Mark Martin nabs pole position at Phoenix

1 Comment

Fresh off a third-place finish at the Daytona 500, Mark Martin will start on the pole for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.

In this evening’s qualifying session, Martin wheeled the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to the top spot of the grid with a fast lap of 138.074 mph around the one-mile PIR oval. Martin, who will run 24 races this season with MWR, earned his 56th career Sprint Cup pole and gave full credit to crew chief Rodney Childers and his team.

“They make great decisions and put me in great race cars,” Martin told SPEED Channel’s Matt Yocum following the end of qualifying. “I’m so proud to succeed with these guys. They back me up and support me so much.”

Martin will be joined on the front row by Kasey Kahne, who threw down a lap of 137.862 mph in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Three Hendrick drivers qualified within the top 5 positions, with Daytona winner Jimmie Johnson starting third and Jeff Gordon starting fifth. Tony Stewart wound up sixth.

Johnson and his No. 48 team had problems prior to qualifying, as the Lowe’s Chevrolet needed multiple trips to get through tech inspection. But for the five-time Sprint Cup champion, everything worked out well in the end.

“Not exactly sure, but something with [the laser inspection system] wasn’t showing right, ” Johnson said of his pre-qualifying issues on the SPEED broadcast. “We went through a couple of times and got it. I was fortunate to get in the car early, get buckled in, and try to catch my breath. I know my crew guys were winded by the time they got me down there.”

Defending race winner Denny Hamlin will start eighth and in Row 4 alongside Kevin Harvick, who won at PIR last fall. As for Danica Patrick, she’ll have a long climb ahead on Sunday after qualifying 40th.

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.