Kahne wins pole at Vegas, teammates in top 16
LAS VEGAS – Kasey Kahne earned the pole position during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet toured the 1.5-mile racetrack in 28.35 seconds at roughly 190.456 mph to post a new qualifying record for Vegas and collect his third career pole there.
“The Hendrick engines – it’s unreal how well they run, and it was the same way last week at Phoenix (International Raceway),” Kahne said. “It was a great effort by the team. It was great to win the pole today. I always like racing at Vegas. We haven’t won here, but we’ve run pretty well at times, so it will be a good race Sunday.”
Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson also earned starting spots inside the top 10 – they will line up fourth and sixth, respectively. Jeff Gordon, who is sporting a celebratory paint scheme on his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, will start 16th.
In 13 Cup events (54 starts) at Las Vegas, Hendrick Motorsports has scored five wins, 14 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and has led 830 laps at the 1.5-mile racetrack. Johnson, who owns four of the team’s wins, most recently went to Victory Lane there in February 2010.
Sunday’s race will be broadcast on television (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX) and radio (2 p.m. on PRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Las Vegas: In eight Cup starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne has collected two top-five finishes, four top-10s and has led 58 laps. In his first start on the 1.5-mile oval in 2004, he earned runner-up honors and overall has achieved an average finish of 14.9. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet has an average start of 13.4 at Las Vegas and has started from the pole position twice (2004 and 2007) before Friday’s session.
Most recently: Kahne opened from the 10th position last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway and improved to run second within the first 20 laps. But Kahne’s run was stalled on Lap 24 when his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet sustained a handling issue and made contact with the wall on the right-front side. Kahne reported to pit road, and his team spent some time addressing a broken suspension component. Kahne finished 34th and now ranks 32nd in the driver standings.
Kahne says: “The guys are working so hard, and we’re unloading fast cars. We’ve had a rough start, but we can turn it around. My best tracks are still ahead, and we’re going to keep bringing great equipment.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont “20 Years” Chevrolet
At Las Vegas: Jeff Gordon, who is celebrating his 20-year partnership with DuPont, took top honors at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2001, improving from his 24th-place starting position to take the checkered flag, his first at the track. In 14 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has six top-five finishes and seven top-10s. According to NASCAR’s loop data, which is compiled during the last 7 races at Las Vegas, Gordon ranks first in driver rating (112.1), average running position (7.9) and laps led (368) at the intermediate track.
Most recently: Within the first 50 laps last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, Gordon improved from his 30th starting spot to run eighth. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet held his position inside the top 15 for the majority of the race and crossed the finish line eighth to pick up his first top-10 result of the season. Gordon improved 13 spots in the driver standings and now is ranked 22nd.
Gordon says: “I’m excited about the race this weekend because I think we will have a great race car. And running the new (DuPont) paint scheme will be cool because it signifies a great relationship that is now 20 years strong. Back in 1992 when all this began, it was good news to hear DuPont was interested in sponsoring the car. While I knew it offered me a chance to race for checkered flags in the Cup Series, I didn’t know much about the company then. It’s been interesting and educational to learn about their global reach in science and innovation through these two decades. And that education for me continues to this day. It’s been a great 20 years, and I hope it continues well into the future.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
At Las Vegas: Jimmie Johnson has four wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including three straight trips to Victory Lane from 2005-2007. Johnson has led 320 laps and completed 2,688 of 2,691 laps (99.9 percent) he’s attempted at the track. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet also has four top-five finishes and five top-10s in 10 Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval. During Friday’s initial practice session at Las Vegas, Johnson posted the fastest practice time touring the 1.5-mile racetrack in 28.702 seconds at roughly 188.140 mph.
Most recently: Johnson started fourth last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway and spent most of the day running among the leaders. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet was running second by Lap 49 and claimed the lead 11 laps later after his team made an efficient stop under caution. He ultimately led four times for 55 laps before finishing fourth. With the top-five finish, Johnson gained 11 spots in the driver standings, and he ranks 37th.
Johnson says: “I always enjoy Las Vegas. It has been a good track for us, at times. There always seems to be a lot going on. Kobalt Tools is sponsoring the race, so we will have a lot of stuff going on, and it will be a busy weekend. I’m enjoying a little down time with the family but am looking forward to getting to Las Vegas and continuing on the good momentum we had at Phoenix.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Las Vegas: In 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has scored two top-five finishes, five top-10s and has led 162 laps. He has a ninth-place average finish behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet during the last four Cup events at the track. Earnhardt matched his career-best result there with a runner-up finish in 2008. Earnhardt originally earned second place at the track in 2003.
Most recently: Earnhardt started 30th last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway and ran inside the top 10 before sustaining damage to his No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. Throughout the race, Earnhardt posted lap times that rivaled those of competitors inside the top 10, and he went on to finish 14th. He is ranked fifth in the driver standings going into Sunday’s race.
Earnhardt says: “We ran good at Vegas last year and did well on the intermediate tracks so we feel pretty good going in. The team definitely wants to go there and put on a good run. I like the racetrack, I like racing there, and it’s a good area, too. It’s a fast track and has a lot of bumps, but it’s a fun track.”