Avondale, AZ – Kyle Busch will start on the pole in the AdvoCare 500, while points leader Jimmie Johnson struggled in qualifying with a 24th-place finish on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Busch, who was fastest in practice earlier in the day and therefore the last driver to make a qualifying run in the 44-car field, set a new track qualifying record at Phoenix with a lap at 138.766 mph. Carl Edwards held the previous record at this flat one-mile racetrack with a lap at 137.279 mph, which he set in Feb. 2011.
It's the second pole for Busch this season and the 10th of his Sprint Cup Series career. He also won the pole at Phoenix in April 2006.
"The guys (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team) have done a great job," Busch said. "We unloaded strong, and we were fast right off the truck, and so we were just kind of making some fine-tune adjustments to it. The car ran great right there. We adjusted a little bit from practice to qualifying, expecting the track to change some, and we hit it right on the money. The car was awesome."
Martin Truex Jr. held the provisional pole late in qualifying with a lap 138.217 mph. Busch topped Truex by 0.103 seconds.
"It was a good lap," Truex said. "We had good speed all day long. Obviously, the late draw was something that we knew was going to be big. We were fortunate enough to be able to get that and go out late, put down a good lap. It wasn't good enough, but nonetheless a good starting spot for Sunday, and hopefully we'll be able to turn that into something big."
Denny Hamlin, who won at Phoenix in February, qualified third, while Kasey Kahne, the defending race winner, took the fourth spot. Aric Almirola completed the top-five.
Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, Tony Stewart and Mark Martin qualified sixth through 10th, respectively.
Johnson holds a seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski with just two races to go in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Johnson has won the last two Chase events -- Martinsville and Texas. He won the pole position and led the most laps in the previous two races as well.
"It wasn't so good," Johnson said of his qualifying attempt. "We've been fighting a little bit in qualifying trim, but we've got a great baseline race setup to go off of. For me, it was really turn one (the sun glare). The glare was pretty bad getting into the turn then getting the power down was tough for me up off of (turn) two. Three and four were pretty good I felt like on both of my laps, but I struggled oddly enough down there this time."
Johnson holds the record for most wins at Phoenix with four, including three in the Chase. His most recent victory there came in Nov. 2009, a race which he led 238 of 312 laps. Johnson also holds the record for most laps led at this one-mile oval with 931. He has an average finish of 5.3 in his 18 races there.
Keselowski qualified 14th.
J.J. Yeley, a Phoenix-native, was the only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday's 312-lap race, which is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. (ET).