Gordon, Kahne, Johnson to start in top 11 at Dover
DOVER, Del. – Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson earned starting spots inside the top 11 during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Dover International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 25th in his No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet.
In 57 Cup events (179 starts) at Dover, Hendrick Motorsports has 14 wins, 45 top-five finishes and 77 top-10s. Johnson, who won most recently at the one-mile oval, has seven career wins at Dover and ranks tied for first all-time at the track with Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty. Gordon has contributed another four wins to Hendrick Motorsports’ total.
Sunday’s 400-lap race will be broadcast on television (1 p.m. ET on ESPN) and radio (1 p.m. ET on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Dover: Kahne has one top-five finish, five top-10s and has led 88 laps in 17 Cup starts at Dover International Speedway. According to NASCAR loop data, he ranks eighth among active drivers for fastest laps run with 223 during the last 15 races at Dover. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet earned his best finish of fourth at the Monster Mile in this race last year after starting ninth. Kahne has seven starts inside the top 10 at the one-mile concrete oval and lined up fourth in this race last May.
Most recently: Kahne opened last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway from the sixth position and climbed to take second on Lap 71. Kahne and teammate Johnson were the only drivers to run all 300 laps at Loudon in the top 15. On the final restart, Kahne maintained his footing in the top five, climbing as high as fourth, before finishing fifth at the 1.058-mile oval. He ranks fifth in the championship standings.
Kahne says: “I’ve always liked going to Dover. It’s a tough track, and you carry a lot of speed into the corners. We did really well here last fall and worked hard for a top-10 in the spring. The team has a lot of consistency right now, and we all want to keep that up.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Dover: In 39 starts at the Delaware track, Gordon has four wins, 14 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and four pole positions. According to NASCAR loop data from the past 15 races at Dover, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet has run 4,276 laps in the top-15, ranking him seventh among active drivers. He also ranks seventh for average green-flag speed (143.287 mph). Gordon’s driver rating of 91.1 ranks him ninth at the Monster Mile during the same timeframe.
Most recently: Gordon opened last weekend’s Cup event at New Hampshire from the pole position and immediately took the lead around the 1.058-mile oval. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet experienced a handling issue on the Lap 133 restart and slipped to 10th. The caution flag was waved with 28 laps to go for debris on the racetrack, and Gordon stayed on the track with the rest of the leaders. On the restart, Gordon seized third and maintained his footing to cross the finish line in the same position. He ranks 12th in the championship standings.
Gordon says: “I have no doubt that we can get back into this. We’re a strong team with fast race cars, but we have to put a string of good results together. If we do that, then there is no telling how far we can move up in the point standings.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
At Dover: Johnson has earned seven wins, 10 top-five finishes, 15 top-10s and five pole positions in 20 starts at Dover. He visited Victory Lane at the Monster Mile earlier this season on June 3 after starting from second. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet has the top driver rating at Dover with a 120.6. According to NASCAR loop data for the last 15 races at the mile-long track, Johnson ranks first in fastest laps (840), laps led (1,880) and laps in the top 15 (5,170).
Most recently: Johnson opened the 300-lap even at Loudon last weekend from 20th and improved to 11th by Lap 33. He cracked the top five by Lap 105, and the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet set his sights on leader Denny Hamlin by Lap 165. Johnson ran 100 percent of the race at the Magic Mile in the top 15, but was unable to catch the leader. He finished second, but moved into first in the championship standings, leading the closest competitor by one point.
Johnson says: “The intensity you have to drive that track (Dover) with. It really fits my style. It’s the closest track we have to being airborne each lap with the drop-off into Turns 1 and 3. It’s just cool you’ve got to bring your big-boy pants every lap there, and I love it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Dover: In 25 Cup starts at Dover International Speedway, Earnhardt has one win, five top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He has led 368 laps and completed 99 percent of all laps he’s attempted (9,907 of 10,004 total) at the Monster Mile. Earnhardt’s Sprint Cup win at Dover happened Sept. 23, 2001. The victory, which came in the first Cup race following Sept. 11, was the second of his sophomore season. Earnhardt displayed the American flag during his victory lap to pay tribute to the victims. In that race he started third and led 193 laps.
Most recently: Earnhardt climbed from his 14th starting spot last weekend at Loudon to run ninth when the yellow flag was waved for a competition caution on Lap 40. Crew chief Steve Letarte called Earnhardt into the pits for two right-side tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment, but he drove into the stall too deep and rolled over the tire changer gun hose which delayed the stop. The lengthy stop meant Earnhardt returned to the track running 20th. He struggled to gain track position at the 1.058-mile track, but was able to crack the top 10 when green-flag stops were cycling through with 45 laps to go. He battled to maintain his position, but ultimately finished 13th at New Hampshire. He ranks seventh in the championship standings.
Earnhardt says: “Getting into Turn 3 can be difficult. There are some bumps that the rear tires sort of skate across. It can be a challenge to get the car to turn in the middle of the corner. Cars kind of slide the back tires getting in the corner, and then they kind of push through the center at both ends of the racetrack. That really doesn’t show up until race time.”