NASCAR

Truex, Kurt Busch take top 2 spots at PIR

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AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP)

Martin Truex Jr. bounced back from a midweek NASCAR penalty with a pole-winning run at Phoenix International Raceway. Truex turned a lap of 135.120 mph Friday to qualify first in his No. 1 Chevrolet. It was a huge lift for his team, which failed post-race inspection last week at Texas to draw a 50-point penalty. Crew chief Kevin Manion also was fined $50,000. "That's how you can sum up our season," Truex shrugged.
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Kurt Busch qualified second for Sunday's race with a lap of 134.589 in his No. 2 Dodge. It's the first time in NASCAR that the Nos. 1 and 2 will start next to each other on the front row for a Sprint Cup race. Defending three-time series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified third, and was followed by Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin. Mark Martin, who trails Johnson by 71 points in the standings with two races remaining, qualified 10th. Regan Smith, Kevin Conway and Brandon Ash failed to make the race. For Johnson, the return to the track was a chance to reset his emotions following an accident on the third lap of last week's race. He was wrecked trying to pass Sam Hornish Jr., who ran into Johnson after he made contact with David Reutimann. Johnson finished 38th and lost a large portion of his points lead. But with two races remaining, he still likes his chances, particularly Sunday at PIR, where he's won three of the last four races. "I can't wait to get on track so I can start thinking about something else," Johnson said before qualifying. "All I can think about is three laps of Texas right now. That's all I've thought about for the whole week. Ready to get that out of the brain." That's similar thinking to how Truex has felt this season, his last with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. He's moving to Michael Waltrip Racing when the season ends in two weeks, putting an end to his up-and-down ride in the No. 1. He made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship two years ago, but hasn't had much success since. This season, he has three poles but just four top-10 finishes. His penalty dropped him to 26th in the standings. "We've had decent speed and good cars, we just don't have good finishes to go with it," Truex said. "We've had a lot of weird things happen, a lot of bad luck, but at the end of the day, we just haven't gotten the job done on race day. It's things like that that constantly happen to us all year."

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