Hendrick Motorsports

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Las Vegas qualifying: Hendrick trio in top 10

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 26, 2010) – Jeff Gordon scored the outside pole position during Friday’s qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to record his highest starting spot of the 2010 season.

He was joined in the top 10 by teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) and Mark Martin (eighth). Jimmie Johnson, who qualified first on Friday, recorded the 20th starting spot for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. The race is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers posted times in the top 10 during Friday’s first practice session. But when qualifying began two hours later on Friday, the drivers improved upon those times.

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet, toured the 1.5-mile racetrack in 28.625 seconds—almost half a second quicker than his fifth-place practice time. For Gordon this is his second outside pole position at the desert racetrack. He also started second in 2003, when he led 53 laps before being involved in a late-race multi-car accident in Turn 2. He finished that event 37th.

“That was an all or nothing type of a lap,” Gordon said. “We are really excited about having this DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet. It is a great looking car. But, it is fast as well. The guys have done a great job with it all day. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and all the guys—I’m real proud of them.”

Earnhardt drove his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet two miles an hour quicker around the racetrack to pick up the fourth starting spot. The last time Earnhardt started fourth was 2003, when he matched his career-best second-place finish at the 1.5-mile racetrack. He led a race-high 97 laps.

“That was a good lap, we worked really hard in practice to get the National Guard/AMP Energy Chevy as good as we could and it paid off,” Earnhardt said. “Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys did a great job.”

Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, also started eighth at Las Vegas last year. Then, he climbed into the top five before an engine issue cut his day short. Martin is more optimistic about this time around.

“It was a good run,” Martin said. “This team can win this race, what a great race team. I am loving the GoDaddy.com colors. I just have to be the luckiest guy, I feel like the luckiest guy to strap in this thing and drive it. I feel like I am dreaming.”

Johnson will line up his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, from the 10th row in 20th. The last time Johnson started around 20th was 2007, when he lined up 23rd and went on to lead 89 laps and win the event. Johnson owns three wins, three top-five finishes and four top-10s in eight starts.