Jeff Gordon wins pole position at Loudon
LOUDON, N.H. – Jeff Gordon earned the pole position during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after touring the 1.058-mile oval in 28.53 seconds at roughly 134.911 mph. This marks the second straight pole position for Hendrick Motorsports in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the second of the season for the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.
In 35 Cup races (126 starts) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins, 36 top-five finishes and 57 top-10s. Most recently, Kasey Kahne won at the 1.058-mile track in July and was joined in the top 10 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth), Gordon (sixth) and Jimmie Johnson (seventh).
Sunday’s 300-lap race will be broadcast on television (1 p.m. ET on ESPN) and radio (1 p.m. ET on PRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At New Hampshire: In 17 Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kahne has one win, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s. Kahne collected his win in the most recent event at the track in July after leading 66 of 301 laps. According to NASCAR loop data for the last 15 races at the Loudon track, Kahne ranks fourth for fastest laps run (256), fifth for green-flag passes (806) and is tied for seventh with teammate Gordon for laps led (242). The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet finished sixth in this race last year.
Most recently: Kahne opened last weekend’s Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway from fifth and maintained his hold in the top 10 as the race unfolded. Driving the chassis he used to win May’s 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, he crossed the finish third, matching his best result at Chicago. Kahne was the biggest mover in the driver standings, jumping six spot to now rank fifth.
Kahne says: “It feels really good to go back to New Hampshire during the Chase. The win in July was a big turning point for the team and should give everyone some more confidence this weekend. I think we found a good setup for the car last time, so we should have a good place to start from when we unload.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At New Hampshire: In 35 Cup starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Gordon has three wins, 15 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s. With a score of 109.3, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet has the second-best driver rating at New Hampshire. According to NASCAR loop data for the last 15 races at the 1.058-mile track, Gordon leads drivers in the number of fastest laps run (395), laps in the top 15 (4,033) and quality passes (539).
Most recently: Gordon improved last weekend from a 19th-place starting position to run in the top 10 by Lap 60 of the 300-lap Cup event at Chicagoland Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet ran as high as fifth, but he encountered an unfortunate setback on Lap 187. Gordon reported that the throttle on his No. 24 Chevy stuck slightly and prompted him to collide with the wall in Turn 1. He reported to the garage, but was able to return to the track later in the race and finished 35th.
Gordon says: “I really enjoy racing at New Hampshire. It’s not an easy place to get around, though, with the long straightaways, flat corners and hard braking. Recently, we have led laps, run well and been in position to win. We just need to put ourselves in that position again and capitalize on it.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At New Hampshire: In 21 Cup starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Johnson has three wins, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has an average start of 10.7 and average finish of 9.9 at the 1.058-mile track. According to loop data for the last 15 Cup races at New Hampshire, Johnson has the third-best driver rating with a score of 105.1. He also ranks third in the fastest laps run category (357) and takes second for laps run in the top 15 (3,646).
Most recently: Johnson earned his second career Chicagoland Speedway pole last weekend, driving the same chassis he used to win twice this year. Johnson led a race-high 172 of 267 laps at the 1.5-mile speedway. Late in the race, competitor Brad Keselowski made a debatable exit from pit road and eventual pass that he used to take the lead. Johnson ultimately finished second and now ranks second in the championship standings.
Johnson says: “It’s really important (to qualify well at New Hampshire). You go from qualifying to race strategy, meaning two tires when you take fuel, all to maintain track position. It is so tough to pass there, especially for the lead. We all know how important wins are. You can go from 20th to 10th and that is one thing, but when you get in the top 10, it’s a whole different game. In order to race for the win, you need to have solid qualifying, solid strategy and maintain track position all day long.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
At New Hampshire: In 26 Cup starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has an average start of 16.5 at the 1.058-mile oval and an average finish of 16.2. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, during the last 15 races at the 1.058-mile oval, he has spent 76.2 percent of his laps (3,403 of 4,468 total) running in the top 15 to rank fourth among the competition. During the July race at New Hampshire Earnhardt spent 300 of 301 laps inside the top 15.
Most recently: Earnhardt qualified fourth for last weekend’s 267-lap event at Chicagoland Speedway, but was required to start from the rear of the field after an engine change on Saturday. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet was the biggest mover early in the race, cracking the top 13 by Lap 51. He subsequently gained five spots on pit road during green-flag stops. Earnhardt finished eighth and now ranks seventh in the championship standings.
Earnhardt says: “New Hampshire kind of lends itself to the short track mentality and that style of racing. I enjoy racing at short tracks, have a great track record at all the short tracks we run at. I feel like that’s a bit in my wheelhouse, and this place sort of fits toward that.”