Kansas recap: Hendrick trio in top 10
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Oct. 4, 2009)—From start to finish, Hendrick Motorsports had a strong showing during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway with three drivers finishing in the top 10.
Jeff Gordon led his teammates with a second-place finish, while Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson were scored seventh and ninth, respectively. Brad Keselowski notched the 13th spot, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 36th.
Martin, still the points leader in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, opened the afternoon from the pole position and led 11 laps, but soon lost that spot to Earnhardt. Earnhardt had lined up on the front row with Martin and steered his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet to first.
Earnhardt led for 41 laps before a pit miscue put the No. 88 a lap down. He battled back and was running in the top 20 when his car suffered a race-ending issue with the oil pump belt.
“It’s frustrating,” Earnhardt said. “We had a real fast car. We left a lugnut loose on a pit stop and lost a lap there. We pitted, and they threw a caution and lost another lap there. We had a fast enough car to finish top-12. We were running as fast as the leaders. We just needed track position. We had a good car.”
Martin ran among the leaders all day, although he struggled some with the handling of his No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet. By crossing the finish line two spots ahead of Johnson, Martin increased his lead in the points by 18.
“We finished as high as we could,” Martin said. “We raced our guts out, and that’s what you’ve got to do in all of them and see how they (points) tally up.”
Keselowski lined up third and led once before holding steady in the top 15 throughout Sunday’s race. He crossed the stripe 13th in his sixth Cup start this season driving the No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Keselowski will attempt to make one more Cup event this season for Hendrick Motorsports—the Oct. 17 show at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“We had such a great GoDaddy.com Chevy today, and it was great to have it up front for a while,” Keselowski said. “We just caught a bad break with that caution falling where it did. My guys did a fantastic job on pit road though getting me some spots almost every stop. All in all it was a good day for this team, and I’m excited to take this car to Charlotte.”
Gordon, who started ninth, improved his position in the top 10 throughout the course of the race. He didn’t lead a lap, but threatened to take the top spot from eventual race winner Tony Stewart as the 400-mile event wound down.
“I started really running out of steam there toward the end with the tires. I had just used them up so much trying to catch him,” said Gordon, who improves one spot to seventh in the standings. “It was a great effort by the DuPont Chevrolet team. I’m so proud of them. We were really far off when this race started, and I thought there is no way we’ll ever finish second today so that’s just what kind of great team that we have and how we never, never give up.”
Johnson made an impressive charge in his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevy, to climb from his 11th starting spot to lead five times for 53 laps. On the final restart, Johnson took two tires instead of four like many of the leaders and had some trouble dialing in his car.
“We were trying to be the first one out of the pits and went for two, and unfortunately a couple of guys took two with us,” said Johnson, who trails Martin by 18 points in the standings. “The No. 14 (Tony Stewart, race winner) did a good job of getting away and in to clean air and made the most of it. We were kind of mired in traffic. I was right there with guys on four (new tires) and the guys with four got through and got by. Not the finish we were after; we felt like we could have finished better because the first half of the race went so well. But ninth isn’t the end of the world.”