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 Friday, 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 with a speed of 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 won his last pole at Bristol in 1994.
Martin is joined on the front row by Kasey Kahne for Sunday’s 312-mile race, 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 the 2013 season, starting 14th at Daytona on Sunday and working his way to the front to make a big move on the final lap to finish behind Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin followed with his third pole at Phoenix to put himself in position to win for the first time since Loudon in 2009.
Not bad for a driver who has a part-time gig with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Danica Patrick struggled with her car in practice and didn’t get it fixed for qualifying, bobbling around turns 3 and 4. She will start 40th after becoming the first woman to win the pole and lead green-flag laps in a Sprint Cup race last week at the Daytona 500.
“It’s just not a good qualifying effort. It’s not what I was looking for,” Patrick said.