Hendrick Motorsports

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Hendrick Motorsports Michigan Preview

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 13, 2010) – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stops this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, which sits in the backyard of the Big Three automobile manufacturers. Tune in to ESPN at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday for live coverage of the event.

Here is the scoop on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns five wins, 38 top-five finishes, 71 top-10s and has led 1,876 laps at the two-mile oval.

No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet

Last time:

In this race last year, Mark Martin lined up from the outside pole position and led 26 laps before taking a fuel-mileage gamble and finishing 31st. In June, he started 21st and improved to finish 16th.  A five-time winner at Michigan International Speedway, Martin scored his most recent victory at the two-mile oval in June 2009 after he outlasted teammate Jimmie Johnson on fuel strategy and took the lead on the last lap of the race.

Track stats:

Martin’s five career Cup wins at Michigan are a personal best for the NASCAR veteran at any racetrack. Along with those wins, he has scored 17 top-five finishes and 29 top-10s in 49 starts at the speedway. Martin’s 29 top-10s tie him with Bill Elliott for most career top-10 finishes at Michigan, and he leads all competitors with 34 lead-lap finishes. When Martin takes the green flag on Sunday, he will record his 50th Cup start at Michigan. He has only made more starts on the Sprint Cup circuit at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (51 starts each).

This time:

This weekend, Martin and the No. 5 team are focused on maintaining their spot inside the top 12 as the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup nears. Currently, Martin ranks 12th, 10 points ahead of 13th-place Clint Bowyer, with four races remaining until the field is set for the Chase. Martin will line up 12th for the start of Sunday’s event.

Martin:

“We knew making the Chase was going to be a fight for us. And it’s definitely not over. We gained points in Pocono, and we gained again in Watkins Glen (N.Y.). We have got to keep doing that. This team is improving every week; we just have to keep that going in Michigan this weekend. It’s a good feeling to be back in there, but it’s not at all a relief. We have four races to go. Anything can happen. We can’t slip up. We can’t have a bad day. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”

No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

Last time:

Jeff Gordon started his No. 24 Chevrolet in the sixth position for the June Michigan event and remained in the top 10 for 180 laps of the 200-lap affair. Gordon went on to finish fourth in the event, his third straight top-five at Michigan.

Track stats:

Gordon’s most recent win at the Brooklyn, Mich., oval came on June 10, 2001, after he started from the pole position and led a race-high 143 laps on his way to Victory Lane. He owns an average start of ninth during the last 11 races at Michigan.

This time:

It’s been a busy week for Gordon, who welcomed the birth of son Leo Benjamin on Tuesday. But the two-time winner at Michigan isn’t any less focused on Sunday’s Cup event. Gordon, who also has tallied 18 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s and led 900 laps at Michigan, will line up 36th for the 200-lap event.

Gordon:

“This is one of my favorite tracks.  From a driver’s standpoint, it’s just so much fun to go to a track where you carry this much speed into the corner.  You can be three-four-five wide and have plenty of room to race on.  You can run the bottom around the yellow line, you can move up a groove, it seems like there is multiple banking here even though they didn’t set out to do that, it just seemed to work out that way.  It’s just a fun racetrack.  That doesn’t always make for the sparks to fly because if you’re faster than the guy in front of you, you move down a groove or move up a groove to pass him seems to happen more, the side-by-side racing happens.  We don’t see the cars wrecking into one another as much, or the tempers flaring as much.  From that standpoint, it may be a little bit less exciting, dramatic for the race fans, but from inside the race car, it’s just a phenomenal place to race.  I love it, I love coming here.” 

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet

Last time:

Like his teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson remained in the top 10 for the majority of the June 13th event at Michigan International Speedway. He crossed the finish line in the sixth position.

Track stats:

In 17 Cup starts at Michigan, Johnson has tallied two top-five finishes, seven top-10s and led 510 laps. According to NASCAR’s loop statistics, he is ranked second in the driver rating category with a score of 110.7 during the last 11 races at Michigan. Johnson has completed 96.3 percent of all laps he’s attempted (3,212 laps of 3,335 total) and holds an average start of 8.1 and an average finish of 15.4.

This time:

Michigan is one of only four racetracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit that the 34-year-old driver has yet to win at—he also has not visited Victory Lane at Chicagoland Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. Johnson will look to capture his first win at the racetrack from the outside pole position on Sunday.

Johnson:

“It’s fun trying to get one (a track where he hasn’t won yet) off the list. I’m excited for Michigan. It’s been a really good track for us. We had a decent finish there in the spring; didn’t really perform like we wanted to during the day and we were trying some things. We feel like we’re going to come back closer than what we were in the past. We had a lot of speed in the car during the race, and we’ll take it from there. We’re optimistic, excited and have no idea what to really expect. It could be a fuel-mileage race.”

No. 88 National Guard “Drive the Guard”/AMP Energy Chevrolet

Last time:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 27th and advanced to the top-10 within the first 60 laps of the June event. He remained there for the rest of the 400-mile race to record a seventh-place finish. That event was the start of four straight top-11 finishes for Earnhardt and the No. 88 team.

Track stats:

Earnhardt, who won his first points-paying race for Hendrick Motorsports at Michigan on June 15, 2008, owns four top-five finishes, eight top-10s (six coming in the last nine events), and two pole positions at the oval.  He has completed 99 percent of all laps he’s attempted (4,248 laps of 4,291 total) at Michigan and has recorded an average finish of 9.9 during the past 11 races at the two-mile oval, which is second-best among drivers during that period.

This time:

On Sunday, Earnhardt will roll off the grid 38th in Chassis No. 88-599, which is a favorite of his. Earnhardt has driven this chassis this season to two top-10s, taking seventh at Michigan and eighth at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt:

“Lance (McGrew, crew chief of the No. 88 Chevrolet) and the guys unloaded a great car last time at Michigan. We’ve had some good runs with this car. I enjoy going to Michigan because it’s so wide. It has a lot of different grooves, and we can move around and find places to run on the track. We like coming here because it’s in the backyard of the manufacturers. Hopefully we’ll get a win for Chevrolet.”

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