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Martin Truex Jr. wins NASCAR Cup pole in Phoenix

March 9, 2018

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won the pole Friday for the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at ISM Raceway.

The defending series champion turned a lap at 136.945 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in the last of three rounds of qualifying on the mile oval. He edged Kyle Larson in 84-degree afternoon heat for his 16th career pole and second at Phoenix.

“We’ve qualified well here in the past, but we’ve been kind of been searching for those last couple spots,” Truex said. “We were fifth here in the fall and that was about all we can do. Just a good game plan and good execution by everybody. Definitely a fun day.”

Larson was the fastest in practice and topped the second round for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We’ve been fast here the last few years, so it would be nice to close out the weekend with a win,” Larson said

Chase Elliott was third, followed by Tucson driver Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.

Harvick has a track-record eight victories and is coming off wins the last two weeks in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

“I look at making the final round as an accomplishment for me,” Harvick said. “My cars are always faster than the driver when we come to Phoenix qualifying sessions. Today was another Phoenix qualifying session where I messed it up. I got through 1 and 2, where I had been struggling, good and just got off the brake too soon and got it up the racetrack.”

Jimmie Johnson ended up 17th after topping the first round. The seven-time season champion is winless in 26 races, the longest drought of his career.

“I’m very optimistic with the speed in the car in that first round,” the four-time Phoenix winner said.

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