Atlanta recap: Martin, Gordon in top 10
HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 6, 2009) – Mark Martin held steady in his quest for a postseason bid after scoring a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, joined Martin inside the top 10 with an eighth-place finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up 17th, while Jimmie Johnson was scored in 36th.
Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet, started in the seventh position and raced in the top 10 for the majority of Sunday’s 500-mile event.
“It was a great effort by the team,” Martin said. “They did a great job. The car was fair. It was a real struggle and we worked on it. We got it better for the second half of the race and it was a top-five car; not a winner. But we fought for everything that we got right there.”
With the top-five finish – Martin’s eighth of the season – he remains ranked 10th in the driver standings with one race left before the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon and Johnson, ranked second and third respectively, are locked into the 10-race Chase.
Gordon started Sunday’s race in fourth and worked with his team on the handling of his No. 24 Chevrolet.
“It was really crazy,” Gordon said. “There were a lot of things going on. I can’t even keep up with all the different things that happened. There were times I thought we had the car to beat then I thought we were going to go a lap down. We were trying to keep up with the changing conditions whether it was track, tires or whatever it was. Man, we were all over the place and never could seem to find any consistency. It was a good fight, a good top-10, and it was good to lead some laps.”
Johnson was the highest Hendrick Motorsports qualifier in third and led twice for 17 laps. But a broken axle translated to a 36th-place finish for the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet.
“The KOBALT Tools Impala started out good but then I started to get real loose,” Johnson said. “We had trouble with the rear of the car. We broke the locker and we had to come to the garage to fix it. It was just an unfortunate night for us.”
Earnhardt lined up 31st in his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet and climbed into the top 10 by the midway point of the race. But with 25 laps to go, Earnhardt’s Chevy slipped from seventh to 17th.