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Talladega recap: Johnson, Earnhardt finish in top 11

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Nov. 1, 2009)—Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored top-11 finishes in Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to lead their Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, finished sixth and improves his lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to 184 points. Johnson hung back during the race, running around the 30th position, and was able to capitalize in the closing laps after a red-flag caution period set up a green-white-checkered flag finish.

“I was really concerned under the red flag for (Ryan) Newman’s crash and was like what do I do? How do I get to the front?” Johnson said. “Chad (Knaus, crew chief) said, ‘These guys might run out of gas.’ I didn’t want to believe too much in that because we’re 25th, and I don’t want to hope for some of that to take place, but they started running out of gas ... and I’m like man this isn’t Halloween this is an early Christmas present. So we got through here well; did not expect that. With the green-white-checker restart I thought we were 20th at the best, and we came home with a top-10.”
Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy “Get on the 88”/National Guard Chevrolet, climbed from his 24th-place starting spot to run in the top five. Earnhardt led five times for nine laps and crossed the finish line 11th.

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, spent most of the day running in the top 10, but ran out of fuel during the red-flag caution period on Lap 185. Surprised, Gordon headed for pit road and refueled for the final dash to the checkered flag. Unfortunately, Gordon was collected in the same multi-car incident with Martin on Lap 191 and picked up a 20th-place finish.

“A little disappointing for us on the DuPont Chevrolet just because we ran out of fuel,” said Gordon, who remains third in the driver standings. “I felt like we saved a lot. I certainly didn’t think we were going to run out right then.”

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Chevrolet, was poised for a top-five finish when he was collected in a 13-car accident on the final lap. Martin finished 28th and holds onto second in the driver standings.

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