Texas recap: Hendrick trio in top 10
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 19, 2010) – Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived Monday’s rescheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event to score top-10 finishes, while their teammate Jeff Gordon was collected in the race’s final incident.
After Monday’s race, all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers rank in the top 10 in the championship standings for the first time in the organization’s history.
The nine-car pileup on the frontstretch brought out the red flag with 16 laps to go and sent Gordon, with his dominant No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Special Forces Chevrolet, to the garage. Gordon, the defending race winner, started the race 12th and led a race-high 124 laps before the incident. He was credited with a 31st-place finish.
“I just saw a lot of guys racing hard, and we ran out of room,” said Gordon, who managed to hold steady at fifth in the driver standings. “Man what a race car we had. That’s what I’m bummed out the most about. We just had such an awesome race car, and I want to thank DuPont and National Guard and Special Forces. It was really cool.”
When the red flag was lifted, and field reset for the final green flag, there were 12 laps left in the race. Earnhardt lined up second, leading his teammates Johnson and Martin, who rounded out the top 15.
Earnhardt, who took two tires during the final pit stop, battled for position when the green flag finally fell but had some difficulty running against the drivers who had chosen four tires. Earnhardt held his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet steady in the top 10 and crossed the finish line eighth to improve three spots to seventh in the driver standings.
“Right there at the end I just couldn’t hold them off,” said Earnhardt, who led 46 laps on Monday. “The new tires were coming and I tried to pinch everybody down and they just run me up into the fence. I ran myself up there once too. We’re getting better but we’ve still got a lot to work on. I appreciate the support from AMP Energy and the National Guard. We’re a good team. We can be a great team - we’ve just got to keep working.”
Johnson’s team never quit working as he wheeled his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet around the 1.5-mile racetrack. Although he led 39 laps during the event, he had to rally from contact made with Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet mid-race. Johnson remained on the lead lap, and when the final green flag dropped, he charged for the lead on four fresh tires.
Johnson worked his way through the field, slipping past Earnhardt and into the rear-view mirror of eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin. This is Johnson’s fifth top-three finish in the first seven races of the season, and the defending Sprint Cup champion remains atop the driver standings.
“All-in-all it was a great day,” Johnson said. “We had that left-front tire go down, and then we were fortunate enough to catch a caution when we did. There at the end, the car was just dragging the nose too bad for the first couple of laps. I think we sat too long and the front tire pressures dropped. I lost a few spots. I almost hit the wall down in (Turns) 1 and 2 trying to work the top. Once those front tire pressures came in and the splitter got off the ground, I started coming but it was like a lap too late.”
Martin, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, also rallied during Monday’s 334-lap event. He started the event in the 30th position and slowly worked his way through the field, taking advantage of several late-race cautions to improve his standing and crossed the finish line fifth. With the top-five result, Martin improves three spots in the driver standings to 10th.