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New Hampshire recap: Earnhardt, Gordon in top six

LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 19, 2010) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon earned spots inside the top six, while their Hendrick Motorsports teammates were caught up in separate incidents during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, demonstrated his passing prowess during Sunday’s 300-lap event. He lined up 32nd and improved 22 spots within the first 60 laps. Twice more, Earnhardt had to rally back into the top 10. As the race wound down, Earnhardt held on to finish fourth and collect his third top-five finish of the season.

“The setbacks we had today hurt us a lot,” Earnhardt said. “I want to thank AMP Energy and National Guard and the team, they worked really hard. We unloaded a great car, they did a good job preparing it at the shop. We worked on it all weekend. It was pretty good in practice and we approved on it a little bit. We had an eighth place finish last time and felt like we were really fast and competitive all day long. We can’t qualify very good here, but once we get in race trim, we just kind of go to the front or get near the front.”

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet, steadily improved from his 17th starting spot to run inside the top 10 within the first 120 laps. Gordon maintained his position there, even leading once for two laps, before crossing the finish line sixth. A four-time Cup champion, Gordon is ranked fifth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

“It wasn’t our best day, but I felt like we really brought the No. 24 car home in the best position we possibly could,” Gordon said. “We had some high hopes when we got up there to third or fourth; even to second at one time, but I think Steve (Letarte, crew chief) called a great race. He didn’t want to risk the fuel, and it just wasn’t worth it. We did a gas-and-go and probably just needed to make one adjustment on that last set of tires; we got real tight there at the end, but when those guys didn’t make it on fuel it definitely made us feel that much better about the call that Steve made and come home sixth. It was still a good points day for us.”

Mark Martin started 26th in his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet and spent the outset of the race mired in traffic before being involved in an incident on Lap 206 that stunted his team’s forward progress. Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, crossed the finish line 29th.

Johnson started 25th and steered the No. 48 Lowe’s/John’s Manville Chevrolet into the top 10 within the first 30 laps. Johnson ran as high as third and was running ninth when he was involved in a multi-car incident on Lap 223 in Turn 2. Four other contenders in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup were involved in the accident, which pushed the No. 48 team to the back of the pack for the restart. Johnson’s rally was cut short, though, when he was involved in another multi-car incident in Turn 2 almost 20 laps later. The four-time defending champion finished 25th and now ranks seventh in the Chase standings.

“We showed up today,” Johnson said. “We did what we could. We had a decent car today and ran in the top five and top 10, but just didn’t end up finishing there.  We’ll go home and get back to work and go after it again next week”

The Chase continues next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race will be televised on ESPN.

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