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Hendrick Motorsports strong at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 8, 2009) – All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers had a strong showing during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Mark Martin secured his first pole position of the season, while his teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all went on to finish in the top 11.

Gordon held his position atop the driver standings by recording his second top-five finish and third top-10 in the fourth Cup race of the season. Gordon started 16th and drove his No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Youth Challenge Chevrolet to take the runner-up position.

“My team is just flawless,” said Gordon, who led once for 47 laps during Sunday’s race. “They’re just not skipping a beat. We’re going to win races. We’re getting close. That was a heck of a battle there for second (place), and we had a lot of fun. We’ll keep knocking on the door until we get into Victory Lane.”

Johnson, who started seventh and finished ninth, led once for 11 laps during the 500-mile event.

“We kept taking swings at it but we just battled a variety of conditions throughout the day in our (No. 48) Kobalt Tools Impala SS,” said Johnson, who now ranks 13th in the driver standings. “The guys did a good job on pit road, and we wanted to get out of here with at least a top-10 finish and we were able to do that.”

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, improved five spots in the driver standings and now ranks 24th. He started 20th and climbed through the field to take 11th—narrowly missing his second top-10 finish of the season.

“I would like to run better than that,” Earnhardt said. “We struggled all day; we just can’t struggle. I look at my teammates, and they are running better—we should run the way they run. It is frustrating for me and the team. The only thing you can do is keep working.”

Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet, zipped around the 1.54-mile quad oval at 187.045 mph during Friday’s qualifying session to post the fastest time and pick up his first pole position in almost eight years. The Hendrick Motorsports’ newcomer stayed in the top 10 for the first 215 laps, but ran into trouble on Lap 216. Then, Martin hit debris on the racetrack, which punctured a tire and sent his No. 5 Chevy hard into the wall. His crew quickly made the repairs on pit road, but Martin couldn’t rally completely from the setback. He finished 31st.

“This kind of luck cannot continue. It just can’t,” Martin told his team on the radio. “You guys gave me an incredible race car. We were great today. And that’s all any of us can ask for. You did a great job of fixing it, too, on pit road. You were fast and thorough.  Thank you.”

The Cup Series will take a break this week and resume racing action next weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The Cup race will air at 1:30 p.m. ET on March 22 on FOX.

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