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Phoenix qualifying: Earnhardt and Gordon in top 10

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 9, 2010) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon earned top-10 starting spots for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Phoenix International Raceway, while their teammates Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin round out the top 23.

Race coverage will begin Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, will roll off the grid fifth, marking his fourth top-10 starting spot of the season.

“My car drove pretty good,” Earnhardt said afterward. “I knew the first lap was the only good lap. After lap one our car would just go away really bad in qualifying trim, so I had to get everything we could. Our car lost a good two or three-tenths on that second lap every time we tried it today.”

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, will start 10th to earn his fourth top-10 starting spot of the season. The last time Gordon started 10th at the one-mile oval was November 2005 and he crossed the finish line third.

“Our team had a very impressive day,” said Gordon, who last won at PIR in April 2007. “We started the day really far off, so we tried a few new things and experimented since we’re early in the season.  It’s hard to do that when we have all our practices in just one day.  I’m really proud of my guys; they didn’t give up, and we made big gains certainly for qualifying as well.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow night in the race.”

Johnson, who won at PIR last November, will start Saturday’s race 16th. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is a four-time race winner at the one-mile oval.

Martin, the defending race winner, will line up his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet 23rd on Saturday. Martin started from the pole position last April and led 157 laps on his way to Victory Lane.