Hendrick teammates finish in top 10 at Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas – Hendrick Motorsports recorded a solid outing in the first Saturday night event of the 2012 season as its four NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers finished inside the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson finished second, followed by Jeff Gordon in fourth, Kasey Kahne in seventh and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 10th.
On Saturday, it was smooth sailing at first for Johnson, who opened the race from the 10th position. He maintained his footing inside the top 10 for the majority of the 334-lap event. After a swift pit stop during the yellow-flag period on Lap 100, Johnson lined up third for the restart. Within a few laps, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet rocketed past second-place Martin Truex Jr. and finally slipped past then-leader Greg Biffle 13 laps later.
Johnson led a race-high 156 laps in a relatively caution-free race, but struggled for position among lapped traffic and lost the top spot to Biffle in the closing laps. Johnson overcame making contact with the wall and held on to finish second, picking up his fifth career runner-up result at the 1.5-mile track.
“Definitely disappointed, but we had a great race car, and there’s a lot to be proud of today,” said Johnson, who ranks eighth in the driver standings. “Our pit stops were amazing. We had a very fast race car. I just got tangled up in some lap traffic. The (No.) 16 made a great move, and he got by me. I was pacing him there at the end.
“I didn’t have anything left to go and get him. I tried. But I’m very proud of the effort. Everybody knows we’re here.”
Gordon, who finished fourth, was the biggest mover initially among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet started 34th and steadily progressed through the field. Employing pit strategy, Gordon was able to line up seventh for the Lap 101 restart. With his pit crew continually addressing minor handling issues, Gordon held his position among the top 10 and scored his second top-10 finish of the season.
“We’ve been running so good this season,” said Gordon, who ranks 17th in the driver standings. “It was nice to have everything come together. This team did an amazing job. What a race car we had. We drove up into the top five (from 34th).”
Kahne, the top qualifier among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a fifth-place starting spot, worked through various handling issues as the night unfolded. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet sustained an early issue on pit road when he was blocked into his stall by another competitor on Lap 49. Kahne overcame the minor setback and held his position within the top 12, even posting one of the fastest laps of the race (29.15 seconds around the 1.5-mile oval on Lap 125). With 43 laps left on Saturday, he was running inside the top 10. Kahne improved to finish seventh and now ranks 27th in the driver standings.
Earnhardt picked up his third straight top-10 finish of the season and his fifth overall and now ranks third in the driver standings after crossing the line 10th on Saturday night. The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet opened the race in 16th and cracked the top 10 within the first 50 laps. Like his teammates, Earnhardt had to work with winds at the Texas racetrack that topped 20 mph. Earnhardt’s No. 88 team tinkered on the Chevrolet throughout the night putting it in solid race condition. He overcame making slight contact with another competitor midway through the race and recorded the 10th-place finish.