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Hendrick teammates survive last-lap incidents, finish in top 25

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Hendrick Motorsports teammates slipped by several hard-wrecking competitors during the final lap of Monday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event to post finishes inside the top 25. The race was rescheduled for Monday after rain showers permeated the 2.45-mile road course on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson finished 10th, while Jeff Gordon was scored 13th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took 15th and Mark Martin crossed the line in 25th.

When the green flag dropped, Johnson was lined up fourth in front of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Gordon (17th), Martin (22nd) and Earnhardt (25th). The four teams worked through various handling issues as the early part of the race unfolded. Gordon led twice for six laps, and Johnson paced the field for one lap during the first 67 circuits.

Earnhardt dramatically improved his track position after pitting under green-flag conditions on Lap 28. Just as Earnhardt drove his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet down pit road, the caution flag was issued for a stalled No. 16 car on the racetrack. Earnhardt made his stop and was able to rejoin the field without being penalized. He was running fifth when the race resumed.

Martin dealt with a loose-handling condition during Monday’s race. He ran as high as 16th, but required a lengthy pit stop with only 28 laps to go that cost him track position. He earned the Lucky Dog pass and returned to the lead lap three circuits later after the No. 11 slammed into the tire barrier, bringing out the third caution of the afternoon.

Johnson had the fortune of pitting just prior to that incident, but the ensuing caution flag also affected Gordon, who was scheduled to stop for tires and fuel during that time. While the move affected Gordon’s running position, and dropped him in the field, it didn’t affect his momentum. Gordon told his team during the stop that his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet was handling well and he was having fun.

“We had an awesome race car right from the beginning,” said Gordon, who ranks seventh in the driver standings. “We drove up through there a little bit and then we got some track position, and we were able to stay up there with the leaders. I feel like we were a few adjustments away, I don’t know from a winning car, but definitely from a really good race car. Then the caution came out and caught us. We fell back to 21st and drove our way back up.”

Within 10 laps of the restart, Gordon had improved eight positions and was running inside the top 13 with Johnson, who kept his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet inside the top 10 for the majority of the day. As the race wound down,  Johnson and Gordon were focused on solid finishes when an accident occurred in Turn 2. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates narrowly missed the Nos. 6 as it made contact with the No. 00. Johnson held on to earn the 10th-place finish, his 14th top-10 of the season. He ranks third in the driver standings.

Gordon crossed the line behind him in 13th.

Earnhardt picked up eight positions during the last three laps, driving his No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet into the 14th position for the final lap. He side-stepped a spinning No. 14 car to ultimately take the 15th-place finish and improve to ninth in the driver standings.

“I had a really good car today, and the guys just send great race cars down the road, and I try to take care of them,” Earnhardt said. “I think we’re a good enough team to make the Chase.”

Martin encountered another wreck that involved the No. 51 car as he was entering the final lap. Martin steered his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet as cleanly as he could, but couldn’t escape the competitor that made contact with his right-rear quarter panel. Martin finished 25th and ranks 18th in the driver standings.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next visits Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 21. The race will be televised at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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