Johnson Wins Phoenix Pole, Kenseth to Start
Avondale, Ariz. — Jimmie Johnson won the pole Friday for the penultimate race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, moving him a step closer to his sixth NASCAR title.
The five-time NASCAR champion set a track record with a lap of 139.222 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to earn the top starting spot for Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. The lap broke the mark of 138.766 set by Kyle Busch last November.
“Track records are awesome,” Johnson said after the qualifying session. “I don’t qualify on pole all that often, so I take great pride in them, especially track records. Very cool to do, and clearly a great time in the season and a great time in the Chase.”
Matt Kenseth will start 14th in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Kenseth trails Johnson by seven points with two races remaining in the Chase.
Denny Hamlin qualified second with a lap at 139.023 for JGR, but he went out much later in Friday’s session than teammate Kenseth.
Joey Logano qualified third in a Penske Racing Ford, and Kyle Busch was fourth as both of Kenseth’s teammates out-qualified the title contender.
Both Hamlin and Logano marveled at Johnson’s performance.
“He’s been in kill mode for a while,” said Logano. “When they are running for that championship, they find that extra notch that a lot of other teams can’t find.”
Johnson is coming off a dominating performance last week at Texas, where he led 255 of the 334 laps to win his sixth race of the season and break a tie with Kenseth in the standings.
Woods 1 Back
Belek, Turkey — Tiger Woods shot a 9-under 63 Friday to trim a six-shot deficit to one after the second round of the Turkish Open.
Woods completed seven holes of his rain-delayed first round for a 70 on Friday morning. After an hour lunch break, the 14-time major winner didn’t drop a shot and had nine birdies in the second round.
It left Woods in fifth place on 11 under, just a shot behind the leading foursome of Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (68), England’s Ian Poulter (66), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (65) and South African Justin Walters (66).
Kirk Overcomes Wind for Lead
St. Simons Island, Ga. — Chris Kirk was at his best when the wind was at its worst Friday in the McGladrey Classic.
Kirk rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt from off the green, chipped in from nearly 60 feet for birdie on another hole and wound up with another 4-under 66 at Sea Island to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend.
Kirk was at 8-under 132, one shot ahead of Kevin Chappell (68), Webb Simpson (68), John Senden (67) and Briny Baird (70).
Eighteen players had to return Saturday morning to finish the round, none closer than three shot of Kirk.
London — Rafael Nadal held off Tomas Berdych 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to finish the round robin 3-0 and win his group at the ATP World Tour Finals, allowing Stanislas Wawrinka to join him in the last four.
Wawrinka beat David Ferrer 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1, but needed Nadal to win to advance to the semifinal.
Nadal lost his grip on the match in the second set, dropping his serve twice. The Spaniard had already qualified from Group A after winning his first two matches, clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking the process.
Nadal only needed to claim a set against Berdych to clinch the group win. But he broke him in the eighth game of the third set after Berdych double-faulted twice.
Yankees Bring Back Coaching Staff
New York — The Yankees are bringing back their entire coaching staff next season under manager Joe Girardi.
New York said Friday it has retained Mike Harkey (bullpen), Mick Kelleher (first base), Kevin Long (hitting), Tony Pena (bench), Larry Rothschild (pitching) and Rob Thomson (third base).
Girardi was hired before the 2008 season and agreed last month to a four-year contract. The Yankees missed the playoffs this season for just the second time in 19 years.