Gordon 11th, Kahne 12th after Bristol qualifying washed out
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Rain washed out Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Bristol Motor Speedway, so the raceday field will be set according to the speeds from the final practice session at the short track. Jeff Gordon will line up 11th in his specially painted No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, while Kasey Kahne will roll off the grid 12th in his No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 16th in Saturday night’s race, and Jimmie Johnson will line up 37th.
In 57 Cup events (179 starts) at Bristol, Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins, 44 top-five finishes, 79 top-10s and 11 pole positions. Gordon is tied for first among active drivers with five wins at the track, while Johnson most recently went to Victory Lane there for the organization in March 2010.
Saturday’s race will be broadcast on television (7 p.m. ET on ABC) and radio (6:30 p.m. on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet
At Bristol: In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kahne has three top-five finishes and six top-10s. Kahne earned his best finish at the short track in August 2007, when he started from the pole position and finished second. He crossed the line 11th in this Bristol race one year ago. In the last 15 Cup events at the .533-mile oval, Kahne has made 673 green-flag passes, ranking him sixth according to NASCAR loop data. During the same period, Kahne ranks ninth for laps led with 305 and 10th for fastest laps run with 245.
Most recently: Kahne overcame an early slide through the grass last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway to score his seventh top-five finish of the 2012 Cup season. Kahne rallied from the setback, climbing from 26th to cross the finish line third and collect his fifth top-10 result in the last seven Cup events. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet now ranks 11th in the driver standings and holds a Chase Wild Card spot with two wins.
Kahne says: “The new surface is a real wild card for everyone. If the top lane is really slippery, it will be tough to race up there. I don’t think anyone knows until we get cars on the track. But we were really fast at Bristol in March, so I’m excited to race there again. It’s always a fun place to be.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Bristol: Gordon has earned five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, and his most recent was in August 2002 when he won from the pole. In addition to his victories at the high-banked track, Gordon has accumulated 15 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and five poles in 39 starts at Bristol. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet ranks third in the driver rating category with a score of 99.8. According to NASCAR loop data for the last 15 events at Bristol, Gordon ranks third for green flag speed (114.301 mph) and fourth for fastest laps run (310).
Most recently: Gordon opened last weekend’s Cup event at Michigan International Speedway from 11th and maintained track position through the first three cautions. During the restart on Lap 93 of the 200-lap event, Gordon reported an engine issue and was forced to the garage. The No. 24 team was able to get the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet back on the track and hang on for a 28th-place finish. Gordon now ranks 16th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “It’s about wins for us now. And we have three good tracks for us - Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond (Va.) - to try and get another victory.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet
At Bristol: Johnson has one win, six top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and one pole in 21 starts at Bristol Motor Speedway. Four of his six top-five finishes were earned in the last six races run at the .533-mile oval. According to NASCAR loop data statistics, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet has the seventh-highest driver rating at Bristol (93.2). In the last 15 races at the Tennessee oval, Johnson has run 428 of the fastest laps, ranking him second in that category. He ranks fourth for laps led (709) and laps run in the top 15 (5,331) within that same timeframe.
Most recently: Johnson qualified third at Michigan International Speedway last weekend, but started from the back of the field when the No. 48 team was forced to replace an engine prior to the race. Johnson steadily worked his way through the pack and overtook the lead on Lap 39 of 200. The No. 48 Chevrolet remained around the top 10 before charging to the lead once more on Lap 191. Johnson stretched out his lead and appeared to be heading for his first victory at the Michigan oval, when an engine issue arose. He was forced to the garage and ultimately placed 27th after leading 23 laps. He now ranks fourth in the driver standings.
Johnson says: “For me, the reason I have always focused so hard to collect a lot of points early in the Chase is because Bristol has not been a strong track for me in years past. I have always been concerned about Bristol, and then also Richmond. When you are on a short track, anything can happen. I have watched a lot of guys have miserable nights in Richmond trying to make the Chase. I want to lock in before then, that’s the goal.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
At Bristol: In 25 Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has scored one win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet has an average finishing position of 11.8 and has completed 98.8 percent of all laps he’s attempted (12,365 of 12,513 total) at the short track. He has led 745 laps at the .533-mile oval. According to NASCAR loop data statistics for the last 15 races at Bristol, Earnhardt ranks second for green flag passes (791) and ninth for laps in the top 15 (4,498).
Most recently: Earnhardt qualified 22nd at last weekend’s Cup event at Michigan International Speedway, but opened the race from the rear of the field after an incident during practice forced him into the back up No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt cracked the top 10 by Lap 75 and led twice for a total of 25 laps. He finished fourth at Michigan, marking his tenth top-five finish of the 2012 season. Earnhardt now ranks third in the driver standings.
Earnhardt says: “That was a big deal to me because I had seen those trophies in my house all my life. They were the biggest trophies you could bring home. They were bigger than even the championship trophy. I admired the track for how tough it was; how tenacious the races were; how hard the driving was; and how difficult it was on drivers. It is just such a unique racetrack. It’s one of a kind.”