Martin fastest at Phoenix

Veteran claims his third pole of the season; Kyle Busch qualifies second

The Associated PressApril 18, 2009 

— Mark Martin won his third pole of the season Friday, taking the top spot for the Subway 500 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 in tonight's race. 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.

Pole-sitters have won two of the last four races at PIR -- Johnson last November and Jeff Gordon in April 2007.

Martin, 50, 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. ... 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 tonight?

"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.

NO HARD FEELINGS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't blame his stepmother for keeping his beloved No. 8, even though the number won't be used in tonight's race.

Earnhardt used the No. 8 for nine seasons at Dale Earnhardt Inc., but his stepmother would not let him take it with him when he left for Hendrick Motorsports following the 2007 season. Aric Almirola used the number this season, but his team was shuttered by Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing last week because of a lack of funding.

"I don't have any malice about what Teresa's decision was on keeping that number," Earnhardt said on Friday. "If I had been in her shoes, I probably would have done the same thing. That has been the case with every other owner in the past, the understanding that the numbers 'belong' to them, and I understood that."

KAHNE STAY PUT: Cross Kasey Kahne's name off the list of drivers on the move. He said Friday he doesn't want to break his contract with Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the season.

"I made a commitment to race with [the team] through 2010, so I'll do that for sure," Kahne said.

Kahne's name has popped up recently as a potential free agent, based somewhat on his frustration of not being more consistent in the No. 9 Dodge.

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