AVONDALE, Ariz., Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Martin Truex Jr. turned in the fastest qualifying lap in Phoenix Friday and will start on the pole for the next-to-last Sprint Cup race of the season.
The Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be run Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, where Jimmie Johnson will try to protect his points lead in an attempt to win the series championship for the fourth straight year.
Truex bounced back from a penalty assessed by NASCAR to his team this week to turn a lap at 135.120 miles per hour. It was his third pole of the season and the fourth of his Sprint Cup career.
"This is one of those places where there is a real fine line," Truex said. "If you don't drive in hard enough, you can't get off the corner. If you drive it in too hard, you can't get off the corner. So I hit it just right."
Truex had 50 points removed from his season total Tuesday and crew chief Kevin Manion received a $50,000 fine after their car failed post-race inspection last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Truex is 26th in points and will be leaving the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Team after this season. He will drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010.
Texas winner Kurt Busch qualified second, followed by Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin.
Johnson was involved in a wreck last week and finished 38th, which caused his points lead to shrink to 73 over Mark Martin.
Martin qualified 10th for Sunday's race.
"The car was just all over the place," Martin said. "I needed a breathtakingly spectacular lap, but I got a below average lap."