Hendrick Motorsports Pocono Preview
LONG POND, Pa. (July 30, 2010)—The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Pocono Raceway this weekend, and the green flag is scheduled to drop at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. ESPN will televise the race.
Here is the lowdown on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns 11 victories, 49 top-five finishes and 85 top-10s at the 2.5-mile tricky triangle:
No. 5 Hendrickcars.com/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
Last time: Mark Martin started 14th last June and raced into the top 10 at Pocono before being involved in a last-lap, multi-car accident. He was scored with a 29th-place finish.
This time: Martin, who will start 10th on Sunday, currently ranks 13th in the championship standings and needs a solid finish to improve his chances of making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the second straight year. Pocono generally is a friendly track for the NASCAR veteran, who leads all active, full-time drivers with 19 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and 38 lead-lap finishes. He has scored a top-10 finish in five of the last seven events there.
Martin: “We really believe in what we’re doing right now. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing. We haven’t felt as good about it as we did at (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), but we’re still working.”
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Last time: Jeff Gordon lined up 10th last time at Pocono Raceway and spent most of his day inside the top 10 before being collected in the last-lap incident with teammate Martin and was scored with a 32nd-place finish.
This time: Gordon enters Sunday’s contest with a series-best 10 top-five finishes and a second-place ranking in the driver standings. He is a four-time winner at the 2.5-mile triangle, most recently going to Victory Lane in June 2007. Gordon will roll off the grid fourth on Sunday.
Gordon: “This is a tough place to put all three corners together. We made some adjustments from practice to qualifying, and I just felt like I got off of Turn 3 coming to the green good. And I thought I got through (Turn) 1 good. The tunnel was marginal. It wasn’t the best I ever had or the worst. I felt like just all the way around it was a solid lap.”
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Last time: While misfortune on pit road initially affected Johnson’s run last June at Pocono, the two-time winner rallied during the final 22 laps and survived a last-lap, multi-car collision to improve 17 spots and cross the finish line fifth.
This time: Ranked fourth in the driver standings, Johnson isn’t just looking for his third win at Pocono Racway this weekend. He’d like some more cushion as the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup nears. In 17 Cup starts at Pocono, Johnson owns two wins, six top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and two pole positions. He will start sixth on Sunday.
Johnson: “Hopefully we’ve learned a little more (from the June Pocono event). Typically that’s hard because the races are so close together that it’s hard to learn a lot in that period of time. But we hope to have closed up the gap more and can give those guys a run at Pocono.”
No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet
Last time: Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored the third-place starting spot last June at Pocono and spent most of the 204-lap affair running in the top 15. He finished 19th.
This time: Earnhardt qualified 20th for Sunday’s race and returns to Pocono with Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-584 – the same car he raced last June at the 2.5-mile racetrack. He ranks 14th in the driver standings, and like teammate Martin needs a solid finish on Sunday to boost his chances of making the Chase. In 21 Cup starts at Pocono, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and six top-10s. He has completed 96.8 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (3,957 laps of 4,089 total). The 35-year-old driver has led a total of 98 laps there.
Earnhardt: “I think the difference between a good finish and a bad finish at Pocono is getting the car to turn through the center and really being able to get down into Turn 1. The car wants to go straight into that corner so bad. Getting comfortable enough to be able to be fast through the tunnel (Turn 2) all day long is important. The corners are so different it’s so easy to try to improve one thing and just screw up something that wasn’t even a problem. So when we’ve run good, we’ve had awesome race cars. Hopefully we’ll have another one.”