Kahne earns pole at Martinsville, Gordon in top 10
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kasey Kahne earned his second pole position of the 2012 season and the first of his career at Martinsville Speedway during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at the short track.
Kahne drove his No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet around the track in 19.50 seconds at roughly 97.128 mph to win the top starting spot. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates rounded out the top 22, with Jeff Gordon ninth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 14th and Jimmie Johnson in 22nd.
Hendrick Motorsports has recorded its most wins and top-10 finishes at Martinsville. The organization has 18 victories there, most recently reaching Victory Lane at the short track in March 2009. In October 2011, three Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished seventh or better to give the organization 100 career top-10s at Martinsville. That figure is a team-best for Hendrick, but also is more than any other team has acquired at any Cup track in NASCAR history.
Hendrick Motorsports earned its first Cup victory at Martinsville with Geoff Bodine driving the No. 5 Chevrolet to Victory Lane on April 29, 1984. Now in its 29th season, the organization is seeking to earn its 200th win at the short track.
Sunday’s race will be broadcast on television (12:30 p.m. ET on FOX) and radio (12 p.m. on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet
At Martinsville: In 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville; Kahne has one top-five finish and two top-10s. He scored his best result at the short track in April 2005 when he rallied from a 35th-place starting spot to finish second. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet has become a strong qualifier in the track’s spring races, starting from an average position of 9.5 during the last four events.
Most recently: Kahne had a strong qualifying run in Fontana, Calif., last weekend, starting fifth at the two-mile track. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet was overcame initial handling issues with help from his team to finish 14th. After Sunday’s finish, Kahne now ranks 27th in the driver standings.
Kahne says: “It’s short-track racing, so there’s plenty of bumping and banging. I’m looking forward to it. Hendrick Motorsports has such a strong history at Martinsville, and I think we’ll have some good cars this weekend.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Martinsville: Gordon leads active drivers with seven wins, seven pole positions, 25 top-five finishes, 31 top-10s and 3,094 laps led in 38 Cup starts at Martinsville. According to loop-data statistics from the past 14 races at the short track, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet ranks second for fastest average green flag speed (91.487 mph) and driver rating (119.9).
Most recently: Gordon started 23rd at Fontana last weekend and was running eighth within the first 30 laps at the two-mile oval. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet led three laps before a series of unfortunate events set the driver back to finish 26th when the race was called due to rain. He now ranks 25th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “Somebody like me - who has a lot of experience and who has also had success at a place like Martinsville - can continue to have that success because it’s not all about aerodynamics. It’s not about a spring and shock and sway bar combination that all of the sudden makes your car fly. I feel like Martinsville is that one place that I can go to every time and give good information back to the team to keep us fast throughout the race.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 mylowes Chevrolet
At Martinsville: Johnson’s six wins, 14 top-five finishes, 18 top-10s and one pole combine to give him series-best driver rating of 122.2 for the last 14 races at the Virginia short track. In 20 starts at Martinsville, the driver of the No. 48 mylowes Chevrolet has earned a record average running position (6.3), average green-flag speed (91.506 mph) and quality passes (503). Johnson last ran at the paper clip track in October 2011, when he led 61 laps on his way to a second place finish.
Most recently: Johnson lined up in 10th at Fontana and led two laps on his way to this fourth top-10 finish of the season. His 10th place finish at his home track moved the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet up two positions in the driver standings where he now sits in ninth.
Johnson says: “I do have a lot of success at Martinsville, but it took me a few tries to get it right. And since then, it’s been a very good track for me. I certainly want to get back to my winning ways there. But, at a minimum, we always end up with a real strong finish. When I think of how close we were to victory last fall; it didn’t happen, but we led a lot of laps, and our car was a factor in the end. I’m looking forward to going back and trying to win there again.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/ National Guard Chevrolet
At Martinsville: In 24 Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt has scored nine top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and led 865 laps. He recorded a career-best runner-up finish at the Virginia short track behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet in October 2008 and again in April 2011. Earnhardt’s 865 laps led at Martinsville are his personal best at a track. He has tallied 253 of those laps driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. His nine top-five finishes at Martinsville match his personal best at a track. He also has nine top-five finishes at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Most recently: Earnhardt lined up 14th last weekend at Fontana and quickly climbed into the top 10 within the first 30 laps. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet continued to gain track position and employed pit strategy to finish third when the race was called due to heavy rain at the two-mile track. Earnhardt now ranks third in the driver standings, trailing leader Greg Biffle by 17 points.
Earnhardt says: “I look forward to going to Martinsville. I always have a lot of fun there. I think everybody really enjoys running there; it’s a pretty fun track. We’ve had some pretty good success there, so I’m hoping to have a good race like we did last year and hopefully have the opportunity to be in the battle for the win.”