Earnhardt, Kahne and Gordon qualify in top 12 at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start eighth on Sunday at Pocono Raceway. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon will also line up inside the top 12.
Jimmie Johnson lines up 24th for Sunday’s race that will be broadcast on television (12 p.m. ET on TNT) and radio (12 P.M. ET on MRN) Check local listings.
Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest organization at Pocono with 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories. In 56 Cup races (181 starts) at the 2.5-mile racetrack, Hendrick Motorsports has gathered 52 top-five finishes and 94 top-10s. Jeff Gordon most recently won at the Tricky Triangle in June 2011 after leading 39 laps.
This weekend at Pocono, the Hendrick Motorsports drivers are looking to extend a winning streak that started when Johnson earned the organization’s 200th Cup victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on May 12. Kahne followed Johnson’s historic win with a milestone of his own, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet to Victory Lane during the 600-mile Cup event at Charlotte (N.C) Motor Speedway in May for the first time as a Hendrick Motorsports driver. Johnson earned the organization’s third consecutive win with his first-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last weekend.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Dover: In 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Kasey Kahne has recorded one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. He has two career pole positions and set the track qualifying record in June 2004 when he toured the 2.5-mile speedway in 52.16 seconds at roughly 172.533 mph. During the last 14 Cup races at Pocono, Kahne ranks fifth for fastest laps run with 161. His driver rating of 89.5 from the same timeframe ranks him tenth among active drivers at the track.
Most recently: Kahne earned his seventh straight top-10 finish of the 2012 season when he placed ninth at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on June 3. After his strong performance at the Monster Mile, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet now ranks 14th in the driver standings. Kahne trails 10th-place Clint Bowyer by 40 points and is just one point behind Ryan Newman, who currently holds the second Chase wild card position. Kahne and Newman each have one win this season.
Kahne says: “With the new surface, I think Pocono is going to be really fast this week. When we tested there in April, we were going faster than the track record, but it will be warmer now. The key will be getting rubber down on the track, and the extra days of testing should help with that. I think we’ll be able to move around the track and have some good racing.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
At Dover: Gordon has five wins, two pole positions, 17 top-five finishes and 27 top-10s in 38 Cup starts at the Tricky Triangle. With 957 laps led at Pocono, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet tops all active drivers in that category. His driver rating of 100.8 ranks him fourth among active drivers in the last 14 races at the 2.5-mile track. Gordon, the defending race winner, led 39 laps en route to his victory at Pocono last June.
Most recently: Gordon improved from a 14-place starting position to lead 60 laps at Dover International Speedway on June 3. He captured the lead from teammate Jimmie Johnson on Lap 211 and remained dominant until a loose left-rear tire forced the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet to make an unscheduled green-flag pit stop. Gordon used smart pit strategy for the remainder off the race to come back from two laps down and finish 13th on the lead lap with his teammates. He improved one spot in the driver standings and now ranks 21st.
Gordon says: “I think a shorter race at Pocono is going to be a better race and a more exciting race. We’ll have fewer laps, so I don’t know how that will change strategy for the race.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
At Dover: In 20 Cup starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, Johnson owns two wins, eight top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. With a score of 107, he ranks second in the driver rating category among active drivers in the past 14 races at Pocono. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet has the best average finish (9.5) and leads drivers for laps run in the top 15 (2,194) in the same timeframe.
Most recently: Johnson picked up his second victory of the 2012 season and the third consecutive win for Hendrick Motorsports when he took the checkered flag at Dover International Speedway on June 3. The No. 48 Lowe’s Madagascar Chevrolet dominated the Monster Mile, leading a race-high 289 laps en route to Victory Lane. Johnson maintained his fifth place position in the driver standings and trails leader Greg Biffle by 33 points.
Johnson says: “This track still has the characteristics it had in the past. It’s not perfectly smooth. There still are some interesting transitions in and out of the corners. We can see where some bumps will develop and I think those are all very good things for stock cars around this race track. I think we’ll put on a good show. Once this track ages we’ll move around some more, but from getting on the race track, feeling the repave standpoint, I don’t think it could have gone much better.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Dover: In 24 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He has completed 97.2 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (4,556 laps of 4,689 total). The 37-year-old driver has led a total of 98 laps at the 2.5-mile track. Earnhardt earned his pole position at Pocono in August 2007, and he went on to lead eight laps and finish second in that race.
Most recently: Earnhardt continued his strong 2012 season with a fourth-place finish at Dover International Speedway on last weekend. The top-five finish marked his fifth of the season and his 10th time finishing inside the top 10. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet improved from 17th to lead one lap before settling into the top four. Earnhardt moved up one spot in the driver standings to rank third. He trails leader Greg Biffle by 10 points.
Earnhardt says: “I’m looking forward to testing the new surface and seeing what the track is like. I know NASCAR is wanting to get enough rubber down so we have a good race. We’ll just go out there and try to learn what we can and use it as an opportunity to try some things we haven’t been able to work into the practice sessions this year. I heard that there’s a big curve in the tunnel turn that I was hoping would be gone, but that’s still there I guess. Other than that, I think the track is going to be in excellent shape.”