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Hendrick Motorsports California Preview

 

FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 8, 2010) This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be on the West Coast at Auto Club Speedway for the fourth race of the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The race coverage will be televised on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are the stats on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns nine wins, 27 top-five finishes and 36 top-10s in the last 20 Cup events at Auto Club. The organization leads all other teams in victories, with Jimmie Johnson capturing the organization’s last four wins at the two-mile speedway.

No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Qualified 11th.

Last time:

In February, Mark Martin qualified 10th in the No. 5 Chevrolet and led five laps during the event before crossing the finish line fourth. He spent 248 laps out of a possible 250 inside the top 15, which ranked the most of any driver in the race. Martin started ninth, led five laps and finished fourth in the October 2009 event.

Track stats:

In 18 Cup starts at Fontana, Martin has tallied one win, six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and has paced the field for 283 laps. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Martin has the fourth-best average running position (10.258), the fifth-best driver rating (99.7) and the fifth-best average finish (12) during the last 11 races at the two-mile track. After winning his first Camping World Truck Series race at California in 2006, Martin became the first NASCAR driver to win a Sprint Cup (1998), Nationwide (2005), Camping World and IROC (1997, 1998) event at the same racetrack.

This time:

This weekend, Martin will have a CARQUEST Auto Parts paint scheme on the No. 5 Chevrolet for the seventh time this season. Martin scored his best finish with this paint scheme in May at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Martin will start Sunday’s event 11th.

Martin:

“When we raced in Fontana in February, our car was really, really good. We led some laps and had a strong weekend out there and finished fourth. Since then, we’ve gone from the wing back to the spoiler, and that, obviously, threw a wrench in our performance this year. But I really see improvement in this team. We got some things figured out at Dover (Del.) a few weeks ago. And then, after starting from the rear in Kansas, we had a very strong race car and drove up to another top-15 finish. We’re still not where we want to be, but we’re getting closer. Hopefully that will continue to improve this weekend, and we can get another showing like we did earlier this year.”

No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet: Qualified 17th.

Last time:

Earlier this year in February, Jeff Gordon started 28th and worked his way into the top 10 by Lap 30. He remained there for the majority of the event until Lap 194 when a caution came out for rain. Gordon brought the No. 24 Chevrolet to pit road while the majority of the field stayed out, and he was caught in traffic for the rest of the event, finishing 20th. In October 2009, Gordon scored his eighth runner-up finish of the season at the Fontana racetrack behind teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Track stats:

In June 1997, Gordon won the inaugural race at Auto Club after starting third and leading a race-high 113 laps. Gordon’s two other wins at the racetrack happened in May 2004, when he started 16th and led a race-high 81 laps, and May 1999, when he started fifth and led another race-high 151 laps. Gordon’s three wins are tied for second with Matt Kenseth for the most wins at the Fontana speedway. Gordon’s 10 top-10s are tied for first with Johnson, and his 608 laps led are ranked second. According to NASCAR’s loop data, Gordon’s average running position of 9.439 is ranked third, his 2,168 laps spent in the top 15 are ranked third and his driver rating of 99 is ranked sixth in the last 11 races at the two-mile racetrack

This time:

Last weekend, Gordon earned his 11th top-five finish of the 2010 Sprint Cup season at Kansas Speedway, and he enters Sunday’s race ranked fifth in the Chase standings, just 58 points behind first place. Gordon qualified the No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet 17th on Friday.

Gordon:

“These first three races haven’t gone as well as we had hoped, yet we are still very much in the thick of it. We’re still very much in the championship hunt, and I think you have to keep yourself in it until Talladega (Ala.) or Martinsville (Va.). Those two are like our wildcard events, and you just have to see how those two events go.”

No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet: Qualified eighth.

Last time:

Jimmie Johnson scored his fifth win at California and first of the 2010 Sprint Cup season in February at the two-mile speedway. The 35 year-old driver started seventh and led a race-high 101 laps before taking the checkered flag. Johnson also won this event last year in October after pacing the field for a race-high 126 laps. Johnson’s trip to Victory Lane wasn’t easy, though, as he had to outrun his teammates Gordon and Martin on the final restart with just three laps to go.

Track stats:

Along with his five wins at California, Johnson has tallied 10 top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and led 824 laps in 15 Cup starts there. Johnson holds the most all-time wins at California, along with the most laps led and is tied for the most top-five finishes with teammate Gordon. Johnson’s wins, top-five finishes and average finish at California are all ranked second-best for the El Cajon, Calif., native. He has only scored more victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, all with six trips to Victory Lane. Johnson has completed 100 percent of all laps he’s attempted (3,755 laps of 3,755 total) and has finished outside of the top 10 in only four events at California and never worse than 16th. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Johnson is ranked first in 11 categories during the last 11 races at California, notably topping the charts in the following categories: driver rating (124), average finish (4.5), average running position (5.343), laps led (724 laps) and laps in the top 15 (2,623 laps).

This time:

On Sunday, Johnson will attempt to be the first driver to sweep the California events in the same year. In three years he never has lost a fall event at the speedway and he will be driving the No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet. This special paint scheme has proven to be unbeatable in the past, as Johnson has driven the car to Victory Lane every time he’s raced it (September 2007, August 2008 and October 2009). Johnson will line up eighth in Sunday’s event as he tries to achieve this milestone.

Johnson:

“I come in (to California) optimistic for sure, but to have a race in February and then to come back in October, so much has gone on from a technical standpoint with the race cars. I’m optimistic, but at the same time I know that once we get out here, it’s going to be a different set of circumstances than what we’ve seen in the past.  I do have a lot of confidence in how we ran at Atlanta and then again last weekend in Kansas and think that we’re going in the right direction with our setups and making our cars more competitive on these big tracks.”

No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet: Qualified ninth.

Last time:

In February, Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 27th and had worked his way into the top 15 before a late-race mechanical issue on a pit stop caused him to finish 32nd. In this event last October, Earnhardt climbed from a 37th starting spot and spent most of the day in the top 10 until the No. 88 Chevrolet was collected in an eight-car accident in Turn 1 on Lap 246 of the 250 lap event. The No. 88 team salvaged the race car and got back on the track after the red-flag period to finish 25th.

Track stats:

In 17 Cup starts at the two-mile speedway, Earnhardt has earned three top-five finishes and four top-10s. He has led a total of 25 laps at the two-mile oval. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt is ranked ninth in the fastest driver late in the run category with a speed of 169.405 mph in the last 11 races at the Fontana speedway. In 188 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Earnhardt has recorded six wins, six pole positions, 38 top-five finishes and 70 top-10s.

This time:

One Sunday, Earnhardt will celebrate his 36th birthday. In his NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide career, Earnhardt has tallied 41 wins, 145 top-five finishes, 223 top-10s and 19 poles. Earnhardt will roll off the grid ninth in Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-612, which he most recently raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway last month.

Earnhardt:

“We have had some decent runs at California, but just haven’t had the luck. The thing about California is that you can hunt around as the groove changes. You’ve got to have that adjustability in your setup. My teammates have been good there, and they are a good reference.”

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