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Hendrick Motorsports Texas Preview

FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 5, 2010) - After completing the last superspeedway race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season last weekend, the series now moves on to Texas Motor Speedway for the eighth race of the Chase. The race will be televised on ESPN this Sunday starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Here is the lowdown on Hendrick Motorsports, which has earned three wins, 19 top-five finishes, 30 top-10s, five pole positions and led 1,191 laps in 19 races (77 entries) at Texas. The organization last visited Victory Lane at Texas in April 2009, when Jeff Gordon led a race-high 105 laps before taking the checkered flag. Hendrick Motorsports reached a milestone earlier this year at Texas, when all four of its drivers left the event ranked 10th or better in the championship standings for the first time in the company’s history.

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

Last time:

Most recently at Texas in April, Mark Martin started 30th and patiently worked his way through traffic during the race. He was in the right position to take advantage of several late-race cautions to secure a fifth-place finish. In this event last November, Martin started seventh and used late-race pit strategy to secure a fourth-place finish and gain points on then-leader Jimmie Johnson.

Track stats:

Martin earned the right to wear the traditional cowboy hat in Victory Lane at Texas on April 5, 1998. In that event, the NASCAR veteran started seventh and led 37 laps before earning his second of seven Cup wins that season. On Texas’ all-time stats lists, Martin has collected the second-most top-five finishes (six) and the most top-10 finishes (11). Martin’s 1998 victory tied him for third on the all-time win list at Texas. According to NASCAR’s loop statistics, Martin owns the fourth-best average finish—11.5—at Texas during the last 11 races there.

This time:

Martin will pilot Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-642 this weekend at Texas. This chassis, which is brand new and never has been raced or tested, will sport the red, blue and white CARQUEST Auto Parts colors for the final time this season. Martin will start ninth in Sunday’s event.

Martin:

“This has always been one of my favorite tracks. I am lucky to have a ton of fans here. It’s not too far from Batesville (Ark.) so a lot of the locals that watched me race as a kid come out here and still cheer me on. It’s a great feeling. We were good here in April, and I think that we’re even better now, as a team, than we were then. So I’m looking forward to it. I think this team has a win in it this year, and the races are clicking away, so maybe Texas will be where we can check that off.”

No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet: Qualified 15th.

Last time:

Jeff Gordon started 12th earlier this year in April and led a race-high 124 laps before being involved in a multi-car incident with 16 laps remaining in the 334-lap event. Gordon was forced to bring the No. 24 Chevrolet to the garage and was credited with a 31st-place finish in the most recent event at Texas. In this event last November, Gordon started from the pole position and led the first 11 laps of the event. On Lap 175, he was collected in a four-car accident in Turn 1. The No. 24 team was able to repair Gordon’s Chevrolet on pit road and send him back out to finish 13th in the event.

Track stats:

In 19 Cup starts at Texas, Gordon has earned one win, seven top-five finishes, nine top-10s, two pole positions and led 581 laps. Gordon’s win at Texas happened in April 2009 after the 39-year-driver started on the outside pole and led a race-high 105 laps before visiting Victory Lane for the first time in his Cup career at the speedway. Gordon’s win ties him for third place on the all-time wins list at Texas, while his top-fives are tied for first all-time and his top-10s are ranked third all-time. Gordon’s two pole positions—the first in November 2008 and the second a year later in November 2009—are tied for the most all-time and his 581 laps led rank first all-time at Texas. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, which are compiled during the last 11 races at Texas, Gordon is ranked 10th or better in seven categories, most notably third in laps led (449 laps) and fifth in fastest laps run (195 laps).

This time:

Gordon enters Sunday’s race ranked fourth in the championship standings, but trails leader and teammate Johnson by 207 points. Gordon will roll off the grid 15th in Sunday’s event.

Gordon:

“We are just really looking forward this second trip to Texas this weekend because we ran so well here earlier in the year.  But obviously with the way things ended we feel like we have some unfinished business to do here at Texas. I am really anxious to see how our setup, from not only the last time we were here but what we have learned since then, will keep up with the changing competition and improving competition. I think we are really looking forward to applying that this weekend to try to get that win.  Obviously we understand as well as anybody that we have not won and how important it is for us to win and also the fact that we are fourth in points. We not only have to keep pushing to get that win, but to keep ourselves as high up in the points as possible.”

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet: Qualified 17th.

Last time:

Jimmie Johnson recovered from mid-race contact with teammate Gordon in the April 2010 event to lead 39 laps and score a runner-up finish—which marked his fifth top-three finish in the first seven races of the 2010 Cup season. In this event last November, on Lap 3 of the event, Sam Hornish Jr. slid up into Johnson in Turn 2, which forced Johnson to bring his Chevrolet to the garage where the No. 48 team remained for almost one-third of the event before returning to the track. Johnson’s 38th-place finish in the event cut his points lead from 184 points down to 73 points ahead of second-place and teammate Martin.

Track stats:

Johnson earned his first win at the 1.5-mile speedway on Nov. 4, 2007, after starting eighth and leading nine laps in the event. Along with Johnson’s win, he has tallied seven top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and led 117 laps in 14 starts at Texas. Johnson’s top-fives are tied for the most all-time and his top-10s are tied for second-most all-time at the racetrack. His average start of 8.8 and average finish of 10.1 both are ranked third all-time at Texas. Johnson is ranked third in both driver rating with a score of 99 and average finish, with a result of 10.8.

This time:

Johnson will line up 17th for the third to last race in one of the closest title battles in the history of NASCAR’s playoff system. The four-time defending Cup champion enters Sunday’s event as the championship standings points leader, but he is just 14 points ahead of second-place Denny Hamlin and only 38 points ahead of third-place Kevin Harvick.

Johnson:

I don’t necessarily feel more pressure because the Chase is so tight. I think I feel more pressure trying to defend something. The small margin that we have, it’s really easy to know what I need to do—I need to win the race. I need to finish ahead of the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick), and I think that’s going to mean me winning the race. The week has been really easy for me, where the other weeks coming into Texas had me in more of a defensive mode trying to protect and worry about things. It’s all offense right now, so I feel really good about things and feel less pressure for this Texas race than I did last year.”

No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet: Qualified 22nd.

Last time:

Most recently in April at Texas, Dale Earnhardt Jr. restarted second with 12 laps remaining in the event after taking two tires during the final caution flag period. Earnhardt battled for position when the green flag was waved but had difficulty holding off the competitors who had taken four tires. Earnhardt held on to a 10th-place finish in the event, his third top-10 in the 2010 Cup season. Earnhardt started ninth in this event last November and remained in the top 10 until the closing laps of the event. In the final laps of the event, fuel mileage became an issue for the No. 88 Chevrolet and Earnhardt was forced to pit for fuel with five laps to go. During the pit stop, Earnhardt had trouble refiring the Chevrolet’s engine, but was able to get back out on the track to finish 25th.

Track stats:

Earnhardt was just seven races into his rookie season when he recorded his first career Cup win on April 2, 2000, at Texas. Earnhardt, who was 25 years-old at the time started the race fourth and led 106 laps on his way to Victory Lane. Two years earlier the Kannapolis, N.C., native had also recorded his first career Nationwide Series win on April 4, 1998 at the 1.5-mile oval. Earnhardt is tied for the fourth-most top 10s (eight) and with a personal-best two pole positions at the speedway, Earnhardt has the fourth-best all-time average starting position of 9.1. Since joining Hendrick Motorsports for the 2007 Cup season, Earnhardt has led at least one lap in all but one Texas events he has started in the No. 88 Chevrolet. He has led a fifth-best all-time 446 laps at the speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics which are compiled during the last 11 races at Texas, Earnhardt is ranked 10th or better in 12 categories, most notably: first in laps spent in the top 15 (3,111 laps), second in average running position (9.748), fifth in green-flag passes (668) and seventh in both driver rating (96.4 score) and laps led (193 laps).

This time:

Earnhardt will roll off the grid 22nd in Sunday’s event driving Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-652 for his 17th start at the 1.5-mile speedway. This chassis never has been raced or tested.

Earnhardt:

“The most challenging part for Texas really is that you get a little tight getting into (Turns) 1 and 2. Getting into (Turn) 3 is real hard for some reason—it’s just a tricky transition down into that corner. Otherwise it’s a real fun place, and we always seem to run good there.”

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