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Dover recap: Gordon and Martin finish in top 15

DOVER, Del. (May 16, 2010)—A late-race miscue cost Jimmie Johnson a potential win during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Dover International Speedway, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin overcame handling issues to score finishes in the top 15.

Johnson dominated the race and climbed from his fifth-place starting spot to lead eight times for 225 laps. With under 40 laps remaining, Johnson headed for pit road for a green-flag pit stop as the leader. His No. 48 team worked efficiently, and when the crew was done, Johnson mashed the gas to beat Kyle Busch off pit road. Johnson appeared poised for his third straight win at the Monster Mile, when NASCAR informed the team that Johnson went too fast leaving pit road.

“I had been leaving the pit box really good each time, and there are some cues there from the spotter and we need to be able to calculate where we need to check up to be doing the right thing,” Johnson said. “And evidently I just got out of the pits much better than I did any other time.  As I got to my mark I heard my spotter and saw my lights and I was conservative because I didn’t want to make any mistakes in the end and I saw Kyle was going to beat me so I just kind of gave up that final segment off pit road and I got nailed.”

Johnson served his penalty – another lap down pit road – and was mired in traffic as a result. He crossed the finish line 16th and ranks fourth in the driver standings.

Handling was an issue for the remainder of the Hendrick Motorsports crew, and the teams spent the race trying to find a solution for Dover’s one-mile concrete oval. Gordon, who lined up 15th in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, had the most success and finished 11th. He now ranks sixth in the driver standings.

“To me, days like today are way more frustrating than not winning when we have the car capable of winning,” Gordon said. “I would rather go in to every race talking about that because when you have a fast race car like we have had, that drives good, that really makes things a lot easier. It just puts more pressure on you to win. Whereas today, man, it was a struggle. Just trying to make the car better constantly. Trying to get track position. Trying to work our way to the front. Nothing we did ever really worked.  We knew it was coming now we check this track off on the list of tracks we know we have to focus on because this racetrack is in the Chase (for the Sprint Cup).”

Martin started Sunday’s event third and worked hard to overcome handling issues with his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. He dropped as low as 21st while the No. 5 team continually made tweaks on the Chevy. Martin rallied to finish 15th and now ranks 11th in the driver standings.

“We definitely got better as the race continued,” Martin said. “We weren’t getting all we could out of the car there in the beginning and middle of the race. We were crazy tight early and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) kept loosening me up and loosening me up. We’re not where we want to be, but I feel like we’re going to get there. These guys fight like dogs. I’m really proud of all of them.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, finished 30th and now ranks 16th in the driver standings.

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