Hendrick Motorsports

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Gordon earns pole position at Talladega, teammates in top 19

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jeff Gordon was rewarded after he picked a unique line during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Talladega Superspeedway.

The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet earned the pole position after touring the 2.66-mile superspeedway in 49.97 seconds at roughly 191.623 mph.

“We just wanted to try something a little bit different than we tried yesterday on the one run we made,” Gordon said. “This is a different monster than Daytona (Fla.), and you’ve got to treat it a little bit differently in qualifying. Man, I’m proud of that lap in this DuPont Chevy. … We tried something different, and so far it worked out. I didn’t expect that good of a lap.”

Gordon, who won the pole position in this race last year, now has three career poles at the track and 71 overall. He has earned a pole position in every year of fulltime Cup competition, which brings his streak to 20 seasons and ties him with Hall of Famer David Pearson.

“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Gordon said. “I’m just so proud of this DuPont Chevy team. We needed something to boost our morale and something positive because we’ve had a rough year so far. This is a surprise. We did not expect to be sitting here now talking to you about a pole, and I think it’s ironice that we’ve got the DuPont paint scheme, which is celebrating 20 years and then we win a pole for the 20th straight year.”

Gordon is joined in the top 20 by teammates Kasey Kahne (fifth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18th) and Jimmie Johnson (19th).

In 56 events (178 starts) at Talladega, Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins, 45 top-five finishes and 67 top-10s. Seven of the organization’s wins have happened after its drivers started the race ninth or better. In this race last year, Earnhardt pushed Johnson to Victory Lane. Johnson, the race’s outside pole sitter, crossed the line with a .002-second margin of victory, matching the closest one captured since the use of electronic scoring.

Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway will be broadcast on television (noon ET on FOX) and radio (noon on MRN).  Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
Qualified:  Fifth.
At Talladega: In 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Kahne has recorded two runner-up finishes and three top-10s, and has led 29 laps at the high-banked oval. During the last seven years, Kahne has scored 4,497 green-flag passes at the Alabama oval, ranking him sixth according to NASCAR loop data.  Most recently, Kahne started 26th, led four laps and finished sixth at the 2.66-mile superspeedway in October 2011.
Most recently: The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet picked up his third consecutive top-10 finish of the season when he placed sixth at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway last weekend. Kahne started the event ninth, recording his eighth straight top-10 starting position in nine races this season. Kahne ranks 23rd in the driver standings.
Kahne says: “Hendrick Motorsports puts together great superspeedway cars.  I had more power at Daytona (Fla.) than I’ve ever had. All four of us were fast during Speedweeks and just got caught by a lot of bad luck. The plate tracks are always a wild card for the whole field, but the (No.) 5 team has some great momentum right now.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Qualified: First.
At Talladega: In 38 Sprint Cup starts at the 2.66-mile track, Gordon has six wins (the most among active drivers), two pole positions, 14 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has led 832 laps at the superspeedway - 123 more than the nearest active competitor, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, compiled during the past 14 races at Talladega, Gordon is ranked 10th in the driver rating category at Talladega with a score of 82.6.
Most recently: Gordon had a strong qualifying run and started from sixth at Richmond International Raceway last weekend, his third start in the top 10 this season. A tire issue at Lap 51 of the 400 lap event stalled the promising run of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. After addressing the issue, Gordon returned to the track in 24th and held on to finish 23rd. He now ranks 16th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: ”(This weekend) you’re going to have to really watch those gauges and pay attention to them and have some more ‘gap’ between you and the other cars to let that radiator breathe. But you go faster ‘connected,’ so we’ll be pushing toward the end of the race. At the end of that race, your ultimate goal is to push that other guy as long as you possibly can and cross (the finish line) blowing up the engine.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Qualified: 19th.
At Talladega:  In 20 Cup starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Johnson has earned two wins, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s and four pole positions. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, compiled during the past 14 races at Talladega, Johnson is tied for first in the best average finish category (14.5). He has the 11th-best driver rating in the same timeframe with an 81.9.
Most recently: Johnson earned his seventh top-10 finish of the season when he took sixth at Richmond International Raceway. He started from 27th in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet and improved to run in the top 10 by Lap 96 of the 400 lap event. A pit road violation late in the race sent Johnson to the back of the pack on Lap 317, but was able to work his way back and hold on for sixth place finish. He now ranks sixth in the driver standings.
Johnson says:  “Well, I was around for about 2.5 miles in Daytona (laughs). But I do think we will see some of the same type of racing. I think the warmer temperatures are going to play a factor, especially with the pack-type racing we will have. The elevated temperatures are going to make it harder for us to push and keep cool in the pack. It’s definitely going to be a thinking man’s race.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
Qualified: 18th.
At Talladega: In 24 Cup starts at Talladega, Earnhardt has recorded five wins, nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He scored a record-setting four consecutive wins at the 2.66-mile superspeedway from October 2001 to April 2003. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, compiled during the past 14 races at Talladega, Earnhardt is second in the driver rating category at Talladega with a 90.2 score. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet is also second in laps run in the top 15 (1,618 of 2,661 total) and average running position (14.936).
Most recently: Earnhardt started 10th in the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet and recorded his second runner-up finish of the season last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. The second-place finish was Earnhardt’s fourth top-five finish and seventh top-10 of the season. He now ranks second in the driver standings.
Earnhardt says: “I feel like the style of racing we had in the Daytona 500 this year suits me better. I feel more confident in that style than I do the tandem. With the tandem, it is difficult to commit to someone all day long. The way we did it in the (2012 Daytona) 500 was nice, but the tandem is going to win the race, which is fine with me. I do like having more control of my destiny and making my own decisions for myself.  I want to look out for No. 1 and my team all day long and try to do whatever I can to put myself in position to win the race.  That is really what I feel like I have been doing all my life. To do anything different just doesn’t feel comfortable. It feels odd to me.”