AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Mark Martin won his third pole of the season Friday, taking the top spot at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin ran a lap at 133.814 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to beat Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch for the top starting spot Saturday night. Before this season, Martin hadn’t won a pole since 2001.
Martin couldn’t have picked a better spot to try to end teammate Jimmie Johnson’s three-race win streak at PIR.
"When we beat Jimmie Johnson to win a race, I’m going to feel like I beat Superman," Martin said. "I will say this, we are very proud of the performance that we’ve had on the racetrack all year."
Martin also won the pole at Bristol and Atlanta. His best finishes this year were sixth-place runs at Bristol and Texas.
Polesitters have won two of the last four races at PIR – Johnson last November and Jeff Gordon in April 2007.
The 50-year-old Martin won at PIR in 1993 out of the third position, and it is one of his favorite tracks. This will be Martin’s 25th race here, with nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes.
"I like this place a lot," Martin said. "I’ve had a lot of great races here."
But Martin didn’t expect to win another pole when he arrived in the desert this week.
"I know the others were surprising, but Christmas comes once a year," Martin said. "This is really cool. It’s really cool. It really makes, it just goes to show me, I am an idiot. I am a complete and total idiot because I looked at this (No. 5 car) real long and hard before I decided I want to do it. I was just about dumb enough to have passed on this opportunity. It’s great. It’s awesome."
Will Martin have the same feeling on Saturday night?
"If we want to win, we are going to have to step it up one more notch," he said.
Kyle Busch qualified second with a lap at 133.725 in a Toyota, and older brother Kurt was third in a Dodge with a lap at 133.700.
The Busch brothers have each won on this track – Kurt from the second position in April 2005, and Kyle in November 2005, coming out of the 15th position.
"This is a lot better than I’ve ever run here, so I’m proud of the effort," Kyle Busch said.
Kyle Busch said he wasn’t shocked to see Martin on the pole.
"It’s hard to beat that 5 car, especially with that old man behind the wheel," Kyle Busch said. "A special day for those guys."
Jeff Gordon qualified fourth in a Chevrolet and was followed by Brian Vickers in a Toyota.
The top 10 was rounded out by Tony Stewart, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson.
Six drivers failed to make the race, including Todd Bodine and Jeremy Mayfield.
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