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Hendrick Motorsports Martinsville Preview

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 22, 2010) – This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will return to Martinsville Speedway for the sixth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The race coverage switches back to ESPN this Sunday and will start at 1 p.m. ET.

Here are the statistics on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns 18 wins, 56 top-five finishes, 91 top-10s, 14 pole positions and has led 6,641 laps at the .526-mile oval. The organization has earned team bests in wins, top-five finishes, top-10s and laps led at the short track, and is ranked first among all teams in top-fives, top-10s, laps led and pole positions. Hendrick most recently won at Martinsville in March 2009 when Jimmie Johnson started ninth and led 42 laps on his way to Victory Lane for the sixth time in his career at the speedway. Hendrick Motorsports also has earned more one-two finishes at Martinsville then at any other track. Johnson most recently led teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. across the finish line in October 2008.

No. 5 eBay Motors/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Qualified 21st.

Last time:

Most recently in March, Mark Martin led the race twice for 25 laps and was in the sixth position when a cut tire forced him to bring the No. 5 Chevrolet down pit road with 20 laps remaining in the 500-lap event. Martin battled to make up for the lost time before the end of the event and wound up finishing 21st.  Last October, Martin started fourth and remained in the top 10 for the majority of the 500-mile event before crossing the finish line eighth, enabling him to maintain his second-place ranking in the championship standings.

Track stats:

In 45 Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville, Martin has recorded two wins, 11 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s and three pole positions. Martin’s top-fives are tied for third most at the short track and he owns the third spot in the top 10 category. The Batesville, Ark., native earned his two wins in April 1992 and eight years later in April 2000. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Martin is the sixth fastest driver late in the race (90.330 mph), he has the seventh-best average running position (12.977) and has the eighth-best driver rating with a score of 89.1 over the last 11 races at Martinsville.

This time:

Twenty-nine years ago at Martinsville, Martin recorded his first top-five finish in a Cup event in only his fifth career start. On Sunday, 784 Cup starts later, Martin will attempt to record his 263rd top-five finish. He will start 21st in the event with a special eBay Motors/GoDaddy.com paint scheme on the No. 5 Chevrolet.

Martin:

“Martinsville was one of our more spectacular races this season. If you just look at the stats, you won’t see that, but we had one of the strongest race cars at the track that day. We led for awhile but then had a pit road penalty midway through the race—a freak deal with the air hose, really—but our car was so strong that we got back into the top 10. Then, probably from pushing the car so hard to get back to the front, we cut a tire and that cost us what would have been a really, really good finish. Our car was so, so good, and I think we should be that way again this weekend.”

No. 24 DuPont/Honoring National Guard Families Chevrolet: Qualified 11th.

Last time:

Most recently at Martinsville in March, the NASCAR veteran looked poised to win after leading 92 laps during the event when a caution flag came out with two laps remaining in the race. Gordon was slowed down battling Matt Kenseth, which allowed Denny Hamlin to slip by to become the eventual winner. Gordon brought the No. 24 Chevrolet home third after spending all but three laps inside the top 15. In this event last October, Gordon started on the outside pole position and led 36 laps before crossing the finish line fifth.

Track stats:

With seven wins, 23 top-five finishes, 29 top-10s, seven poles and 2,888 laps led in 35 Cup starts at the short track, Martinsville is one of Gordon’s best racetracks on the circuit. His wins, top-fives, top-10s and laps led are ranked first among active drivers at Martinsville and he is tied for first among active drivers with Geoffrey Bodine with seven poles. Martinsville is also a track where Gordon has earned most of his personal best records. He has scored more top-fives, top-10s and led more laps (2,888 total) at the short track than any other track. He also owns his personal best average starting spot of 6.5 and best average finish of 6.7 at Martinsville and his seven wins are tied with Darlington (S.C.) Raceway as a personal best. Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, Gordon has tallied the best average start (7.2) among the current Chase contenders in the last six fall races at Martinsville. According to NASCAR’s loop data, which was compiled during the last 11 races at Martinsville, the 39-year-old driver ranks first in nine categories; notably in average start (6.2), average running position (6.251), average finish (2.9) and laps in the top 15 (5,012 laps). He ranks second in both driver rating, with a score of 123, and in laps led, with 1,034 laps, during that timeframe.

This time:

Gordon enters the sixth race of the Chase ranked fourth in the championship standings—he is 156 points behind leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson. On Sunday, Gordon will start 11th in Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-616, which will be painted to honor the families of the National Guard’s Soldiers. He most recently raced this chassis to a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September in the first event of the Chase.

Gordon:

“Our National Guard Soldiers sacrifice so much to defend our country’s freedom, and this wouldn’t be possible without the support of their families. That’s why it’s important we recognize the family members for being a constant source of encouragement. Martinsville is always a strong track for the DuPont/National Guard team so we look to keep the car up front and show our appreciation for the family members of our heroic National Guard Soldiers.”

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet: Qualified 19th.

Last time:

In March, Jimmie Johnson wheeled his No. 48 Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish, which advanced him to the lead in the championship standings for the first time in the 2010 Cup season. This also marked Johnson’s fourth top-10 of the season and 16th top-10 in 17 Cup starts at the short track. In this event last October, Johnson started 15th, worked his Chevrolet through the field to inside the top six within the first 25 laps and never fell worse than sixth for the remainder of the 500-lap event. Johnson led five times for 164 laps before crossing the finish line second and increasing his points lead to 118 points over teammate Martin.

Track stats:

Johnson has tallied six wins, 12 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and led 1,551 laps total in 17 Cup starts at the Virginia speedway. Among active drivers, Johnson has the best average finish (5.4), and has the second most wins and laps led, in both statistics he is ranked behind teammate Gordon. Like Gordon, Martinsville is a racetrack where Johnson has recorded many of his career-best statistics. Johnson has recorded the most top-fives and top-10s at Martinsville and is tied for the most career wins with six at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He has only paced the field for more laps at Dover with 1,622 laps led. Johnson has finished inside the top nine in all but one event, which was his first career start at Martinsville in April 2002 when he finished 35th. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics over the last 11 races at Martinsville, Johnson is ranked first or second in 12 areas and most notably in the following categories:  first in driver rating (123.8), first in laps led (1,380 laps), second in average finish (3.1), second in average running position (6.328) and second in laps spent inside the top 15 (4,996 laps). Johnson has completed 99.4 percent of all laps he’s attempted (8,465 laps of 8,510 total) at Martinsville.

This time:

Since the creation of NASCAR’s playoffs in 2004, Johnson has the best average finish (1.5), has led the most laps (926 laps) and earned the most points (1,100 points) compared to his current Chase competitors in the last six fall races at Martinsville. With history on his side—Johnson also has won five out of the last eight Cup events at Martinsville—all eyes are on the four-time Sprint Cup champion as he looks to increase his points lead with only five races remaining in the Chase. Johnson will roll off the grid 19th for Sunday’s event.

Johnson:

“When I came into the sport, I had two years in ASA and thought that the short tracks would fit well for me and it was quite the opposite. It took a long time to understand the big car, the radial tire, the extra power, and how to maneuver around on a short track. But the track at Martinsville, especially when the rubber is laid down, reminds me of some of my off-road stuff where we would have barrels or tractor tires stacked up as the turn-marker, but it was that tight of a radius. And when the rubber lays down, especially the right-side rubber on corner exit at Martinsville, you have to change your line to not run through the rubber at the wrong spot. “And that rhythm really helps all dirt drivers. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tony (Stewart) in a Sprint Car or Dirt Late Model, or Kasey Kahne for that matter. I think certain guys have an eye for where the slick spots are on the track and how to change their lines and I think all of our dirt backgrounds really help that.”

No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet: Qualified 28th.

Last time:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started eighth and crossed the finish line 15th in March at Martinsville. In this event last October, Earnhardt started 12th and had worked his way to ninth place before he was involved in two mid-race incidents on Lap 89 and Lap 129. The No. 88 team salvaged its Chevrolet and brought it home 29th.

Track stats:

In 21 Cup starts at the .526-mile oval, the Kannapolis, N.C., native has recorded eight top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and has led 758 laps. Earnhardt’s top-fives are tied for a personal best—he also has eight top-fives at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway—and his top-10s are fourth-best for the 36-year-old driver. Earnhardt also has finished inside the top 10 10 times at Atlanta Motor Speedway, New Hampshire and Richmond. Earnhardt has led more laps at Martinsville than at any other track on the Cup circuit. His average start of 12.3 at Martinsville is tied for third-best with Kansas Speedway, while his average finish of 14.1 is tied for fourth-best with Richmond. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics compiled during the last 11 races at Martinsville, Earnhardt is ranked first in green-flag passes (563), third in fastest laps run (363 laps), fourth in laps spent inside the top 15 (4,073 laps), fifth in driver rating (98.1), fifth in laps led (307 laps), fifth in speed in traffic (90.664 mph) and fifth in fastest on the restarts (90.033 mph).

This time:

On Sunday, Earnhardt will line up 28th for his 22nd start at Martinsville. He will pilot Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-562, which Earnhardt raced to a 15th-place finish last March at Martinsville.

Earnhardt:

  “I love going to Martinsville. There is just a lot of good history there. It is an old racetrack, and it is a short track. Martinsville is so unique being a paperclip and flat. You have to really get your car working pretty good through the corners and be able to be competitive in the race; it is really, really imperative that your car handles well, because there is not much adjustment to the line in the corner that you can make to try to make up for something that your car isn’t doing correctly. So you really have to work hard with your team and show up pretty good out of the box.”

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