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Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: March 2, 2:16 PM ET
NASCAR: Live from Phoenix

ESPN.com

Welcome to Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Just call it Friday Live at the Track.

We're going to do things a little differently this season on most Fridays at NASCAR events, giving fans a live blog so you can read and see all the best stuff -- including the latest news, track activity and interviews -- as quickly as possible.

The blog will be updated throughout the day, so check it out. It's an easy way to keep up with all the fun of the day as the teams unload and begin their weekend of racing.

-- Terry Blount

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Congrats to @55markmartin on winning his 56th career Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Award! @aarons_inc #nascar

— M. Waltrip Racing (@MWRteam) March 2, 2013

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Martin wins Phoenix pole

Mark Martin became a 54-year-old pole winner Friday, but he isn't quite old enough to set a record for the geezers.

Martin
Martin

Martin's pole run at Phoenix ranks second to Harry Gant's record from 1994. Gant was 54 years, 7 months and 17 days old when he won the pole for the August race at Bristol 19 years ago. Martin is 54 years, 1 month and 20 days old.

Martin turned a lap at 138.074 mph on the 1-mile oval. Kasey Kahne joins Martin on the front row.

Danica Patrick had an awful qualifying run. After becoming the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500, she'll start 40th in the 43-car field Sunday at Phoenix.

"We were just way too loose," Patrick said. "It's really disappointing, but we know we always get better in the race."

-- Terry Blount

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#88-Earnhardt Jr out 22nd, ran 135.859mph, currently 13th #NASCAR

— Jayski (@jayski_nascar) March 2, 2013

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Danica was slow, to say the least. She's 20 of 21 who have gone out for qualifying.

— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) March 1, 2013

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#55-Martin out 19th, heads to the pole at 138.074mph #NASCAR

— Jayski (@jayski_nascar) March 1, 2013

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Kahne knocks Gordon off the top spot.

— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) March 1, 2013

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Top 10 Phoenix Quals after 10 drivers #24 then 11 43 51 34 78 36 42 38 & 32 #NASCAR

— Jayski (@jayski_nascar) March 1, 2013

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. @martintruexjr56 goes over qualifying plans w @napaknowhow crew @phoenixraceway #nascar twitpic.com/c7utiz

— M. Waltrip Racing (@MWRteam) March 1, 2013

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Pull those belts tight @aric_almirola! The #43 Farmland @smithfieldfoods ready to go for #nascar qualifying! twitter.com/RPMotorsports/&

— RPMotorsports (@RPMotorsports) March 1, 2013

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Phoenix Qualifying has started, #32-Schrader 1st out 131.747 #NASCAR

— Jayski (@jayski_nascar) March 1, 2013

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Want to get up there and lead some laps for @clotconnect tomorrow. It would be a good way to start off National Blood Clot Awareness month.

— Brian Vickers (@BrianLVickers) March 1, 2013

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Mexico Series debut

Jorge Goeters, one of the top drivers in the NASCAR Mexico Series, kept reporters laughing in a media center appearance Friday.

The Mexico Series is making its first U.S. appearance with a race Friday night at Phoenix. Goeters was asked what he hopes to gain out of the U.S. event.

"A spot at Hendrick Motorsports," he said. "I would love to be there. Honestly, I don't know, but we are very excited about this and we know our series is growing. But I'm ready to change my life to be here."

Toyota sponsors the Mexico Series, so Goeters revised his goals.

"Oh, wait," he said. "Hendrick is not a Toyota team, so make that Michael Waltrip's team."

-- Terry Blount

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Danica Patrick's most cherished feat: leading a lap at Daytona AND Indy. es.pn/15WDbjQ @phoenixraceway #NASCAR

— Joe Breeze (@JoeBreezeESPN) March 1, 2013

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Third wheel at Stewart-Haas

A lot of people at Phoenix this weekend are talking about Danica Patrick becoming one of only 13 drivers ever to lead a lap in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.

One interesting side note: Two of those drivers are on the same NASCAR team -- Patrick and Tony Stewart.

But it's Ryan Newman, the other driver at Stewart-Haas Racing, who managed to win one of those events. Newman won the 2008 Daytona 500 while driving for Penske Racing.

-- Terry Blount

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Michael Annett released from hospital following surgery on sternum es.pn/XfLR1t

— ESPN_Motorsports (@ESPNMotorsports) March 1, 2013

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Slow start for Smoke

Tony Stewart said he's not concerned about starting the season on a bad note, finishing 41st at Daytona after being involved in an early accident.

Keselowski
Stewart

"We left there 43rd and won a championship in [2002]," Stewart said. "You just put it behind you. You can't change it, so you have to focus on what you can change."

So what does he expect at Phoenix?

"I don't know what to expect," Stewart said after practice Friday. "It's a new car. I don't know how anybody knows what to expect. We ran an hour and half [Friday] by ourselves.

"You guys will ask the same questions for the next four weeks and we'll be learning for the next four weeks. Give us about four or five more weeks and we'll be able to tell you a lot more than we can now. You aren't going to learn it in an hour and half at Phoenix. If someone says they have it all figured out after an hour and a half of practice, they're lying to you."

-- Terry Blount

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#20 fastest in PHX practice 137.023mph then 18 55 11 99 48 42 24 5 &9 #NASCAR

— Jayski (@jayski_nascar) March 1, 2013

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It's been one heckuva week for #Daytona500 champ @jimmiejohnson. es.pn/ZQZyGJ @brantjames@phoenixraceway #NASCAR

— Joe Breeze (@JoeBreezeESPN) March 1, 2013

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Earnhardt passes first big test

In one way, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was glad he slammed into the outside wall on the last-lap crash in the Nationwide race last Saturday at Daytona. After missing two Chase races last season with the effects of a concussion, it was a way to test how he would feel after a big hit on the track.

"I knew I was going to hit the fence," Earnhardt said Friday on the Nationwide wreck. "I was concerned how my body would react to that. I felt pretty good that evening, and the next day felt awesome.

"I was happy to pass a personal test, I guess. When you have a concussion, it's easier to get a second one and third one. We survived that one and we'll move on and try not to get in any more wrecks."

Earnhardt also said he has limited his normal diet of chicken wings and pizza to go with a healthier plan. The past couple of weeks, his diet included carrot juice and prune juice.

"The carrot juice is not as gross as prune juice," Earnhardt said. "That was harder. A buddy of mine talked me into this detox diet. I'm just trying to maintain my weight so I don't have to get my driver suits altered. Last year I kept saying, 'Man, they're shrinking.' But this offseason I lost 15 or 20 pounds."

-- Terry Blount

Oh, Bowyer

Clint Bowyer did manage to bring up his track incident last November in Phoenix when Jeff Gordon deliberately wrecked him.

Bowyer was asked about his Phoenix memories: "I've had a lot of good ones and one bad one. One was really bad."

Gordon was asked if he has thought about that moment since arriving back at Phoenix.

"Not until you guys just brought it up," Gordon said smiling. "Honestly, it's hard to get away from it. They are still using it to advertise for the race. It was a big story. But we have enough going on with the new car to focus on what's going on out of the track."

Gordon also was asked how he will race Bowyer on Sunday if they are next to each other at some point.

"I'm going to race him the way that I've always raced him," Gordon said. "We'll race hard for position, and hopefully we don't have an incident. But I can't run every lap worrying about every guy I've ever had an incident with."

-- Terry Blount

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Break it down, #DaleJr. twitter.com/MartySmithESPN&

— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) March 1, 2013

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First time in more than 40 years Petty Blue is the primary color on the @rpmotorsports #43 car! -KC twitter.com/MissSprintCup/&

— Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) March 1, 2013

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PHOTO: @austindillon3 deep in thought before posting quickest time in1st practice at @phoenixraceway #NASCAR twitter.com/NASCAR_NNS/sta&

— NASCAR Nationwide (@NASCAR_NNS) March 1, 2013

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practice in an hour. pretty excited to see how the cars are gonna behave here.

— Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmontoya) March 1, 2013

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Great to be at the racetrack. Ready to go at @phoenixracing51 with my @guyroofing Chevy. Beautiful day out.

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) March 1, 2013

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Almirola in for Annett

Cup driver Aric Almirola enjoys racing in the Nationwide Series, but not under these circumstances. He's filling in for Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Michael Annett, who fractured his sternum in the race at Daytona and underwent surgery this week.

"This is never a situation that you want to have," Almirola said. "The most important thing is for Michael to get better and get back in the No. 43 Ford. I'm happy to step in for him this weekend as he recovers.

"I hope we can bring home a top-5 finish for Michael. The 43 [Nationwide] team is still competing for the owners' championship, so I'd love to help make them and Michael proud."

Annett was released from the hospital Friday in Charlotte. Doctors expect a two-month recovery time, but Annett is hoping to get back in the car sooner.

Crew chief Philippe Lopez is confident the team will race well this weekend with Almirola in the driver's seat.

"It's unfortunate, especially with the high hopes we had for this season for Michael," Lopez said. "But this is just a bump in the road. We'll focus on the owners' championship and getting Michael back in the car.

"We finished in the top 10 at both [Phoenix] races last season and have a brand-new car we are running this weekend. I think our car will be competitive and Aric will do a good job wheeling it. Our short-track program was really good last year. We didn't finish outside the top 15, so that should continue this season."

-- Terry Blount

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Back at work here at @phoenixraceway Daytona 500 winner, @jimmiejohnson chatting with media! @kristinec48 twitter.com/SSpakeESPN/sta&

— Shannon Spake (@SSpakeESPN) March 1, 2013

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Jimmie on Danica, Clements

Jimmie Johnson was asked Friday about Danica Patrick being one of only 13 people to lead a lap in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500:

"It's huge," he said. "That's no small feat. It's big-time stuff. She stayed up front all day long [in the Daytona 500 Sunday] and raced for the win."

Johnson also was asked what he thought about NASCAR suspending Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements for reportedly using a racial slur.

"I don't know much about it," Johnson said. "We've been so occupied with all the things we've had going on after winning the Daytona 500. It's a huge statement NASCAR is making. They don't react this way for the heck of it, so something big must have happened."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also commented Friday on the Clements incident.

"It's really unfortunate that he chose to make a decision at that time to use that language," Earnhardt said. "I don't like it. There's no room for that in my life. I'm sorry it happened to him and I hope he gets it sorted out. It looks bad on the sport and on other people."

-- Terry Blount

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"Having a kid is going to be awesome, but I'm focusing on going out and driving some race cars," says @travispastrana at Phoenix. #NASCAR

— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) March 1, 2013

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Pastrana's mini-me?

Travis Pastrana, who had a surprising 10th-place finish in the Nationwide race at Daytona (his first restrictor-plate race), learned last week that his wife, Lyn-Z, is expecting their first child.

Pastrana was asked Friday morning whether he would encourage his child to become the racer and daredevil X Games star that he is.

"I would encourage him or her to follow their passion," Pastrana said. "But I hope their passion is golf."

-- Terry Blount

Best of the best

Who has the best brain among NASCAR drivers? The best hands and feet? The best vision? The most heart and the best seat-of-your-pants instincts?

The Arizona Republic asked three former Cup champions -- Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Darrell Waltrip -- to rate drivers based on those attributes.

Busch
Busch

Here are the winners:

• Best hands -- Waltrip and Wallace picked Kyle Busch. Jarrett chose Tony Stewart.

• Best feet -- No agreement here. Wallace picked Clint Bowyer, Jarrett chose Denny Hamlin and Waltrip picked Marcos Ambrose based on his road-racing skills.

• Best vision -- Three picks here as well. Waltrip went with Jeff Gordon, Wallace picked Carl Edwards and Jarrett chose Stewart.

• Best brain -- Waltrip and Jarrett chose Jimmie Johnson. Wallace picked Matt Kenseth.

Johnson laughed when he heard about the best-brain selection: "Really, a brain? Like between my ears? I'm just dumb enough I'm smart, I guess."

• Best seat-of-your-pants driver -- Kyle Busch for Waltrip and Jarrett. Wallace picked Stewart.

• Most heart -- Jarrett and Wallace picked Mark Martin. Waltrip chose Stewart.

And the winner is? A tie between Kyle Busch and Stewart, with four votes each.

-- Terry Blount

Trial by fire

AJ Allmendinger will have to learn about the Gen-6 on the fly this weekend, driving the car for the first time while returning to the seat of the No. 51 Chevy for Phoenix Racing.

"It's been a few months since I've been in a stock car," Allmendinger said. "I haven't been in one of the Gen-6 cars yet, so I think it will take a little time to get acclimated to it. I think for the first 30 to 45 minutes I'll have to ease into it and get used to the new car, but after that, I'll be up to speed and ready to go.

"Phoenix is a great place for me to get back behind the wheel. I've always enjoyed the racetrack. It's a tough racetrack, especially with the repave. It starts off so slick when we make our first few laps, then it gains grip. Then it goes back to being slick for the race. It's definitely a challenging racetrack."

Allmendinger, who finished third in the Champ Car standings in 2006 before moving to NASCAR, had a successful IndyCar test last week at Sebring, driving one of Roger Penske's cars. Allmendinger hopes to race in Birmingham and the Indy 500 for Penske's team.

Regan Smith, who is sharing the driving duties in the No. 51 car this season with Allmendinger, finished seventh in the Daytona 500.

"I was really impressed with their run last week at Daytona," Allmendinger said. "It showed that they're putting together solid equipment and have a good feel for the new car."

-- Terry Blount

NASCAR Sprint Cup
NASCAR heads west for a weekend of sun and fun at Phoenix International Raceway.