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California recap: Hendrick drivers in top 16

FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 10, 2010) – Jimmie Johnson maintained his position atop the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after finishing third in Sunday’s Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Mark Martin followed Johnson across the finish line, picking up the sixth spot, while Jeff Gordon finished ninth and improved one position in the driver standings to fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took 16th.

The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets were strong during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, and all four drivers led a combined 77 laps. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, was the first of the quartet to lead the field. He held the top spot for 22 laps on his way to collecting his 13th top-five finish this season.

Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, climbed from his 11th-place starting spot to lead the field by Lap 74. Martin paced the field for a race-high 41 laps on Sunday before picking up his eighth top-10 finish of the season.

Gordon led 11 laps in his No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Max Chevrolet after starting 17th. But his hopes at a fourth win at Auto Club Speedway were dashed with under 40 laps to go when a speeding penalty on pit road put the No. 24 team at the back of the pack. Gordon steadily climbed his way through the field to score his 16th top-10 finish of the season.

Earnhardt, who lined up eighth for Sunday’s race, steered his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet into the lead after a caution on Lap 53. While the majority of the field pitted under the yellow flag, the No. 88 team attempted pit strategy, which meant Earnhardt was the leader for three laps.

The Sprint Cup Series next will compete this Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Race coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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