Friday, November 12, 2010

Edwards Tops First Phoenix Practice, Then Captures Pole

Sporting News Wire Service

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Carl Edwards won his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, and A.J. Allmendinger put his car on the front row despite the adversity facing Richard Petty Motorsports.

In contrast, the only three drivers with realistic chances to win the Chase -- Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick -- all had lackluster qualifying efforts in time trials for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 and must come through the field to stake their claims to the series championship.

Edwards covered the one-mile distance in 26.395 seconds (136.389 mph), as he, Allmendinger (136.250 mph) and Kurt Busch (136.240 mph) all eclipsed Ryan Newman's track qualifying record of 135.854 mph (26.499 seconds), set on Nov. 5, 2004.

Hamlin, who leads second-place Johnson by 33 points with two races left in the Chase, will start 17th, with Johnson taking the green flag from the 21st position and Harvick from 29th. Harvick trails Hamlin by 59 points.

Edwards credited crew chief Bob Osborne with adjusting his No. 99 Ford for cooler, faster track conditions from practice to qualifying.

"My car was very easy to drive," said Edwards, who won his seventh career pole. "Our lap was really good, and Bob did a great job adjusting for that pickup in speed. ... I owe this pole to him."

Because of the relative shortness of the race (500 kilometers), Edwards thinks calls in the pits will play a major role in the plans of Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick on Sunday.

"It's very difficult to pass here," Edwards said. "So I think pit strategy will come into play for those guys."

Allmendinger's car didn't leave Texas Motor Speedway, site of last Sunday's race, until Wednesday, after embattled RPM made a payment to engine and chassis supplier Roush Fenway Racing. The cars arrived at Phoenix on Thursday afternoon.

"I think that we're showing that, even in the toughest of times, we go out there and perform," said Allmendinger, whose teammate, Elliott Sadler, won the pole last week at Texas. "There's no secret of what we're going through right now, and it's a tough time.

"All the crew guys here and all the guys at the shop listening and watching, they're amazing people, because it could easily tear this team apart."

Jason Leffler, Joe Nemechek and Michael McDowell failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

Friday Practice: for the Kobalt Tools 500k Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway is over, after 90 scheduled minutes:
#99-Edwards 135.130
#78-Smith 134.645
#14-Stewart 134.469
#18-Busch 134.263
#12-Keselowski 134.183
slowest: #81-TLabonte 128.875 and #37-Gilliland 130.232

Complete List of Practice Speeds

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