A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Ford has the pole for the Saturday night NASCAR Sprint Cup race with a lap of 26.721/1:34.675. It was the first pole of 87 starts for the enthusiastic and energetic driver from Los Gatos CA. His only other top-five start was second at Auto Club Speedway on Labor Day weekend 2008.

Pole Sitter A.J. Allmendinger. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Pole Sitter A.J. Allmendinger. Photo by Lynne Huntting
“It is exciting to get that first pole. It is a small victory, but it means so much to this race team and me. It was a tough track this year. A lot of guys were spinning today, and one mistake could lose ten places in a heartbeat.” Allmendinger tried to be diplomatic about beating a Red Bull car, joking “No, I didn’t think about it at all.” But then he admitted it felt good to beat the team which let him go. “Anybody that has been let go, however, you know what it is like to go out there and beat your old team.” He did, however, go talk with runner-up RBR driver, SCOTT SPEED/No.82 Toyota right after qualifying.

Speed was on top for a while before being bumped by AJ. Speed’s black and blue hairdo from Martinsville had changed to almost no hair – more aerodynamic. Speed said it was time to get rid of the bad luck black hair. He named his car, Rattlesnake – mean and fast, and female. “We’re in Phoenix, so it fits.”

The top four qualifiers are road racers.

Third was SAM HORNISH, Jr/No.77 Dodge, saying PIR is one of his favorite racetracks, but did say there’s nothing special for this track which favored road racers.

Aussie MARCOS AMBROSE/No.47 Toyota was fourth said “It was great, a real bonus for us. We didn’t expect to run that good.”

DALE EARNHARDT Jr/No.88 Chevrolet was fifth. “Just getting off into (Turn) 1 it was tough to see. And it’ll be like that for a little bit here in the first hour or so of the race.”

KEVIN CONWAY/No.38 Ford was the top Rookie, with the slowest time of all 47 drivers, He made the field based on Owner’s Points. The other Rookie, TERRY COOK/No.46 Dodge – who was the fastest of the two in all three sessions, will start last, as he had to qualify based on time.

The drivers who failed to qualify were: DAVID STREMME/No.26 Ford; ARIC ALMIROLA/No.09 Chevrolet; MIKE BLISS/No.36 Chevrolet; and BRANDON ASH/No.02 Dodge.

Despite his painful post-surgical left knee, DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota was able to qualify the car, and will start twenty-sixth. Hamlin was the fastest driver in the first Cup practice session, at 27.437/131.210 mph. Second was MICHAEL McDOWELL/No.66 Toyota, followed by JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Chevrolet, KURT BUSCH/No.2 Dodge, and Earnhardt. Eight-eight was an operative number – Junior’s number and the expected high temperature at the track.

As the temperatures rose, so did the speeds. In the final practice, JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet turned a 27.388/131.444 mph for the top time. Coming in second was Allmendinger, RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 Chevrolet, GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford, and JEFF BURTON/No.31 Chevrolet.

It was in the final practice session that drivers were spinning, but continuing. No one crashed.

All 47 Cup drivers were on track for all sessions.

PIR is jumping on the healthier bandwagon. It has a new official potato chip, Crave. Three of the four flavors are trans-fat and gluten free.

Among the Office Depot’s green efforts are its Zebra Eco ball point pens. They are 75 percent recycled, with ingredients including headlights, battery casements and plastic bags.