM EDT

Mark Martin Getty Images

Fresh off a third-place finish at the Daytona 500, Mark Martin will start on the pole for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.

In this evening’s qualifying session, Martin wheeled the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to the top spot of the grid with a fast lap of 138.074 mph around the one-mile PIR oval. Martin, who will run 24 races this season with MWR, earned his 56th career Sprint Cup pole and gave full credit to crew chief Rodney Childers and his team.

“They make great decisions and put me in great race cars,” Martin told SPEED Channel’s Matt Yocum following the end of qualifying. “I’m so proud to succeed with these guys. They back me up and support me so much.”

Martin will be joined on the front row by Kasey Kahne, who threw down a lap of 137.862 mph in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Three Hendrick drivers qualified within the top 5 positions, with Daytona winner Jimmie Johnson starting third and Jeff Gordon starting fifth. Tony Stewart wound up sixth.

Johnson and his No. 48 team had problems prior to qualifying, as the Lowe’s Chevrolet needed multiple trips to get through tech inspection. But for the five-time Sprint Cup champion, everything worked out well in the end.

“Not exactly sure, but something with [the laser inspection system] wasn’t showing right, ” Johnson said of his pre-qualifying issues on the SPEED broadcast. “We went through a couple of times and got it. I was fortunate to get in the car early, get buckled in, and try to catch my breath. I know my crew guys were winded by the time they got me down there.”

Defending race winner Denny Hamlin will start eighth and in Row 4 alongside Kevin Harvick, who won at PIR last fall. As for Danica Patrick, she’ll have a long climb ahead on Sunday after qualifying 40th.

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