Johnson, Earnhardt locked in Chase after Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. – In an exciting night at Bristol Motor Speedway that featured 13 cautions, the most at the reconfigured short track since 2007, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. secured spots inside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
With just two races left before the playoff field is set, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne improved their cases for a wild card spot finishing third and ninth, respectively.
After the action at Bristol, Johnson now ranks second in the driver standings, while Earnhardt is third. Kahne is the only wild card contender with multiple wins and ranks 11th, while Gordon is 15th.
Here is a breakdown of how each Hendrick Motorsports team fared at Bristol:
Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Ninth.
Points ranking: 11th.
Gearing up: Kahne kicked off night racing at Bristol Motor Speedway by greeting fans with the song “Some Nights” by Fun during driver introductions at the .533-mile oval. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet lined up 12th at Bristol based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Kahne took the lead at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since his career best finish of second in 2007. After opening the 500-lap race from 12th, Kahne quickly moved through the field to take the lead on Lap 108. He was able to lead 41 laps before the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet slipped in oil on the track from an incident that caused the fourth of 13 cautions at Bristol. Crew chief Kenny Francis took advantage of the caution period to have Kahne pit twice to asses and repair the damage to the Chevrolet. While the repairs caused Kahne to drop to 33rd, he was the Lucky Dog recipient on Lap 200 and rejoined his teammates on the lead lap. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet continued to climb through the field and was able recover to finish ninth. He now ranks 11th in the driver standings and is a Chase Wild Card contender with two wins.
Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Third.
Points ranking: 15th
Gearing up: In honor of the partnership between AARP Drive to End Hunger and Zynga, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet chose “International Harvester” by Eric Church as his song during driver introductions at Bristol. Gordon rolled off 11th at the .533-mile oval based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Gordon continued his progress toward a Chase wild card spot with his performance at Bristol Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet wasted no time at the .533-mile track, cracking the top-10 within the first five laps of the 500 lap event. Despite reporting a tight No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon maintained his hold in the top 10 and ran as high as second at the short track before ultimately finishing third. It marked his fifth top-five finish of the season. He now ranks 15th in the driver standings and continues to battle for a spot in the Chase.
Outside the lines: At Bristol, Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet sported a special paint scheme featuring FarmVille characters through a partnership between AARP Drive to End Hunger and social gaming leader Zynga. Today through Sept. 7, FarmVille players can purchase exclusive, limited edition Drive to End Hunger in-game virtual goods to enhance their farming experience while giving back. Click here for images of the No. 24 Chevy.
Social Media Timeou: “Jeff Gordon – ‘Good job guys. Hate we didn’t get that win. Had a car capable of it.’ Alan Gustafson: ‘10-4 we gotta keep bringing it.’ #NASCAR #Team24” from @JeffGordonWeb
Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Second.
Points ranking: Second.
Gearing up: Johnson greeted fans to “Howlin’ For You” by The Black Keys during driver introductions at Bristol. He then lined up in 37th to start the night race, a position based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Johnson continued his strong season, earning his 12th top-five finish of the season. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet climbed from 37th-place starting position to take over the lead on Lap 276. Johnson was caught in a multi-car incident at the beginning of the race with minimal damaged to the No. 48 Chevrolet. Despite the early race issue, Johnson held off teammate Gordon to lead 51 laps total at the short track. He ultimately finished second, locking a spot in the Chase for the ninth time and now ranks second in the driver standings.
Outside the lines: The No. 48 Chevrolet sported a special Dover White paint scheme for the second time this season. Previously, Johnson raced this at Kentucky Speedway on June 30 where he picked up his first career pole at the 1.5-mile track.
Post-race thoughts: “Great night. I wish we could have been one spot better but very solid effort for this team. We had a great strategy and a great car and made a strong show today. Now it’s time to get to work and focus on the 10 weeks.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: 12th.
Points ranking: Third.
Gearing up: Earnhardt greeted fans during driver introductions at Bristol by walking out to “Momma Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. The No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet started 16th at the short track based on his speed during final practice after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Earnhardt overcame pit road penalties to hold on for a 12-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, locking himself into the Chase. Earnhardt started from 16th and was running in the top 20 when he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 97. He recovered to take the lead on Lap 200 and continued to pace the field for 12 laps. Earnhardt was hit with another pit road penalty on Lap 348 when crew chief Steve Letarte called the No. 88 Chevrolet down a closed pit road. The No. 88 team recovered and Earnhardt raced back for the 12-place finish. He now ranks third in the driver standings and is guaranteed a spot in the Chase.
Post-race thoughts: “We had a fast car; the car was so fast starting the race. We made some mistakes that we can’t afford to make often. But I had fun though. I don’t know what the fans thought about the race, but I really enjoyed the race.”