Martin Truex Jr. On Pole for Sunday
Busch completes front row to give Nos. 1 and 2 cars 1-2 start
From Sporting News Wire Service Martin Truex Jr. stormed from mid-pack to the pole in Friday's qualifying session for the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The 26th driver to attempt a two-lap run at the one-mile track, Truex knocked NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson from the provisional pole for Sunday's race with a lap at 135.120 mph. Kurt Busch, who went out 33rd, claimed the second spot at 134.579 mph, with Johnson (134.454 mph) holding the third starting position. Unlike most other drivers who were faster on the second of two laps, Truex grabbed the top spot by turning his first lap in 26.643 seconds. And in doing so, he knocked nearly a half-second off his practice time after air-pressure adjustments gave him a big boost in speed. "I felt good about the car in the two runs we made in practice, but after we made the first run, it was OK, and we adjusted on it and went the wrong way," said Truex, who won his third pole of the season and the fourth of his Cup career. "We knew we could go faster. This is a place that normally you pick up in qualifying from what you do in practice, so I felt good going in. "We were 20th in practice, but it was like a tenth (of a second) from first to where we were at, so it doesn't take a whole lot. We just made the right adjustments, and the lap felt great. I think we qualified second here (before), and it was the same way (that) time (2007) - I think our first lap was quicker - and I'm not sure why that is with us." Kasey Kahne (134.293 mph) qualified fourth, and Denny Hamlin was fifth at 134.228 mph. Mark Martin, who trails Johnson by 73 points with two races left in the Chase for NASCAR the Sprint Cup, will start 10th. Jeff Gordon, third in points and 112 behind Johnson, earned the 14th starting position. Johnson qualified 12th for last Sunday's race at Texas Motor Spedway and was wiped out in a crash on Lap 3. Johnson said he hopes starting closer to the front at Phoenix will help keep him out of harm's way. Regan Smith, Kevin Conway and Brandon Ash failed to qualify for the 43-car field. Conway was attempting to make his Cup debut at Phoenix. Tickets to witness the championship atmosphere of the November NASCAR event weekend at Phoenix International Raceway - with prices as low as $25 for the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - can be purchased online at the newly-designed PhoenixRaceway.com or by calling 1-866-408-RACE (7223). The PIR Ticket Office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 125 S. Avondale Blvd., just south of I-10 at Exit 131 in Avondale.
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Phoenix International Raceway was honored twice in recent weeks by NASCAR for outstanding work in the areas of marketing and community outreach. Earlier this year, PIR's 50th Anniversary was named NASCAR's Marketing Campaign of the Year and the PIR Track Services team received NASCAR's Track Services Teamwork Award; and today, PIR Communications Manager Greg Fresquez received NASCAR's Industry Ambassador Award.
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Phoenix International Raceway hosted up-and-coming driver Ruben Garcia Jr. from the NASCAR Mexico Series as he spoke to more than 2,000 high school students at La Joya Community High School in Avondale on Wednesday, Feb. 18. In addition to his racing background, Garcia talked with the students about the importance of education and pursuing their goals.
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