AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carl Edwards won the pole at Phoenix International Raceway in Friday’s qualifying with a track-record lap.
Edwards ran a lap of 136.389 mph in a Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing to earn the top starting spot in Sunday’s race. He broke the record of 135.854 set by Ryan Newman in 2004.
“It’s very important to start up front, and it’s one of the things we’ve been focusing on, qualifying,” Edwards said. “It’s really important here. This track, like almost all tracks we race on, track position is so important.”
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AJ Allmendinger qualified second for beleaguered Richard Petty Motorsports with a lap of 136.250, and Kurt Busch was third for Penske Racing with a 136.240. The top three drivers all broke the track record.
The three championship contenders will start fairly close together, with Denny Hamlin qualifying 17th, four-time Phoenix winner Jimmie Johnson in 21st and Kevin Harvick at 29th.
For Allmendinger, it was a near-miss of the pole at a time his race team could use a lift. RPM’s financial situation is rocky, and its cars and engines are held by partner Roush each week until the organization receives a check from RPM.
The situation played out publicly this week when the RPM transporters waited at Texas Motor Speedway until Roush finally gave them the cars they could bring to Phoenix late Wednesday.
“There’s no secret right now of what our race team is going through right now,” Allmendinger said. “I think there are two scenarios that can happen in a situation like this, you can try to band together and be stronger and come to the race track more focused, or you can let things start tearing you apart.
“It’s wearing on everybody. It wears on me. But with that said, everybody on the race team is not letting that effect them.”