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Talladega recap: Martin and Earnhardt in top 13

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 25, 2010) – Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived NASCAR’s three final attempts for a green-white-checkered flag to secure finishes in the top 13 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, both involved in late-race incidents, finished 22nd and 31st, respectively.

All four drivers led at least one lap in Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event and remain ranked in the top 10 in the championship standings for the second straight week. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, still is the leader, followed by Martin, who improved four spots to sixth. Earnhardt is eighth, and Gordon is 10th.

The teammates entered Sunday’s event with varying strategies. For instance, Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, decided to race hard in the opening laps and then hang back until the final stretch, while Earnhardt sought to lead every lap. Martin started the race 10th and led once before crossing the finish line fifth, picking up his fourth top-five finish of the season.

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, started seventh and rocketed to the lead 16 laps later. He held the top spot five times for eight laps and kept his footing inside the top 10 as the race wound down. But he slipped through the field during the final restart and finished 13th.

Gordon lined up fifth and took the lead by Lap 39. He led four times for four laps before being involved in a five-car incident on Lap 189. Gordon was able to put his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet back onto the lead lap six laps later when Johnson was involved in an accident on the backstretch. Gordon finished 22nd.

Johnson, the pole sitter for Sunday’s event, struggled to keep his grip on the lead once the green flag fell. The four-time defending Cup champion led four times for nine laps and was involved in an incident on Lap 195 that sent his No. 48 Chevrolet to the garage. He was credited with a 31st-place finish.