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Daytona recap: Gordon, Earnhardt in top four

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2010) – Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Daytona International Speedway to score top-four finishes and improve in the driver standings.

Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson were not quite as fortunate and were collected in a race-ending, multi-car accident on Lap 148.

Although rain delayed the start of the 400-mile event, all four Hendrick drivers started Saturday’s race strong. Inclement weather affected Friday’s qualifying session so the field was set according to owner points and Hendrick’s quartet started within the top 11. The teams held steady during the outset of the race.

The race unfolded without major incident during the first 115 laps, and each team worked to find the right setup for the 2.5-mile superspeedway. With fewer than 50 laps to run, multi-car accidents started to become a regular occurrence.

The biggest of those wrecks happened on Lap 148 and involved Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet and Martin’s No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Martin, who now ranks 13th in the driver standings, was scored with a 28th-place finish. Johnson was scored 31st and now ranks third in the championship standings.

Gordon and Earnhardt survived the 19-car collision in Turn 3 that brought out the red flag for almost 10 minutes. When the field returned to green-flag racing on Lap 151, Gordon and Earnhardt both were running in the top 10.

Gordon patiently steered his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet to his ninth top-five finish of the season. The four-time Sprint Cup Champion improves three spots in the driver standings to second.

Earnhardt, who hasn’t finished outside of the top 11 during the last four races, kept his team’s momentum going with a fourth-place finish. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard ‘8Soldiers 8 Missions’/AMP Energy Chevrolet improves to 11th in the driver standings.

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