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Phoenix recap: Hendrick drivers finish inside top 12

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 10, 2010) – Hendrick Motorsports appeared poised to keep its win streak at Phoenix International Raceway intact, when its drivers lined up inside the top 15 for the final restart on Saturday night.

Gordon led the charge, lining up first for the two-lap showdown in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Running on two new tires, Gordon made a furious attempt to earn his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at the one-mile oval. But when the green flag dropped, he spun his tires on the restart and crossed the finish line second. He was followed by his teammates Jimmie Johnson in third, Mark Martin in fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12th.

“Ryan (Newman, race winner) had a good jump on me getting in to (Turn) 1,” said Gordon, who led three laps and improves two spots to fifth in the driver standings. “It was pretty much game over at that point. We had a good car, we were the second-place car, we finished second, I’m still pretty happy and proud of that effort. We made the car better throughout the whole race, and that is something we didn’t do as well last year so real happy with that.”
Johnson, a four-time winner at Phoenix, led 113 laps during Saturday’s race and was running second when the final caution flag was thrown on Lap 373. He brought his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet down pit road and made the call for four tires.

“It seems like lately four tires work in a lot of races in the closing miles,” Johnson said. “I was hoping for one caution. I felt like if there was one caution that would bunch things up, and I’d have a shot at it. I restarted seventh and with another lap or two, we would have been there. But it was a great night all in all. I was excited to see the caution. It gave me the opportunity to race for the win and leave with the points stretched out a little bit.”

With his top-three finish, Johnson remains first in the driver standings and improved his lead by 36 points.

Mark Martin, the defending race winner, climbed from his 23rd–place qualifying to 15th by Lap 140.

“As the sun went down, the track came to us and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys made great adjustments and we moved up,” Martin said. “I think at the end we had a very competitive car.”

Martin took two tires on his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet on the final pit stop and held on for the fourth-place finish. He improves four spots in the driver standings to 13th.

“The two tires worked out for us,” Martin said. “So, we got a top-five out of it. That’s what you need to do when you don’t run good. We ran real good the last two weeks. We need to finish good when we don’t run good.”

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, was Hendrick Motorsports’ top qualifier and lined up for Saturday’s race fifth. But after hitting a piece of debris 56 laps into the event, Earnhardt’s team worked continually to make the necessary repairs. Earnhardt lined up 14th for the final restart and held on to cross the finish line 12th. He remains ranked 10th in the driver standings.

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