Martin steals the show in Phoenix to grab the coveted pole

Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent

Mark Martin turned a lap around Phoenix International Raceway in 26.313 seconds on Saturday from behind the wheel of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 to take the number one starting spot.

"I just can't tell you how thankful I am for MWR," Martin said. "Michael Waltrip gets the last little tidbit of credit for that pole."

Martin's No. 55 and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Tony Stewart were the last two cars to go out during the qualifying session. Stewart, going out last, claimed the other front row starting spot with a qualifying lap time of 26.446 seconds.

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Regan Smith qualified the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet third with a 26.471-second lap.

"This track's tough right now," Smith said soon after making his qualifying run. "It's really slick."

Jimmie Johnson was fourth in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with a lap time of 26.552 seconds, and Juan Montoya rounded out the top-five with a lap time of 26.559 in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet.

"I'm very proud of the lap," Johnson said. "It definitely got my attention in turn one. It's like that for everybody."

Martin's Toyota was the only non-Chevrolet to qualify in the top-six, as Ryan Newman posted the sixth-fastest lap, with a time of 26.570 seconds, in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Greg Biffle was the next-fastest driver from outside the Chevrolet camp, posting a 26.652-second lap in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford for the seventh spot on the starting grid.

Several drivers had a hard time holding on to their race cars on the slick PIR surface. Both Clint Bowyer in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and Mike Bliss in the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford spun during their qualifying laps. Both drivers were already locked in the field, though, with FAS Lane owner Frank Stoddard working out a deal with fellow-car owner Jack Roush for the owner points of the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford that was not at the track.

Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

"I don't know if you can tighten it up enough from what I've seen so far," Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, said.

Forty-four drivers attempted to qualify for the 43-car race field. The one driver failing to make the race was NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Timmy Hill in the No. 37 Rick Ware Racing Ford.

Martin's pole for MWR came on the heels of another announcement that came from Michael Waltrip Racing earlier in the day. On Saturday morning, MWR announced that Martin and the car owner will be sharing the No. 55 driver's seat with a third driver, Elliott Sadler, in 2012. Sadler is slated to drive the No. 55 car at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18th, along with the August race at BMS, both races at Martinsville Speedway in Sadler's home state of Virginia and July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Polesitter Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Polesitter Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Mike Bliss , Regan Smith , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin , Timmy Hill
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Richard Childress Racing , Furniture Row Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Michael Waltrip Racing
Tags featured, martin, micahel waltrip, smith, stewart, toyota, vincent