AVONDALE, Ariz. – Mark Martin has won his third pole of the season, qualifying first Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway.

Martin ran a lap at 133.814 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to beat Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch for the top starting spot Saturday night. Before this season, Martin had not won a pole since 2001.

Kyle Busch qualified second with a lap at 133.725 in a Toyota, and older brother Kurt was third in a Dodge with a lap at 133.700.

Jeff Gordon qualified fourth in a Chevrolet and was followed by Brian Vickers in a Toyota.

The top 10 was rounded out by Tony Stewart, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson.

Six drivers failed to make the race, including Todd Bodine and Jeremy Mayfield.

Earnhardt sad No. 8 isn’t racing right now

Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t blame his stepmother for keeping his beloved No. 8, even though the number won’t be used in Saturday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Earnhardt used the No. 8 for nine seasons at Dale Earnhardt Inc., but his stepmother would not let him take it with him when he left for Hendrick Motorsports following the 2007 season. Aric Almirola used the number this season, but his team was shuttered by Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing last week because of a lack of funding.

“I don’t have any malice about what Teresa’s decision was on keeping that number,” Earnhardt said on Friday. “If I had been in her shoes, I probably would have done the same thing. That has been the case with every other owner in the past, the understanding that the numbers ‘belong’ to them, and I understood that.”

The No. 8 has sentimental significance to the Earnhardt family. It was first used by Ralph Earnhardt, and his son, Dale, made his Cup Series debut with the number in the 1975 Coca-Cola 600. It was the late Dale Earnhardt’s only use of the No. 8 in his Cup career.

Junior then selected the number when he made his 1999 Cup debut. He turned it into the most popular number in NASCAR, as Earnhardt’s immense fan base proudly sported it each week through T-shirts and tattoos.

Kahne says he’ll honor contract through 2010

Cross Kasey Kahne’s name off the list of drivers on the move. He said Friday he doesn’t want to break his contract with Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the season.

“I made a commitment to race with (the team) through 2010, so I’ll do that for sure,” Kahne said. “I told them from the start that if we can get our cars where they are right and competitive with the best teams out here, then I don’t know why I would ever want to move from that company.”

Kahne’s name has popped up recently as a potential free agent, based somewhat on his frustration of not being more consistent in the No. 9 Dodge. Although he heads into Saturday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway ranked 10th, he has not consistently contended for a championship since joining the team in 2004.

RPM has had several ownership changes since Kahne signed on, transferring from team founder Ray Evernham to partner George Gillett Jr. before its January merger with Petty Enterprises.

He has nine career wins, but has not finished higher than eighth in the final season standings. He’s also made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship twice in five season.

Allmendinger signs contract through 2010

AJ Allmendinger has signed a contract to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports through 2010, a deal that ends the constant uncertainty he’s had this season.

RPM officials did not say what car number Allmendinger will drive next year or if the team has sponsorship. He’s been racing this year in RPM’s No. 44 Dodge by piecing together funding from several different companies.

Allmendinger was originally signed to drive the first eight races of this season, and that deal has twice been extended to get him at least to September. Now it appears he’s got a ride for the rest of the year and beyond.

Allmendinger is a former Champ Car star who has flourished this season.

He finished third in the season-opening Daytona 500.


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