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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Mark Martin may be getting better with age.
Coming off a third-place finish at the Daytona 500, Martin became the second-oldest driver to win a Sprint Cup pole on Friday by earning the top spot at Phoenix International Raceway for the second straight year.
“A lot of people describe Mark by saying ‘Mark’s on it,’” Martin’s crew chief Rodney Childers said. “Well, for 2013, Mark’s on it squared.”
Martin went around PIR’s mile oval with a speed of 138.074 mph for his 56th career pole, passing Bill Elliott for seventh all-time.
Martin turned 54 in January, leaving him just a few months behind Harry Gant, who was 54 years and 7 months when he won his last pole at Bristol in 1994.
Martin will be joined on the front row by Kasey Kahne for Sunday’s 312-mile race, with Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch in the second row.
“I said it last week and had some people make some snide remarks about it, but at this stage of the game it’s pretty amazing I get to drive something like this,” Martin said.
Martin started on the pole at PIR last year before finishing ninth and won from the pole in 2009. He had a solid opening to the 2013 season, starting 14th at Daytona last Sunday and working his way to the front to make a big move on the final lap to finish behind Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin followed it up with his third pole at Phoenix to put himself in position to win for the first time since Loudon in 2009.
Not bad for a driver who’s got a part-time gig with Michael Waltrip Racing this season.
“I deeply admire him and his passion for the sport,” said Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup series champion and Martin’s former teammate. “He’s tried to walk away a few times — I think we had a farewell tour for him once — and he came back. He couldn’t do it. He just loves driving his car and is an inspiration for any team he works for.”
Johnson had a whirlwind tour after winning his second Daytona 500 last Sunday, hitting eight states and David Letterman’s guest chair — along with announcing a new deal with primary sponsor Lowe’s — in the four days before arriving at PIR.
“Five-Time” didn’t have a chance to debrief with his team and arrived in the desert exhausted. He won’t get much of a break here, either, with Sprint Cup practice and qualifying on Friday, his second career Nationwide Series race on Saturday and Sunday’s race.
Johnson cut it close on qualifying, too, walking back from pit road to the garage to his car, which had to go through part of the pre-qualifying inspection before being allowed out. It arrived on pit road three cars before Johnson’s turn and had a strong second lap to earn a spot on the second row.
“I was fortunate to get in the car early and buckled in, kind of catch my breath, but my crew guys were winded by the time we got down there,” said Johnson, whose chance for a sixth Sprint Cup title derailed with a blown tire during the fall Chase race in Phoenix last year. “But a great lap. I’m very excited about how things have started off this season.”
Kahne had a disappointing Daytona 500, collected in the race’s first wreck on his way to finishing 36th after starting sixth. He’s had some success at Phoenix, though, winning the fall race in 2011 and put together a good qualifying run early in the session.
“It was a pretty good lap for right now and hopefully it will stay somewhere in the top 10,” Kahn said. “I would imagine we’ll get quicker as we go, but you never know.”
Danica Patrick struggled with her car in practice and didn’t get it fixed for qualifying, bobbling around turns 3 and 4. She will start 40th after becoming the first woman win the pole and lead green-flag laps in a Sprint Cup race last week at the Daytona 500.
“It’s just not a good qualifying effort. It’s not what I was looking for,” she said. “I know how important it is on these short tracks to qualify well.”
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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