WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 10, 2009) – Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin crossed the finish line 12th and 23rd, respectively, in Monday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International, while their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved in late-race incidents.
Johnson, who earned the pole position during Friday’s qualifying session, led once for four laps and remains second in the driver standings.
“We just kept getting looser and looser,” Johnson said. “We thought the track would tighten up and come to us, but it just went the other way. But, we are getting smarter, and I am learning a lot. It wasn’t the performance we wanted today, but we fought hard and we got our first pole (here) so we had some bright spots. We will just move forward.”
Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet, maintains his footing in the race for the Chase after starting 28th and finishing 23rd in the 220.5-mile event. Martin now ranks 11th in the driver standings.
Gordon, who started 31st in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, was involved in two incidents on Monday. He bounced back from the first one, a three-car collision that happened on Lap 23 when he was running 17th. With help from his crew, Gordon stayed inside the top 20. But trouble stuck 40 laps later when Gordon was rocked by Sam Hornish Jr., who ricocheted off the tire barrier and collected Gordon in Turn 5.
Gordon was evaluated and released from the infield care center. Although uninjured, Gordon noted he was sore after the incident.
“The only saving grace is that there are no road courses in the Chase,” said Gordon, a four-time winner at Watkins Glen. “You want the bonus points. You want a good run. You want momentum. We just haven’t been good here in quite some time. I think our car was actually decent today, we just didn’t qualify good enough to show for it. We moved up quite a few spots which is already tough to do on a road course. You don’t see anybody passing unless they’ve got fresh tires out there.
“I’m proud of the guys. We made improvements as the weekend went on. We’ll just have to wait until the next time we come back here to show just how many improvements we really made.”
Earnhardt started 32nd and was running 25th when his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet suffered a brake issue on Lap 42.
“I mashed the brake pedal going into (Turn) 10, and it just went to the floor,” said Earnhardt, who climbed from his car uninjured and was scored 39th. “It braked for just a second, and then it was like it blew the line or something. I tried to miss the No. 43, and he turned in the corner. I’m real sorry about that for those guys, but there wasn’t anything I could do.”