AVONDALE, Ariz. All eyes at the start of Sundays AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway will be on Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.
You wont find them on the front row, however.
Thats reserved for Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who will start the race first and second, respectively.
Busch won the pole Friday with a track-record lap at 138.766 mph, knocking Truex off the top spot as the final car to make an attempt. Carl Edwards held the previous record (137.239 mph set Feb. 27, 2011).
The pole is Buschs second of the season and 10th of his career.
That was a really fast lap. Im looking forward to the race this weekend., said Busch, who has scored the fifth-most points so far in the Chase even though he did not qualify to compete for the title.
Its important for anyone to get a win, whether youre in the Chase or a guy battling third or fourth in points. Weve shown speed this year and weve shown we can run up front.
What we havent done is we just havent shown consistency in our finishes.
While Busch is looking to add wins to finish the season, the Sprint Cup Series championship battle will begin far deeper in the field.
Johnson leads Keselowski by seven points entering this weekends race but Keselowski will start 14th on Sunday while Johnson will line up 24th his worst start in 11 races.
Track position while important everywhere is critical at Phoenix, a one-mile slightly-banked oval.
Its very challenging to get through traffic but no more so than Martinsville and those places, Keselowski said. I think we saw Denny Hamlin go to the back twice and drive to the front and that was supposed to be a place you couldnt pass.
If youre good, you find a way.
Asked if he raced the race track or race Johnson on Sunday, Keselowski laughed.
Im running to win, whatever that means, he said. Win the race and things become a lot easier. You dont have to worry about those things.
Johnson sure hopes so.
That wasnt so good, but weve been fighting a little bit in qualifying trim. But, weve got a great baseline race set-up to go off of, Johnson said. For me it was really Turn 1. The glare was pretty bad getting into the turn then getting the power down was tough for me up off of (Turn) 2.
Turns 3 and 4 were pretty good I felt like on both of my laps, but I struggled oddly enough down there this time.
Buschs teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin, qualified third. Kasey Kahne was fourth and Aric Almirola fifth.
Former IndyCar Series fan favorite Danica Patrick, making her final Cup start of her 10-race schedule this season, was 37th-fastest.
It was pretty edgy especially coming to the green, Patrick said of her qualifying lap. It stuck way out and I couldnt turn the wheel so I ended up pretty wide and I wasnt sure if I was going to have enough grip to stay out of the wall or not coming to the green.
|2.||56||Martin Truex, Jr..||Toyota||138.217|
|21.||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevy||136.003|
|23.||88||Dale Earnhardt, Jr..||Chevy||135.547|
|26.||22||Sam Hornish, Jr..||Dodge||135.171|
Did not qualify: J.J. Yeley