Kahne fifth, Johnson 10th, Earnhardt 16th in Texas qualifying
FORT WORTH, Texas – Kasey Kahne was the top qualifier for Hendrick Motorsports during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet scored the fifth-place starting spot – his sixth straight top-10 start of the 2012 season – and will be joined inside the top 16 by teammates Jimmie Johnson (10th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16th). Jeff Gordon will roll off the grid 34th in Saturday’s race.
In 22 races (89 starts) at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports has three wins, 20 top-five finishes and 36 top-10s. Teammates Gordon and Johnson rank tied for second with seven top-five finishes at the 1.5-mile track, while Johnson also ranks tied for second with 12 top-10s there.
Saturday’s race will be broadcast on television (7 p.m. ET on FOX) and radio (6:30 p.m. on PRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Texas: Kahne earned his win at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2006, after starting from the pole position and leading 63 laps. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet also has four top-five finishes and four top-10s in 15 Cup starts at the Texas oval. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Kahne ranks eighth for fastest laps run with 183 at the 1.5-mile track during the last seven years.
Most recently: Kahne earned his second pole position of the 2012 season and the first of his career for the April 1 event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. He drove the No. 5 Chevrolet around the paper-clip oval in 19.50 seconds at roughly 97.128 mph to win the top starting spot. Kahne ran steadily in the top 10 until the midway point when he experienced an engine issue that sidelined the No. 5 Chevrolet. He was scored with a 38th-place finish and now ranks 31st in the driver standings.
Kahne says: “Our car was really strong at Las Vegas, and I think we would have been battling for a top-five (finish) in California if the rain had stopped. So going back to mile-and-a-half tracks for a couple of weeks is exciting. We’ve been so fast each week, especially at the intermediate tracks, so I know our time will come. We’re going to compete for wins this season.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
At Texas: In 22 Cup starts at the Lone Star State track, Gordon has earned one win, seven top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and two pole positions. Gordon, who is running the celebratory “20 Years” DuPont scheme on his No. 24 Chevrolet this weekend, has led 450 laps at Texas in the past 14 races, which ranks him fifth in laps led among active drivers.
Most recently: Gordon improved from a ninth-place starting position to lead a race-high 328 laps at Martinsville Speedway on April 1. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet, who owns seven victories at the short track, lined up on the front row for a restart during the last three laps of the race. Almost immediately, he and Johnson were collected in a multi-car incident. Gordon recovered to finish 14th and now ranks 21st in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “This race (Saturday night at Texas) is one that is on our radar. We ran well at California a few weeks ago, so that has me excited going to the one-and-a-half mile tracks.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
At Texas: Johnson has earned one win, seven top five-finishes and 12 top-10s in 17 Cup starts at the Texas oval. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tool Chevrolet owns an average finish of 10.2 and has only finished outside the top 15 twice in his career at the intermediate track. Johnson’s driver rating of 98.4 ranks him fifth among active drivers at Texas in the last 14 races.
Most recently: Johnson improved from a 22nd starting position to lead 112 laps at Martinsville Speedway during the April 1 race. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet was battling Gordon for the win when a late-race incident delegated him to a 12th-place finish at the short track. After the Martinsville event, Johnson sits 10th in the driver the standings.
Johnson says: “I think it’s neat how some tracks really go out of their way to create cool trophies. Texas has done that the last six years, and it’s very fitting. I have a really corny, dorky photo of me with a cowboy hat on and six shooters that I am very proud of. I hope to have that experience again.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
At Texas: Earnhardt earned the first Sprint Cup victory of his career at the Texas oval on April 2, 2000. Including his win, the driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet has earned three top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and two pole positions in 19 Cup starts at Texas Motor Speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics for the last 14 races at the 1.5-mile oval, Earnhardt ranks fourth among drivers in laps run in the top 15 and eighth in the driver rating category with a score of 92.7.
Most recently: Earnhardt improved to second in the driver standings after recording the third-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on April 1. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet earned his third top-five finish of the season by surviving a late-race incident that removed his Hendrick Motorsports teammates from contention for the organization’s 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
Earnhardt says: “We’ve had a good season. Everything has been going pretty good, and I do enjoy racing at Texas. It’s a mile-and-a-half, like a lot of tracks we run on in the series, but this track’s got some oddities to it and things about it that make it a lot different than most of the other 1.5-miles. The exit to Turn 2 especially, is a real challenge. And the bumps and stuff are pretty challenging on the bottom of both corners. The entry to (Turn) 1 is really, really loose in the race; or the entry to (Turn) 3, I mean. The entry to (Turn) 1 is always a lot of fun, really fast and just trying to get the car through the middle is a challenge there. But it’s a unique place and what makes it even better I think, is the energy the fans bring here.”