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Hendrick Motorsports trio qualifies in top 10 at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. – Kasey Kahne toured Pocono Raceway in 51.30 seconds at roughly 175.439 mph to record the fourth-fastest starting spot during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet will roll off the grid fourth for Sunday’s 400-mile event, just ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. in eighth, Jimmie Johnson in 10th and Jeff Gordon in 27th.

Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest organization at Pocono with 12 Cup victories. In 57 Cup races (185 starts) at the 2.5-mile racetrack, Hendrick Motorsports has gathered 53 top-five finishes and 96 top-10s. With five victories, Gordon is ranked tied for first among drivers all-time at the Tricky Triangle. Gordon’s 957 laps led are the most among drivers all-time at Pocono.

Sunday’s 200-lap race will be broadcast on television (noon ET on ESPN) and radio (1 p.m. ET on MRN) Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
Qualified:  Fourth.
At Pocono: In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Kahne has recorded one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. He has two career pole positions, including a June 2004 effort which established the track qualifying record (52.16 seconds at roughly 172.533 mph). During the last 15 Cup races at Pocono, Kahne ranks fourth for fastest laps run with 176 total. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet ranks fifth with 1,267 green-flag passes during the same period.
Most recently: Kahne qualified 15th at Indianapolis, but worked his way into the top 10 by Lap 15. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet battled traffic and was able to hold on for a 12th-place finish. After his victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15, Kahne currently holds the first wildcard spot in anticipation of the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Kahne says: “We had really good speed at Pocono in June and just had some bad luck on a restart. The track is so smooth and fast now, but you really need rubber down to pass. We easily had a top-10 car last time, so hopefully we have the luck this time.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
Qualified: 27th.
At Pocono: Gordon has five wins, two pole positions, 17 top-five finishes and 27 top-10s in 39 Cup starts at the Tricky Triangle. With 957 laps led at Pocono, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet tops all active drivers in that category. His driver rating of 100.3 ranks him fourth among active drivers in the last 15 races at the 2.5-mile track. Gordon, a five-time winner at Pocono, most recent visited Victory Lane at the Trick Triangle on June 12, 2011.
Most recently: Gordon opened last weekend’s event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from ninth and quickly rose to run within the top five by Lap 10. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet worked with crew chief Alan Gustafson to improve handling throughout the race. Gordon ultimately placed fifth to score his third top-five finish of the season. He now ranks 16th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “This track (Pocono) - even after the repave made it smoother and faster with more grip - still has ‘old’ Pocono characteristics which I love. The shape and the banking of the turns haven’t changed. It still has three unique - and three very challenging - corners.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Qualified: 10th.
At Pocono: In 21 Cup starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, Johnson owns two wins, nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s. With a score of 106.7, he ranks second in the driver rating category among active drivers in the past 15 races at Pocono. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has the best average finish (9.1) and leads drivers for laps run in the top 15 (2,194) in the same timeframe at the Long Pond track.
Most recently: Johnson recorded his third victory of the 2012 season when he took the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29. The No. 48 Chevrolet dominated the Brickyard, leading a race-high 99 laps en route to Victory Lane. Johnson maintained his fourth place position in the driver standings and trails leader and teammate Earnhardt by 27 points.
Johnson says: “I am excited to go back because we had a really strong car there in the last race. I think we had a few track-position issues to overcome and a two speeding issues, but we still managed a top-five finish. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) called a great race. He got me some track position on two tires. The pit stops were flawless and we had a fast car. After last week’s win at the Brickyard, the entire team is excited to get to Pocono and keep the momentum going.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
Qualified: Eighth.
At Pocono: In 25 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has completed 97.3 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (4,716 of 4,849 total). The 37-year-old driver has led a total of 134 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 picked up his ninth top-five finish of the season during Cup action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29. Earnhardt is the only driver to have completed all 5,648 laps this season, which is a NASCAR record of lead-lap finishes to start a season. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet took over the points lead after finishing a career-best fourth Indianapolis. This marks the first time since October 2004 that Earnhardt has led the driver standings.
Earnhardt says: “I had a good, strong run at Pocono in June. I felt like we had a great car there last time. I’m definitely looking forward to going back there. I think the whole field will be a little bit stronger than it was. It will be a bit tougher. But I thought we had some good speed.”

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