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Jimmie Johnson wins Phoenix pole, teammates in top 11

 

AVONDALE, Ariz. –  Jimmie Johnson, leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, scored the pole position during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup after he toured Phoenix International Raceway in 25.858 seconds at roughly 139.22 mph. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS also posted the fastest time during the first practice session on Friday.

This is the third pole position this season for Johnson, who now has 32 for his Sprint Cup career.

Johnson was joined in the top 11 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon (fifth), Kasey Kahne (seventh) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11th).

In 34 races (123 starts) at Phoenix, Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins, 35 top-five finishes and 61 top-10s. Gordon recorded the organization’s most recent Phoenix victory in February 2011, prior to the repave of the one-mile oval.

Coverage of Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN and MRN. Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
Fifth.
Most recently: Kahne finished fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3. This marked his 10th top-five finish of the 2013 season. With the result, Kahne remains 13th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings and trails 10th-place driver Kurt Busch by 37 points with two races remaining in the 2013 season.
At Phoenix: In 18 Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix, Kahne has one win, three top-five finishes and six top-10s. Kahne became the first Sprint Cup Series driver to reach Victory Lane at the reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway in November 2011 after he took the checkered flag in the Kobalt Tools 500. Kahne started 10th and spent most of the race running in the top 10, leading the final 14 laps on his way to his first Sprint Cup win at the one-mile oval.
Kahne (On last weekend’s race at Texas.): “It’s been awhile since we’ve run up front so it felt pretty good having a strong fifth-place run at Texas. I’m hoping to carry that momentum to Phoenix this weekend and end our season on a strong note. We work together all season long. Things happen whether it's to the car, driver error or a pit stop error. All those things happen. As long as you're always together as a team during any of those things, you just recover and you move on.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
Seventh.
Most recently:  Gordon finished the Nov. 3 event at Texas Motor Speedway in the 38th position after making contact with the wall on Lap 73. With the result, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS now ranks sixth in the championship standings and trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 69 points with two races remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 
At Phoenix: In 29 Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Gordon has recorded two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 20 top-10s and has led 389 laps. Gordon last went to Victory Lane at the one-mile oval in February 2011 after starting from the 20th position and leading 138 laps. 
Gordon (On Phoenix.): "This is a track that has been on our radar - one that we need to perform better at. We were decent here earlier this year, but we need to step it up this weekend. It seems like the groove has widened out the past couple races and that the pavement is aging. And the tires had some fall-off here earlier this year, so you could start searching the track for a different line that maybe helped your car. Hopefully, we will continue to see the groove widen."

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
First.
Most recently:  Johnson scored his sixth victory of the 2013 season after leading a race-high 255 laps in the Nov. 3 event at Texas Motor Speedway. With the result, Johnson regained the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championships standings. He now leads second-place Matt Kenseth by seven points with two races remaining in the Chase.
At Phoenix:  In 20 Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson leads several statistical categories including most wins (four), top-five finishes (13) and laps led (932). Johnson is the only driver to have won three straight races at Phoenix (November 2007, April 2008 and November 2008).The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS most recently went to Victory Lane at the one-mile oval in November 2009 after starting third and leading 238 laps.
Johnson (On how Phoenix has changed since the repave.): “It’s just a whole new racetrack. We had a good run in the spring. I’m certainly hopeful that the direction we took things in the  spring was right and obviously we had a good run, but that we have built on that and can have a race-winning car there now. The track was so good to us for so long that I hated to see it reconfigured and repaved, but we just have to get on top of things and get right over there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
11th.
Most recently:  Earnhardt advanced to fifth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after finishing second at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. With two races remaining in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Earnhardt trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 62 points.
At Phoenix: In 22 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Earnhardt has earned two wins, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He also has led 507 laps at the one-mile track. He scored his two wins there back-to-back, going to Victory Lane in November 2003 and November 2004 when Phoenix hosted one Cup event a season.
Earnhardt (On his 2013 Chase to date.): “We'd love to go back and do Chicago over again, but as soon as that happened, we really changed our approach. It was more about trying to win a race. Winning a race would really lift the team’s spirits. You work too hard all season long not to get to Victory Lane. I know how much the guys want the win on the team, so that's what we're working for now. We've got two races to go and we'd love to get a win in one of them and continue to have a good run in the Chase.”

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