Johnson, Kahne qualify in top 10 at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Jimmie Johnson will open Sunday’s event at Michigan International Speedway from the second row after qualifying third in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne will join him in the top 10. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 11th, 22nd, respectively.
In 57 races (182 starts) at Michigan, Hendrick Motorsports has six wins, 42 top-five finishes and 78 top-10s. Earnhardt most recently won at the two-mile oval on June 17 after he led 95 laps. Gordon ranks tied for first among active drivers with 18 top-five finishes, and he leads active full-time drivers with five pole positions and 954 laps led.
Sunday’s 200-lap race will be broadcast on television (noon ET on ESPN) and radio (noon ET on MRN) Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Michigan: In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway, Kasey Kahne has one win, six top-five finishes, seven top-10s and has led 49 laps. He has two pole positions at the two-mile oval and won from the top starting spot in June 2006. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet ranks fifth for green-flag passes at Michigan with 1,114 during the last 15 races at the two-mile track according the NASCAR loop data.
Most recently: Kahne improved from a 20th-place starting position to finish 13th at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International last weekend. A mid-race issue with Kahne’s No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet and subsequent pit road speeding penalty sent him from the top 10 to outside the top 20. Kahne patiently worked his way back up to finish 13th at the Glen. He now ranks 11th in the driver standings and holds a Chase wild card spot with two wins.
Kahne says: “I’ve always liked Michigan because you could race anywhere on the track. The repaving made the groove a lot narrower. When it gets wider again, it will be a great race with a lot of speed and a lot of room to drive.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Michigan: In 39 starts at the Irish Hills track, Gordon has two wins (1998 and 2001), five poles, 18 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. According to loop date from the past 15 races at Michigan, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has the seventh best driver rating with 96.7. Gordon owns 159 of the fastest laps run on the newly repaved track and led 160 laps within the same timeframe.
Most recently: Gordon spent the first half of the 90-lap event at Watkins Glen running in the top 10, despite reporting handling issues with his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Gordon found his way into the top 10 with three laps to go, but was involved in a last-lap incident and finished 21st. Gordon now ranks 15th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “So there’s a lot of pride on the line for this race. This is a big track. Aerodynamics and horsepower really play a big role here and so I think that when you’re building street cars, there’s a lot of pride that goes into having the most power and the best car and the fastest car and the one that wins the race; or the most efficient car; that can be done on fuel mileage. So, this is a big race to them (Chevrolet). We certainly recognize that. And it puts a little bit more extra pressure on us as well to go out and perform for them.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At Michigan: In 21 starts at Michigan International Speedway, Johnson has led 542 laps en route to four top-five finishes and nine top-10s. While the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet still is seeking his first win at the two-mile long track, he owns the third-best driver rating (105.0) of all active drivers in the last 15 races at Michigan. He has the second-best average green-flag speed (175.314 mph) and leads the fastest laps run category (293) in the same timeframe.
Most recently: Johnson picked up his 11th top-five finish of the season when he finished third at Watkins Glen International last weekend. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet opened from third and maintained his footing in the top 10 for the majority of the 90-lap event. After his strong performance at the Glen, Johnson is the new points leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leading second-place drive Greg Biffle by one point.
Johnson says: “I’m excited to be leading the points. Whoever the team is, I really believe they get some much-needed experience with the pressure of the points lead late in the season. It’s just different than leading at any other point in time. I look forward to the pressure on my team and myself. Every little thing we can do to get prepared for the Chase is helpful. This is another step in that direction. I’m excited about that.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Michigan: In 26 Cup starts at Michigan, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, two pole positions, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. His two career pole positions at Michigan are tied for first as career-bests for the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. With a score of 97.2, he ranks sixth in the driver rating category for the past 15 races at Michigan. Earnhardt went to Victory Lane at Michigan in June when he led 95 laps en route to second win at the two-mile oval.
Most recently: Crew chief Steve Letarte described last weekend at Watkins Glen as one of the best runs Earnhardt and the No. 88 team have had at the road course. While Earnhardt finished 28th, he was en route to a top-10 finish before spinning of course with laps to go. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet now ranks fourth in the driver standings, trailing leader and teammate Johnson by 17 points.
Earnhardt says: “The track has always been fun for me. It’s really wide and up until they repaved it, you really used the whole racetrack in the corner. That’s perfect—you can’t ask for any better situation than when cars go through the corner and everybody is sort of using a different line. That’s what you want. I think over time the surface will age, and we’ll get back to widening up the surface quite a bit. It has the characteristics as far as the way the corners are banked and the way the corners are laid out to widen back out again and be the great racetrack it’s always been. So I really enjoy it. Even had I not won any races there, it’s just a really fun track.”