Avondale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway -- the penultimate race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship -- after setting a new track qualifying record.
Johnson, who took over the points lead after winning last weekend's Chase race at Texas, turned a lap at 139.222 mph during Friday's qualifying at Phoenix. The five-time Sprint Cup Series champion claimed his third pole of the season and the 32nd of his career. It's also his second pole in 21 races at this flat one-mile oval.
"Track records are awesome," Johnson said. "I don't qualify on pole all that often, so I take great pride in them, especially track records. It's very cool to do. It's clearly a great time in the season with the Chase to do it. We have a great pit (stall) pick and track position to start the race. Now we just need to be able to maintain that and make the right decisions during the race to keep track position."
Johnson holds the record for most wins at Phoenix with four, including three in a row from 2007-08. His most recent victory here came in the fall of 2009. Johnson won the '08 Chase race at this track from the pole.
Matt Kenseth, who is currently seven points behind Johnson, qualified 14th with a lap at 137.704 mph. Kenseth was the fourth driver in the 43-car qualifying order, while Johnson went out late in the session in 41st.
Denny Hamlin, who is Kenseth's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, earned the outside pole with a lap at 139.023 mph, which was just 0.037 seconds behind Johnson's lap.
"The qualifying run was a bit of a surprise since we struggled in practice," Hamlin said. "We made some good strides. It's still early in the weekend, but things are looking good."
Joey Logano qualified third, and Kyle Busch was fourth. The top-four finishers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 138.766 mph, set by Busch one year ago.
Jeff Gordon took the fifth spot, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
Jeff Burton qualified 15th in what will be his 1,000th career NASCAR national series race.