Part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racer Mark Martin picked up the 52nd pole of his career by topping qualifying in his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. 2011 Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart rolled off second.
Regan Smith started third while Daytona 500 headliners Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five.
Drop Of The Green
After last week's rain troubles it was a refreshing relief to have a warm sunny race day dawn. The temperature was pushing eighty when the green flag flew.
Mark Martin lead the field into turn one and held on to lead lap one. Tony Stewart pulled low and took over the top spot to lead lap two. Stewart went on to control the rest of the early going until Jimmmie Johnson slipped past for the lead right before the first caution on lap 18.
When they went back to racing Kevin Harvick took a turn at the front as drivers were battling the hot, slick race track more than they batttled each other.
Today's race paled in comparison to the big news stories of the past. The focus of today's race were the penalties NASCAR levied against Jimmie Johnson's team, Roger Penske's announcement that he will be switching back to Ford in 2013 and Denny Hamlin's crew chief Darian Grubb who picked up where he left off in 2011 after winning a Championship with Tony Stewart before being fired.
The race faded into the background while there was still so much to talk about from last week.
Chasing The Checkers
As the laps were winding down Denny Hamlin held a small lead over Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose and Greg Biffle while a fierce battle raged for fifth between Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
Marcos Ambrose blew the engine in the final 20 laps but there was no need for a caution. At the same time Kevin Harvick started to cut into Denny Hamlin's .8 second lead.
The rest of the lead pack was falling back leaving this race to be settled between Hamlin and Harvick unless a late caution flew. Harvick was pushing hard trying to catch Hamlin while Denny was holding him off.
With two laps to go Hamlin was just a carlength behind off of turn one but Harvick's car sputtered and he ran out of fuel, ending the battle. Hamlin cruised home for the win. Harvick coasted around to finish second.
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Greg Biffle
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Jeff Gordon
- Mark Martin
- Joey Logano
Matt Kenseth held the lead coming into this race by virtue of his Daytona 500 win. However Kenseth didn't post a top ten finish in Phoenix and gave up the lead.
With a win in Phoenix and a top five finish last week in Daytona Denny Hamlin moved into the early season point lead.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings: