Becca Gladden is LIVE at Phoenix International Raceway with all the latest news and information from the 1-mile oval out west. Stay tuned to Frontstretch for live updates from the track all weekend!
Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards followed up a fast run in Friday afternoon’s Cup practice with a pole-winning lap for Sunday’s Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards rounded the track with a 27.114-second lap to score his first pole of the year and, in fact, his first since 2005. Starting alongside Edwards will be DEI’s Martin Truex Jr., who posted a lap time of 27.117 seconds.
Edwards had run second in the early practice session with a lap time of 27.343, following teammate Jamie McMurray, who paced practice with a 27.329.
Also running in the top 10 in practice was Dave Blaney, the fastest Toyota, who ran third, along with GM drivers Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch. Kyle’s brother Kurt Busch ran 10th in a Dodge.
Much of the focus during qualifying today was on Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Jeff Gordon, battling each other for the Cup championship, with Johnson currently leading Gordon by 30 points.
In practice, Johnson was fifth on the speed charts and Gordon 14th, but they swapped roles in qualifying, with Gordon running third and Johnson sixth.
There were several surprises among the top 10 qualifiers including Phoenix native JJ Yeley, whose 27.224-second lap put him fourth on the speed charts. It is Yeley’s highest starting spot since scoring the pole at Michigan back in June.
Five Chase drivers qualified among the top 10, while on the other end of the spectrum, Chaser Kevin Harvick timed in 34th and Kyle Busch 38th.
Although he paced the morning practice session, McMurray was just 23rd-fastest in qualifying. Biffle is the only Ford driver starting in the top 10, with Blaney the fastest Toyota in 17th.
Juan Pablo Montoya was the quickest rookie around the racetrack in qualifying and will start 14th on Sunday. Fellow open-wheel racers Patrick Carpentier, Sam Hornish Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve all made the race as well. Sunday will be Hornish’s first Cup start, having failed to qualify in his first six attempts to make the Cup field. Carpentier and Villeneuve are each starting their second Cup race.
Ragan and David Gilliland both made the field using provisionals based on their position in owner points. Drivers who failed to qualify were Michael Waltrip, AJ Allmendinger, Ward Burton, John Andretti, Dale Jarrett and David Reutimann.
Track temperature played a role in today’s qualifying as the track temperature cooled more than 15 degrees from the start of the session to the end. Though the ambient temperature remained close to 90 degrees, cooler temperatures are in the forecast for race day, which should help teams that are still searching for grip around this slick 1-mile track.