Johnson, Gordon qualify in top 12 at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon will line up third and 12th, respectively, in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Watkins Glen International. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 16th, while Kasey Kahne will line up 20th.
In 26 races (88 starts) at Watkins Glen, Hendrick Motorsports has six wins, 17 top-five finishes and 32 top-10s. Gordon ranks second on the all-time win list at WGI with four victories. Gordon earned Hendrick Motorsports’ most recent victory at the road course when he won the 2001 event.
This weekend, the Hendrick Motorsports teammates are looking to continue a winning streak started by Kahne at New Hampshire International Speedway on July 15. Kahne’s win was followed by a Johnson trip to Victory Lane at Indianapolis on July 29 and Gordon’s win at Pocono last weekend.
Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen will be broadcast on television (noon ET on ESPN) and radio (noon on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Watkins Glen: In eight Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen International, Kahne has two top-15 finishes. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet has completed every lap that he has attempted at the 2.45-mile road course (724 laps total). Kahne has two top-10 starts at the Glen, including an outside pole position in 2006. During the last seven races at Watkins Glen, Kahne has made 338 green-flag passes, ranking him fourth among the competition. He ranks 14th for quality passes with 123 and 15th for laps in the top-15 with 263.
Most recently: Kahne collected his second runner-up finish and sixth top-five result of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season last Sunday at Pocono Raceway. The No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet showed dominating speed throughout the day as Kahne nabbed second in the rain-shortened event. Kahne finished the race with the highest driver rating (122.7) and best average running position (4.602), according to NASCAR loop data.
Kahne says: “The toughest part of Watkins Glen for me is braking. You get on the brakes a lot harder than at Sonoma. But we’ve done a lot of road course testing this year, and that’s something I’ve worked on. Hopefully that extra practice will help this week.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Watkins Glen: In 19 Cup starts at Watkins Glen, Gordon has four wins, six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and three pole positions. Gordon’s four victories rank him second among drivers all-time at the Glen. The driver of the No. 24 has a driver rating of 90.1 at the New York road course, which ranks him 10th among active drivers. Gordon has led 233 laps at the 2.45-mile track, including 14 during his most recent victory at the Glen in 2001.
Most recently: Gordon became the fourth Hendrick Motorsports driver to reach victory Lane in the 2012 Cup season when he finished first at Pocono Raceway last weekend – a feat the organization last achieved in 2007. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet improved from a 27th-place starting position to lead eight laps and take the checkered flag. Now ranked 13th in the driver standings, Gordon joins teammate Kahne in contention for the wildcard positions to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Gordon says: “We’ve not run very well at Watkins Glen in recent years and it’s been very disappointing to me and the team. But I’m optimistic because I felt we made big improvements at Sonoma. We tested at Road Atlanta before that race, and I think it’s a better track for Watkins Glen than it is for Sonoma. But we won’t really know until we get on the track.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Cortez Silver Chevrolet
At Watkins Glen: In 10 starts at Watkins Glen, Johnson has three top-five finishes, five top-10s and two pole positions. While the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Cortez Silver Chevrolet still is looking for a win at the Glen, he owns the best average starting position (4.6) and the fifth best driver rating (100.7) for the past seven races at the New York track. Johnson ranks second for laps run in the top 15 (504) and is looking to improve upon the 10th-place finish from last year.
Most recently: Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet dominated the competition at Pocono Raceway last weekend, pacing the field for 44 laps of the 98-lap event. Unfortunately, Johnson ran into trouble on the final restart, allowing teammates Gordon and Kahne to slip by and earn Hendrick Motorsports’ 32nd one-two Cup finish. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet was able to hold on to finish 14th in the rain-shortened event. Johnson maintained his fourth-place rank in the driver standings.
Johnson says: “There is a lot that goes into getting the setup right. It’s not what we typically do each week. There aren’t a lot of places to pass. Guys block to maintain track position. It’s just different. Even the way we approach the setup is different. Instead of concentrating on making the car turn left from that standpoint, at a road course it’s more of an even balance as opposed to favoring one corner. I think road courses are very important and I enjoy running on them, especially since I finally was able to win one. It’s been a goal of mine to win at Watkins Glen. Hopefully, we will be able to do that this weekend.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Watkins Glen: In 12 Cup starts at Watkins Glen International, Earnhardt has recorded two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He has completed 91.4 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (991 laps of 1,084 total). The driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet has led a total of 46 laps there, pacing 33 circuits in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2008. According to NASCAR loop data for the last seven races at the Glen, Earnhardt leads the closers category, gaining an average 5.1 positions in the last 10 percent of laps run at the New York track.
Most recently: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, led 17 laps before at the Tricky Triangle last weekend before experiencing a transmission issue and ultimately finishing 32nd. Earnhardt remains the Cup series points leader, marking the first time since June 2004 the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet has led the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver standings for two weeks.
Earnhardt says: “With me and a road course, it’s a lottery. I’ve had some good runs at Watkins Glen and had some fast cars there. When we went there in 2008 with Tony (Eury) Jr., we rained out qualifying so we started up front and we led quite a good portion. We were really fast. I know I can go around there. It’s just straightaway, turn, straightaway, turn, and that’s really what I’ve been doing all my life. It’s a lot easier than Sonoma, a lot less technical. We showed up at the Road Atlanta test last week with the same problems as Sonoma and the same disappointment with the car. Then we made a lot of changes and a few of the changes in particular revolutionized the way the car drove and the way it felt. The stop watch was way faster so I’m excited. I’ve been real happy to go to all the racetracks this year. I particularly don’t look forward to going to Sonoma and Watkins Glen as much as I do the ovals, but I’m excited about Watkins Glen this trip. Hopefully we can go there and be competitive.”