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Dover qualifying: Martin, Johnson and Gordon in top 15

DOVER, Del. (May 14, 2010) – Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon earned spots in the top 15 during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Dover International Speedway, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 27th for Sunday’s 400-mile event

Coverage of the race will begin Sunday at noon ET on FOX.

Martin wheeled his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet around the one-mile concrete oval in 22.90 seconds at a speed of roughly 157.198 mph to earn the third starting spot for Sunday’s Cup event. He has started third at the Monster Mile twice in his career (May 1998 and June 1999), finishing in the top-10 both times. Martin appeared poised to capture his 50th career pole position on Friday, when he felt his Chevrolet move during his final run.

“Usually if it spins, it ain’t no big thing. You just leave it wide open and you chase it,” Martin said. “But the motor started to rev up, and it got aimed and it was like, ‘Oh, I’m crashing.’ So even when I let off and caught up, it was aimed down the racetrack. We weren’t very fast in practice. But that qualifying run sure was fast. I want to thank the GoDaddy.com crew and Chevrolet and everybody for all their support.”

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, will take the green flag in fifth for Sunday’s event. The defending race winner led Friday’s practice session with a speed of roughly 158.367 mph, but couldn’t convert during qualifying. Twice, Johnson has started from the fifth position —in June 2003 and September 2005. In the September 2005 event, Johnson made his third career trip to Victory Lane at Dover.

Gordon, the first qualifier during Friday’s session, will roll off Sunday’s starting grid 15th in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.

“You never really want to go out first, but we’ve been going out like 35th the last four weeks so I guess it was our time,” said Gordon, a four-time winner at the racetrack. “The DuPont Chevrolet has been good, but right there, I just tried to squeeze the gas a little too hard in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 and it came around on me like it did here a year ago. Luckily, we saved the car and brought it back for an OK lap.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, will start 27th. In this race last year, Earnhardt started his run with crew chief Lance McGrew. The duo rallied from a 22nd starting spot to cross the finish line 12th.