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Hendrick Motorsports Homestead Preview

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2010) – With a fifth-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on the line, Jimmie Johnson heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway only 15 points behind points leader Denny Hamlin. The 1.5-mile speedway is the host for the season finale, and race coverage begins Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here are the stats on Hendrick Motorsports, which has posted nine top-five finishes, 18 top-10s and two pole position in 10 events (43 starts) at Homestead. In six of the last 10 events at the Florida speedway, Hendrick has scored at least one top-five finish. Last year at Homestead, the organization became the first ever to finish 1-2-3 in the championship standings when Jimmie Johnson won his record-setting fourth Cup championship, Mark Martin finished second and Jeff Gordon took third in the season standings.

No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Qualified eighth.

Last time:

Mark Martin started off this event last November in fourth and held steady inside the top 15 for most of the event. Martin brought the No. 5 Chevrolet home 12th and cemented his second-place finish in the Chase standings, the fifth time the NASCAR veteran finished second in the championship standings during his career.

Track stats:

In 10 Cup starts at the 1.5-mile speedway, Martin has posted four top-five finishes, five top-10s and led 30 laps. Martin earned a career-best runner-up finish at the speedway in November 2005. In Martin’s last four events at Homestead, he has recorded an average finish of 10.3 and kept his Chevrolet inside the top 15 for 774 laps of a possible 1,069 laps (72.4 percent). Martin’s average finish of 12th at Homestead is his fourth-best average finish on an oval track. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Martin has the fifth-best average running position (12.4) in the last five races at Homestead.

This time:

This weekend, Martin will look to hold on to the 13th rank in the championship standings, the highest the Batesville, Ark., native can finish after not making the field for the Chase. Martin is 24 points ahead of 14th-place Jamie McMurray and will start eighth in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead.

Martin:

“My only goal this weekend is to win the race. That’s what I want to do for this race team. And it will make the offseason feel so much better. It’s going to be one heck of a race, that’s for sure. These fans are going to get their money’s worth. There will be no lack of excitement and no lack of drama. It will be fun watching my teammate out there trying to win his fifth championship. I really hope for him and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports that he brings another one home.”

No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet: Qualified 11th.

Last time:

Jeff Gordon started 20th and finished sixth, his seventh top-10 in eight races at Homestead. Gordon took third-place honors in the 2009 Chase, his eighth to- three finish in the championship standings in his 18 year full-time career.

Track stats:

Gordon has earned five top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and led 62 laps in 11 starts at Homestead. Gordon’s top-fives and top-10s both are ranked first on the all-time list at Homestead and he has also posted the third-best average finish (9.5) among active drivers at the speedway. His average finish is also tied for fifth-best for the 39-year-old-driver at any track on the Cup circuit—he also has an average finish of 9.5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon has completed 99.9 percent of all laps he’s attempted (2,938 laps 2,942 total) at the 1.5-mile speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Gordon has the fifth-best average finish (9.4), the fifth-best laps spent inside the top 15 (924) and the sixth-best driver rating (95.1) in the last five races at Homestead.

This time:

Gordon enters Sunday’s event ranked sixth in the championship standings, he is 27 points behind fifth-place Matt Kenseth. Gordon will start 11th in Sunday’s event.

Gordon:

“We’ve had some good runs here in the past, we just haven’t been able to get that win. We want to get that win because winning is what drives us. We’re not trying to win because of a statistic, although it would be pretty cool to have won at every track.”

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet: Qualified sixth.

Last time:

In the season finale last November, Jimmie Johnson secured his historic fourth-straight Cup championship, a feat that no other driver in the history of NASCAR has achieved. Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet, also because the first crew chief to ever guide a team to four straight championships in NASCAR’s elite series. Johnson started from the pole position and led 28 laps before finishing fifth.

Track stats:

While Johnson has never won a Cup event at Homestead, he has cemented his four championships at the speedway with an average finish of nine in the last four events. Johnson has posted three top-five finishes, six top-10s and led 71 laps in the last nine races at Homestead. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics compiled during the last five races at Homestead, Johnson is ranked fourth in laps spent inside the top 15 (956 laps) and eighth in the driver rating category (92.9).

This time:

Johnson is 15 points behind championship leader Denny Hamlin as he enters the season finale event. If Johnson wins the race and leads the most laps during the event, he will win his fifth-straight Cup championship, even if Hamlin finishes second, he will still win his fifth-straight Cup championship. Johnson will roll off the grid sixth as he looks to make history on Sunday.

Johnson:

“I’m just excited to get on the track and understand what our car is going to be like and what the challenges will be for the weekend. Really, you’re just thinking about what you’ve done here in the past and how your car drove and what your notes show. But today is a really big day for all three guys (championship contenders, Nos. 11, 29 and 48) to get out there and feel out their cars and understand what the challenges will be. It’s easy for your mind to then focus on the right things because your car is either tight or loose or whatever it may be and you can really focus in on what’s important.”

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

Last time:

In this event last November, Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 32nd and battled his way into the top 10 by Lap 45, but contact with the wall on Lap 105 caused handling issues to develop on the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt crossed the finish line 28th.

Track stats:

In 10 Cup starts at Homestead, Earnhardt has led 93 laps—the most among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates—and recorded two top-15 finishes. He recorded his best finish of 13th at the speedway during his rookie season in November 2000. In 191 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Earnhardt has posted six wins, six pole positions, 38 top-five finishes and 70 top-10s. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, the Kannapolis, N.C., native is fifth-best (160.667 mph) when it comes to fastest drivers late in the run during the last five races at Homestead.

This time:

Earnhardt will pilot Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-599 in this weekend’s event at Homestead. He will start 22nd in Sunday’s event.

Earnhardt:

“Homestead has been one of my toughest tracks since they changed the configuration of it. We’ve ran good, but I just don’t seem to really have a line. There are a million different ways you can go through the corner but I haven’t really figured out which one suits me the best. We seem to run good till it gets dark, but this race is going to be run in the afternoon, starting early, so that should help us actually. It keeps the groove up off the bottom of the race track for a longer period of time.”

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