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Darlington recap: Gordon scores top-five finish

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2010) – Jeff Gordon rallied to pick up his fifth top-five finish of the season on Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the line 16th and 18th, respectively. Jimmie Johnson was involved in a mid-race accident that ended his run.

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet, opened Saturday’s 367-lap affair from the outside pole position. Gordon, who led a race-high 110 laps, was pacing the field with under 90 laps to go when he opted for a green-flag pit stop. Unable to hit pit road the first time, Gordon make a second attempt and was driving towards his stall when the caution flag was thrown. Gordon forwent the stop to remain on the lead lap and was forced to fight his way through traffic to regain his running position among the leaders. He crossed the finish line fourth.

“That is what happens when you make a make a mistake,” said Gordon, who improves to fourth in the driver standings. “You have to make it up to your guys who worked so hard all weekend long to give you a race car like that. I have to thank DuPont and National Guard, their Facebook page. It was a good weekend for us. They dropped the green and we were just a rocket. You have to worry sometimes here as long of a race as it is when it cools down how you are going to maintain that kind of speed and stay on top of the adjustments. We got off a little bit and some other guys ended up being a little bit better than us at times. Track position was just key tonight. I made a mistake there and lost the track position. They gave me an awesome car and drove up there to fourth, pretty happy with that.
“This team is doing the job that we need to do to get in to Victory Lane. Right now, we are knocking on that door. We are leading laps, we are running up front. We are having a lot of fun, that is for sure. It has been a while since this No. 24 car has run like this. I can’t wait to get to Dover (Del.) International Speedway.”

Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, was running in the top 15 until an untimely caution pinned him on pit road. Martin remains ranked 10th in the driver standings.

A cut tire affected Earnhardt’s night. The driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, was rolling in the top 10 when he cut his right-rear tire. Earnhardt made an unscheduled pit stop, and the No. 88 team worked diligently to send him back onto the track. He struggled to work his way through traffic and now ranks 12th in the driver standings.

“I think the best thing is that now we have a notebook,” crew chief Lance McGrew said afterward. “We didn’t have that. And now we can go back and we can look and we can see what we can do.”

“We ran better this time than we did last time here,” Earnhardt added. “I think this was one of the worst races I had last year.”

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, lined up 22nd for Saturday’s race and struggled to make his way around the “Lady in Black.” Johnson rallied several times during the night, recovering from early contact with the wall and then a multi-car incident on Lap 85. Johnson had just managed to get his No. 48 Chevy back onto the lead lap thanks to the free pass during a caution on Lap 178. But during the yellow-flag period, the No. 43 car experienced an issue and made contact with Johnson. The team opted to take the No. 48 Chevy to the garage for the remainder of the night.

“Unfortunately, we had all kinds of issues tonight,” said Johnson, who ranks second in the driver standings. “We got caught up in all kinds of little small things, but still had a very fast race car, and I think we could have salvaged a top-10, top-five finish today. It is too bad.”

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