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Martin Wins Cup Pole At PIR

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 3 2012

Mark Martin on pole in Phoenix. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

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Mark Martin of Michael Waltrip Racing won the pole for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday.

Martin’s fast last was at 136.815 mph in his Toyota Camry.

It was Martin’s 52nd career pole.

It came in his second start for MWR as he was hired to run a partial season during the recent off season.

“I’m sure that it makes Rob Kauffman (co-owner) and Michael Waltrip and the folks from Aaron’s, who stuck their neck out there to hire an old guy, this kind of makes them feel better about it, it makes me feel a little bit better about it, too,” Martin said. “It’s truly a tribute to how hard they’re trying to step their game up at MWR. With having Martin (Truex Jr.) and Clint (Bowyer) at the top of the board at the end of practice yesterday, I think it’s just another example of that. Hopefully we can keep that going.”

Martin had spent the last several years driving for Hendrick Motorsports. But Martin, 53, surrendered that seat after HMS hired Kasey Kahne to take it over beginning this season.

“This is one little thing, but it is really nice,” Martin said. “I wanted it so much for MWR and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) because that guy’s heart and soul is into this thing like I can’t believe. It’s really, really going to be fun to work with Rodney. I had not paid any attention to him and didn’t realize what an incredible, committed talent that he is. I look forward to seeing him get a chance to hopefully shine with an old guy behind the wheel.”

On Sunday, Martin will be going for his 41st Cup victory.

Second in the qualifying sessions was Tony Stewart, the reigning Cup champion. Stewart turned a lap at 136.126 mph in his Chevrolet Impala.

He sounded quite contend with his run and his front-row starting spot.

“I’m really excited, actually,” Stewart said. “It’s what I would truly consider our first real weekend with Steve Addington as crew chief. Daytona is always kind of a different deal, but this is where you first really get to start working on the handling of your car with your crew chief. So I’m really, really proud of what he did yesterday and today. And we actually got a little bit tight in our run so you know, off of what everybody else was doing and how loose it sounded like the track was, we made a pretty big adjustment there and he got to the opposite side of it, which I’m pretty excited that he was able to do that.”

Regan Smith was third fastest. Smith’s lap came at 135.998 mph. He will be starting his 133rd race on Sunday.

Fourth  fastest was Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports. The five-time champion at a lap at 135.583 mph.

Juan Pablo Montoya of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing was fifth fastest. His fast lap was at 135.547 mph.

Rounding out the top 10 were Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne.

Martin’s pole was a popular one. In the grandstands and the garages.

“You look at Mark Martin and it doesn’t matter whose car he drives, he’s good in it,” Stewart said. “To me, it’s cool to see stuff like this where you get a guy like Mark that’s bounced around to different organizations and he’s been fast and won races everywhere he’s been. So, he’s just one of those guys that it doesn’t matter who you put him with, he’s going to bring the best out in their team. You just don’t find guys like Mark Martin that often. He’s always had natural driving talent and today is proof of that.”

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 3 2012
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