Mark Martin scored the 52nd pole of his career and will lead the pack when the green flag drops at Phoenix International Raceway later today for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. It's a pretty good omen for Martin, who won at this track after grabbing the pole back in 2009.
Martin drives the lone Toyota in the top five and this actually marks the first time a Toyota has won the pole at Phoenix. Chevy dominated the rest with 7 of the top 10 qualifying times.
Phoenix will represent a new challenge for drivers as it will be just the second time the series has visited since the track's repaving last year. They also widened the front stretch and changed the banking in the corners. Jimmie Johnson had a streak of ten top-five finishes prior to the last run at Phoenix, but didn't fare as well with the new adjustments.
"The tough thing here -- just to summarize a race run, the car gets tight relatively quick so you need to start the car really loose at the beginning of a run to be good over the long haul. That difference makes it tough," Johnson said. "Your balance of the car from the start of the run to the end of the run, there is a huge swing in events there and that is what we fought so badly here in the fall. I feel like we know where to go this year."
Jeff Gordon won the first race at Phoenix last season, but finished just 32nd after the changes. He says that his team has had this race in their sights ever since.
"Somebody sent a tweet to me this week saying, 'When did preparation for Phoenix start?' I said, 'Since the last time we were here and we stunk so bad.' Obviously, we learned a lot the last time we were here. We were not very good, we didn't qualify very good, we weren't very good in the race,"
The Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway gets underway at 2:30pm eastern on FOX.