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Pocono recap: Gordon and Johnson score top-10s

LONG POND, Pa. (June 7, 2009) – Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson notched top-10 finishes to lead Hendrick Motorsports during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway.

Sunday’s starting lineup was determined by the owner standings after Friday’s qualifying session was rained out at the 2.5-mile triangular racetrack, and Gordon was awarded the outside pole position. He led twice for nine laps on his way to a fourth-place finish during the 500-mile event. He maintains his second-place ranking in the driver standings.

“That was a great call in the pits by Steve (Letarte, crew chief) to try to stay out there and win it,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “If it had rained, then it actually would have worked to our favor to play that out because we came in late and fueled up and made it all the way to the end and finished fourth. Pretty amazing day for the DuPont Chevrolet.”

Johnson lined up third for Sunday’s event, but joined Gordon on the front row after points leader and eventual race winner Tony Stewart was sent to the back of the field for changing cars prior to the race.

Johnson took the lead within the first 10 laps and went on to lead twice for 31 laps. He was running second during the final lap when his No. 48 Chevrolet ran out of fuel. He managed to hold on and cross the finish line seventh, maintaining his third-place spot in the driver standings.

“It was an exciting one,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “At the end we were just playing a fuel game. And I didn’t play it well enough. I had to run too hard at the start of that run to stay ahead of the No. 33 (Clint Bowyer) and to try to stay ahead of the No. 9 (Kasey Kahne), and I just used up too much gas. I ran out coming into the tunnel turn.”

Mark Martin started 12th in his No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet and climbed into the top five, where he stayed until the final 30 laps when he started conserving fuel. But Martin’s fuel-saving pace wasn’t helping his position, and with 15 laps to go, he had to pit. He picked up fuel and right-side tires during the stop, but was disappointed when no other cars followed suit. He slipped from running in the top-10 to finish 19th. He ranks 13th in the driver standings, one point behind 12th-place.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 18th in his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet and crossed the finish line 27th after encountering some handling issues during the 500-mile event. Earnhardt ranks 20th in the driver standings.

“I felt like during the middle of the race, we had something good to work with, made some good changes and he was running some really good competitive lap times,” said Lance McGrew, interim crew chief of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet. “We were all happy. Then it just kind of went away at the two-thirds point of the race. We’re building Rome here, and we’re still working on the communication. We’ve just got to do a little better job of figuring out what the track is going to do the next day and make the appropriate changes the night before instead of trying to change it during the race. It’ll come.”

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