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Gordon, Earnhardt finish in top seven at Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas – Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished inside the top seven on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin finished 14th and 19th, respectively, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

Gordon spent most of Sunday’s 334-lap race running inside the top 10, despite starting 23rd.  He cracked the top 10 by Lap 69 and held steady as his team made varying adjustments to counter the Chevrolet’s tight-handling condition mid-race. With 38 laps to go, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet started a trend by pitting under the green flag.  With four tires and fuel, Gordon returned to the track running inside the top 20. Track position wasn’t a problem for Gordon, and he improved to finish sixth, picking up his third top-10 finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Gordon ranks eighth in the driver standings.

“I’m real proud of everybody,” Gordon said. “We didn’t qualify well, had to start in the middle of the field and this place can be tough to move up there. We moved up there right away. At times, I thought we had a car that could compete for the win. When that sun went down, it changed everything for us. We couldn’t keep up with track position. But compared to the way we ran here earlier in the year, this is almost like a win for us.”

Earnhardt started 16th and was running 11th by Lap 155. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard “Trained by Tradition”/AMP Energy Chevrolet worked diligently with his team to find the right answer for the car’s handling, as he maintained his presence among the top 15. The No. 88 team plugged away, and Earnhardt crossed the finish line seventh. He climbs to seventh in the driver standings with two races left in the Chase.

Johnson, who started 11th, ran as high as fourth and rallied from a spin on Lap 240 that sent him to pit road for fresh tires. The five-time defending champion hustled to his pit stall, where his team put on four fresh tires and sent the No. 48 Chevrolet back onto the racetrack ahead of leader Tony Stewart. Despite a commitment cone violation, Johnson managed to stay on the leap lap. Within nine laps, he was running 19th. Not too many laps later, he cracked the top 15. Johnson finished 14th and ranked sixth in the driver standings.

Martin encountered some handling issues, but ultimately was in the mix as the race wound down. He improved to ninth as the leaders began their late-race pit stops under the green-flag.  The driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet was running third with 31 laps to go, hoping for the caution flag. At that time, his teammates who had pitted were running inside the top 19: Gordon was 14th, Earnhardt was 16th and Johnson was 19th. Martin held off as long as he could, but without a yellow flag, he was forced to make his way down pit road. He finished 19th and ranks 21st in the driver standings.

Up next on the Cup schedule is Phoenix International Raceway. That race will be televised Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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