Chase leader Jimmie Johnson wins pole for NASCAR race in Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmie Johnson took the first step toward trying to bolster his lead over Matt Kenseth in NASCAR's Chase title playoff by winning the pole for Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Johnson, seeking a sixth championship, set a qualifying record at the one-mile PIR oval Friday with a lap of 139.222 mph in his No. 48 Chevrolet.

The prior record of 138.766 mph was set a year ago by Kyle Busch.

Kenseth, who enters Sunday's race seven points behind Johnson in the Sprint Cup standings, was 14th fastest after entering qualifying at a disadvantage.

Based on the drawing that determines the qualifying order, his No. 20 Toyota went out fourth in the 43-car field when the track was still hot and slippery.

Conversely, Johnson went out 41st when the cooler conditions provided more grip for his car's tires.

"Just one of those bad-luck things" for Kenseth, said Denny Hamlin, Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate who qualified second.

Joey Logano qualified third and Busch was fourth. Defending race winner Kevin Harvick -- who's third in the Chase, 40 points behind Johnson -- qualified ninth.


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