Hendrick Motorsports Watkins Glen Preview
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 8, 2010) – With five races remaining before the field is set for the Chase for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup, the series travels north to Watkins Glen International this weekend for the final road course event of the season. The green flag is scheduled to drop this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The event’s coverage will be televised on ESPN.
Here is the lowdown on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns six victories, 17 top-five finishes, 30 top-10s and led 443 laps at the 2.45-mile road course.
No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
Last time: Mark Martin crossed the finish line 23rd last August at Watkins Glen International and.
This time: Martin, a three-time winner at Watkins Glen, will line up his No. 5 Chevrolet 24th for Sunday’s event. Martin, who cut his points deficit in half last weekend with a seventh-place finish at Pocono Raceway, remains 13th in the driver standings and is continuing his mission to make the top 12.With three consecutive wins – each from the pole position –and 204 laps led, Martin has solidified himself as one of the best drivers at the Glen. His 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s rank as the most all-time for any Cup driver at the road course and his three poles tie him for most all-time at the racetrack. The NASCAR veteran has completed all but four laps (1,759 laps of 1,763 attempted) in his career at Watkins Glen and owns an average finish of 7.8 at the road course, which is his best average finish at any track on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Martin: “I know (making the Chase) is going to be hard. I know we have our work cut out for us. But I 100 percent believe we can make the Chase. The improvements this team has made over the past month or so are incredible. We’ve had a competitive car in the past two races and that was something we were shooting for. If we can keep finishing inside the top 10, we’re going to tick those points off. It’s not going to be easy, but we can do it.”
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Last time: Jeff Gordon, who has won nine races on NASCAR’s road courses, was plagued with bad luck in last year’s event at Watkins Glen. Gordon started 31st and worked his way up to 17th within the first 23 laps before being collected in his first of two accidents that day. Gordon and the No. 24 team rallied from the first incident and were on their way back to the front when they were caught up in a second wreck, which ended their day.
This time: Gordon has tallied four wins at the Glen, including three straight victories from 1997-1999 when he led the most laps in each event. This time, Gordon will use his road-course expertise to steer the No. 24 Chevrolet around the newly paved run-off areas on the racetrack. Gordon will start in the 16th position for Sunday’s 220.5-mile event.
Gordon: “I love what they’ve done with the pavement (where the sand traps used to be). I think you’re going to see a race that is more entertaining because we don’t have to sit there and pull cars out of the sand trap. There’s always a penalty for going off the racing surface. The penalty in the past was more severe and I think it actually took away from the racing. For safety reasons, the options now are better because we can ‘drive through’ a mistake. If a driver made a mistake in the past and ended up in the sand, it would take six laps under caution to get the car out of there. Now, I think the fans will see a lot more green-flag racing.”
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Last time: Johnson earned his first pole position in last year’s event at Watkins Glen and held steady in the top-10 during the first 60 laps before a loose-handling condition hampered his progress. Johnson finished the event in the 12th position.
This time: After recording his first road course victory in June at Infineon Raceway, Johnson will enter this race with even more confidence. Johnson’s average starting position of 6.5 at Watkins Glen is the best for the driver at any Sprint Cup racetrack. In eight Cup starts at the New York road course, Johnson has only finished outside of the top-12 three times. Johnson will start ninth on Sunday.
Johnson: “The Glen’s been the better of the two tracks for me. So I feel real good about going back there. Two totally different types of road course racing for our cars. The Glen is much more of a flowing track, a lot higher speeds, where Sonoma’s very technical. I hope that I learned enough, and I certainly have more confidence after winning the race and running so well all day long that mentally I know what sensations I need in the car. I know what I need to feel on the brake pedal, braking zones, on throttle. So I feel good about going back.”
No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
Last time: Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a brake issue on Lap 42 that sent his No. 88 Chevrolet to the garage. Earnhardt was scored with a 39th-place finish.
This time: Earnhardt will roll off the grid 40th at Watkins Glen in his 500th NASCAR start. Earnhardt, who will be making his 385th Sprint Cup start on Sunday, also has tallied 115 starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In his first 499 combined starts, Earnhardt has recorded 41 wins, 143 top-five finishes, 221 top-10s, 19 pole positions and has led 9,911 laps. Earnhardt’s 18 Cup wins are tied for 37th on the all-time Sprint Cup winner’s list and tied for eighth among active, full-time drivers. On Sunday, he’ll be looking for his first win at the New York road course, a place where he has earned two top-five finishes and three top-10s in 10 Cup starts.
Earnhardt: “I didn’t realize that I was approaching 500. I take a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished in these past 15 years or so. I’m proud of the two Nationwide championships, the wins in both series and having worked with a lot of talented people. I like that I’m able to do what I do for a living. I’m passionate about racing and it keeps me from having to get a real job.”