Hendrick Motorsports Charlotte Preview
CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 14, 2010)—Jeff Gordon earned his first pole position of the 2010 season and the 69th of his career during Thursday qualifying session at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This marks the 18th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in which driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has started from the pole.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates joined him inside the top 10 on Thursday—Mark Martin will start fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up eighth and Jimmie Johnson will roll off the grid 10th.
Here is the lowdown on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns 16 wins, 48 top-five finishes, 73 top-10s, 14 pole positions and had led 3,776 laps. The organization is ranked first all-time in wins, top-five finishes, top-10s, pole positions and laps led. Hendrick Motorsports most recently visited Victory Lane at Charlotte when Johnson captured his third victory in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in last October’s event.
Race coverage switches to ABC this Saturday and will begin at 7 p.m. ET.
No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Qualified fourth.Last time:
In May, Mark Martin started the 600-mile event 11th and took advantage of a caution on Lap 377 to remain on track and gain position. He held on to cross the finish line fourth. Last October, Martin started from the outside pole position and led six laps before the No. 5 Chevrolet suffered damage during a mid-race restart. The No. 5 team worked on the car throughout the night and finished 17th.Track stats:
In 51 Sprint Cup events at Charlotte, Martin has recorded four wins, 18 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s and has led 1,174 laps. Martin’s top-fives and top-10s rank first all-time at the 1.5-mile speedway, and his wins and laps led are both ranked third all-time. The Batesville, Ark., native’s four wins are tied for second for him personally with Dover (Del.) International Speedway; he only has scored more wins at Michigan International Speedway. Martin has raced more miles—24,646 miles total—at Charlotte than any other track on the circuit. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Martin ranks fourth-best in the laps run in the top 15 category with 2,821 laps, fifth-best in the driver rating category with a score of 91.1, fifth-best in the average running position category at 12.326 and sixth-best in average finish at 14.2.This time:
Martin will make his 52nd career start at Charlotte—the most for the 51-year-old driver at any track—on Saturday night. Martin will roll off the grid fourth in Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-620, which never has been raced or tested.Martin:
“We had a really good finish here in May. We had a good race car, and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made some really great pit calls too that put us in the right position there at the end. We’re taking a brand-new race car again this week, and that seems to have been good for us the past couple of weeks as well. I’m excited to get on the track. We had such a good performance on Sunday, and I truly believe we’ll be just as strong this weekend. I’m ready to go.”
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet: Qualified first.Last time:
Most recently in May at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon started 15th and worked his way through the field until the last caution on Lap 337. Like his teammate Martin, Gordon had come to pit road before the caution and was able to stay out. Gordon brought the No. 24 Chevrolet home in sixth. In this event last October, Gordon was one of teammate Jimmie Johnson’s toughest competitors during the final restarts. Gordon started the event ninth, led three times for 46 laps and crossed the finish line fourth to improve two spots to third in the championship standings.Track stats:
On May 29, 1994, Gordon reached Victory Lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup career—just 18 months after his first start in NASCAR’s elite series. Sixteen years and 570 Sprint Cup starts later, the NASCAR veteran has added 81 wins and four Sprint Cup championships to his resume. Gordon’s four other wins at Charlotte happened in May 1997, May 1998, October 1999 and October 2007. Gordon started three of those five events from the pole and led a combined 201 laps. Gordon’s wins, top-fives and poles are second-best all-time at the 1.5-mile speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics during the last 11 races at Charlotte, Gordon is ranked sixth in the driver rating category with a score of 89.1, and he has led the sixth-most laps (255 laps).This time:
Gordon, who has not finished worse than 11th in the first four races of the Chase, recorded a ninth-place result last weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Gordon is ranked fourth in the championship standings, and he will line up on the pole position on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.Gordon:
“I flew through (Turns) 3 and 4 (during my qualifying lap). Coming to the green and coming back around I felt like I gave up some in (Turns) 1 and 2. I was not expecting that, I got to tell you. The car really drove good and this track just changes so much at night when it cools down like this. It’s so hard to try to figure it out. I told Steve (Letarte, crew chief) on the radio I’m glad we didn’t have it figured out in practice because we probably would have slowed down a bunch. Instead, we fought it and fought it and I couldn’t be more proud of that lap. I don’t think it’s going to hold up. I think there’s just room for improvement out there, so we’ll see what happens.”
No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet: Qualified 10th.Last time:
In May, Jimmie Johnson led 36 laps early in the event, but was caught up in two mid-race incidents that damaged the No. 48 Chevrolet. The No. 48 team and Johnson rallied to get the Chevy back on track, but wound up with a 37th-place finish. In this event last October, Johnson captured his sixth win at Charlotte after starting from the pole position and leading a race-high 92 laps.Track stats:
Johnson has tallied six wins, nine top-five finishes, 13 top-10s, three poles and has led 1,370 laps in 18 Cup starts at Charlotte. Johnson’s wins and laps led are ranked first all-time at the speedway. His wins are tied for a personal best for the 35-year-old with Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, while his poles also are tied for a personal best. Johnson also has three poles at Dover and Kansas Speedway. During the last 11 races at Charlotte, Johnson topped the charts in nine categories in NASCAR’s loop data statistics, notably in the following categories: driver rating (115.3), average running position (7.774), laps led (534 laps) and laps spent inside the top 15 (3,361 laps). Johnson also holds the third-best average finish of 11.5 during the last 11 events at Charlotte.This time:
Since NASCAR’s playoff system began in 2004, Johnson has dominated the Charlotte event. In the last six Chase races at Charlotte, Johnson has scored the best average start (4.3) and average finish (4.2) among current Chase drivers, and the El Cajon, Calif., native has led the most laps (374 laps). He also has accumulated 1,031 championship points, the most of any driver in the Chase in those six events. Johnson, the current points leader, will line up 10th for the start of Sunday’s event.Johnson:
“I think really it’s just don’t squander away a good start to the season and from there, after Talladega (Ala.), form a strategy. After Talladega, you can finally breathe a little bit, you’re over the halfway point. If you’re behind, you know you need to take chances to catch up. If you’re ahead, you might start thinking about protecting something then and take it from there. I just try to simplify things.”
No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet: Qualified eighthLast time:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 24th last May in the Charlotte event and worked his way through the field to lead 10 laps before he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for debris on the grill of the No. 88 Chevrolet. He was unable to make up the time he had lost on pit road and crossed the finished line 37th. In this event last October, Earnhardt had issues with his transmission and finished 38th.Track stats:
In 22 Cup starts at Charlotte, Earnhardt has recorded one pole, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has completed 94.3 percent of all laps he’s attempted (7,399 laps of 7,848 total) at Charlotte and has led 322 of those laps. During the last 11 races at Charlotte, Earnhardt has made 784 green-flag passes, which is the fourth-most among drivers during those events. In 188 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Earnhardt has recorded six wins, six poles, 38 top-five finishes, and 70 top-10s.This time:
On Saturday, Earnhardt will line up eighth as he makes his 23rd start at Charlotte Motor Speedway and looks for his first win at the speedway. Eleven years ago on May 30, 1999, Earnhardt made his first start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte. Then 24 years old, Earnhardt started the event eighth and finished 16th. Since that first start, Earnhardt has collected 18 wins, nine poles, 91 top-five finishes and 149 top-10s in 393 Cup starts.Earnhardt:
“I always liked the trophies they had in Charlotte back in the day; the big gold ones they had. I don’t know if it’s still like that with the emblem on the top. When you think about a trophy, there’s some that are recognizable and that is one of them. We had a lot of around the house when I was growing up. You put that one up on the list that really means something. Plus just winning in front of people who I grew up close to, even if I don’t know them and even if they don’t pull for me—winning in your hometown is a big deal.”