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Phoenix qualifying: Kahne on outside pole, Johnson and Gordon in top five

Phoenix qualifying: Kahne on outside pole, Johnson and Gordon in top five

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kasey Kahne earned his first outside pole position of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and the best starting spot of his career at Phoenix International Raceway during Friday’s qualifying session at the one-mile track. Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet SS, toured the desert oval in 26.113 seconds at roughly 137.862 mph. Prior to Friday, Kahne’s best start at Phoenix was third in February 2011 and he went on to finish that race sixth.

Kahne will be joined for Sunday’s race in the top five by teammates Jimmie Johnson (third) and Jeff Gordon (fifth). Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 21st.

TUNE IN: Watch the 312-lap race this Sunday, March 3 at 3 P.M. ET on FOX or FOX Deportes; or listen live on MRN/SIRIUSXM NASCAR radio channel 90.

PAST WINNERS: Johnson and Gordon both won races at Phoenix while running for Hendrick Motorsports, while Earnhardt and Kahne won during previous Sprint Cup stops. Johnson, the all-time race winner at Phoenix, has four victories at the one-mile oval, and is the only Cup driver to win three in a row at the desert oval. Gordon and Earnhardt are among the four drivers tied for third with two wins at Phoenix, and Kahne won there in November 2011, the first race after the track’s most recent reconfiguration.

BACK-TO-BACK: Earnhardt 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.

KAHNE AT PHOENIX: Kahne most recently finished fourth at Phoenix in November 2012 and was one of three drivers to spend the entire extended 319-lap event running inside the top 15. He has one win, three top-five finishes and six top-10s in 17 Cup starts at the desert track. He has qualified inside the top 10 during the last four races at the one-mile Avondale oval.

STAT LEADER: Johnson, who opened the season winning the Daytona 500, most recently won at Phoenix in November 2009. He leads several statistical categories including most wins (four), top-five finishes (tied with 12) and laps led (931). Johnson is the only driver to have won three straight races at Phoenix (November 2007, April 2008 and November 2008).

SEVEN TIMES: Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS, have combined to win seven of Hendrick Motorsports’ nine victories at Phoenix International Raceway. Knaus scored his victories with Johnson, while Gustafson won three times at Phoenix with three different drivers at Hendrick Motorsports. Most recently, Gustafson coached Gordon to Victory Lane in February 2011.

HENDRICK AT PHOENIX: In 33 races (119 starts) at Phoenix, Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins, 33 top-five finishes and 58 top-10s. Hendrick Motorsports won six straight events there from April 2007 to November 2009.

DOUBLE-DIGIT: Hendrick Motorsports has 10 or more victories at nine tracks on the Cup circuit. A win at Phoenix would give the organization 10 there and would match its current total of 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.