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Hendrick trio finishes in top 10 at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 24, 2010) – Mark Martin overcame an early incident in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Martinsville Speedway to finish in the runner-up position. His teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 10 for Hendrick Motorsports with fifth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, while Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line 20th.

Martin, driver of the No. 5 eBay Motors/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, started 21st and was working his way up through the field when he was caught up in a multi-car accident on Lap 226 that affected the rear end of the Chevrolet. The No. 5 team addressed the damage, and Martin worked to make up for the lost time throughout the race. He was in the right position when a series of final caution flags were waved on Laps 385 and 398. Martin battled his way through traffic in the final laps to finish second.

“That was so much fun,” Martin said. “And it was such a bad day. I was running out of brakes at Lap 30, and I thought this was going to be the longest day of my life. And these guys on this race team made the difference; I want to thank eBay Motors for coming on board. I look forward to a lot of folks going there and maybe checking out a lot of their cars and parts there and of course GoDaddy.com and everybody that supports us; CARQUEST and all those guys. It was a great run for us. We needed that.”

Johnson started his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet from the 19th position and broke into the top 10 within the first 50 laps of the 500-mile event. Johnson remained in the top 10 for a majority of the remaining laps before developing handling issues on his Chevrolet during a long green-flag run at the end of the event. Johnson held on to a fifth-place finish and maintained his lead in the championship standings over race winner Denny Hamlin by six points.

“It was a good day,” Johnson said. “We were much stronger on the short run than we were on the long run. And they way this thing unfolded in the end there was a lot of long runs. We kind of lost a few spots. For a while there I thought the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and us were all going to ride together all day long and then the No. 11 there at the end got going and took off an won the thing. It was a solid performance; something we can’t be disappointed in. I wish we were a little better but there is a lot of racing left.”

Earnhardt wheeled his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet from a 28th starting spot to cross the finish line seventh, his first top-10 since his fourth-place finish in the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Earnhardt cracked the top 10 on Lap 250 and led three times for 90 laps before also encountering handling issues on his Chevrolet during the final green-flag run.

“We got toward the front on some pit strategy that worked out really good, and then we had a good enough car at the time to pass the guys that were around us,” Earnhardt said. “They had a little less tire than we had. A lot of things worked in our favor to get us the lead

“I love short track racing and I love coming here. This place has a lot of history. I have a lot of respect for it. I used to not understand how to get around here and then I have been pretty good here for a long time. I feel pretty good that when I come here I can run good. I like racing here and I like this style of racing.”

Gordon started the race in the 11th position, the best of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, and led 56 laps until he was involved in a two-car incident on Lap 385. While battling Kurt Busch for position, the two competitors became entangled coming off Turn 2 which brought out the caution flag for the 14th time of the day. Gordon and the No. 24 team salvaged their race car to bring the Chevrolet home 20th. He is currently ranked fifth in the championship standings, 203 points behind leader and teammate Johnson.

“Our championship hopes have taken a big hit the last couple of weeks,” Gordon said. “So, for us, it’s not about that right now; it’s about going out and getting the best finishes that we can and trying to win races. I felt like, at times, we had a car capable of winning today, and that pit stop hurt us, and we were back there battling our way back up there slowly but surely. And that incident, I gave him (Kurt Busch) a reason to get upset. So I wish I hadn’t of done that. But, we were racing hard. And then what it does for us for the championship is really insignificant in my opinion. At this point we’re just racing to try to get the best finishes, and we’ll continue to do that as we move forward.”

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