FORT WORTH, Texas – Jimmie Johnson earned his first pole position at Texas Motor Speedway and his second consecutive pole this season when he took the top starting spot during qualifying on Nov. 2. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet also won the pole position at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last weekend. Three of the four poles earned by Johnson this season have come on 1.5-mile tracks.
Kasey Kahne qualifed 13th in his No. 5 Great Clips/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet. Gordon and Earnhardt will line up 16th and 19th, respectively.
In 23 races (93 starts) at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports has three wins, 22 top-five finishes and 40 top-10s. Johnson and Gordon rank tied for second with eight top-five finishes at the 1.5-mile track among drivers all-time at Texas. Johnson also ranks tied for second with 13 top-10s. Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt rank tied for first all-time with two pole positions.
With Johnson’s win at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, Chevrolet clinched its 10th consecutive manufacturer’s championship. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers contributed to manufacturers’ points with a combined eight wins this season. Johnson earned four, Kahne contributed two, while Earnhardt and Gordon added one each.
Sunday’s race at Texas will be broadcast on television (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) and radio (2 p.m. on PRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Great Clips/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet
At Texas: Kahne earned his win at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2006, after starting from the pole position and leading 63 laps. The driver of the No. 5 Great Clips/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet also has four top-five finishes and five top-10s in 16 Cup starts at the Texas oval. Kahne ranks eighth with 200 fastest laps run at Texas during the last seven seasons according to NASCAR loop data. He also ranks eighth for green-flag passes with 1,055 during the same period. Kahne scored a seventh-place result in his most recent start at the track in April and crossed the line third one year ago.
Most recently: Kahne opened last Sunday’s 500-lap Cup event at Martinsville Speedway from 15th and quickly climbed through the field to run in the top 10 by the first caution on Lap 46. Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis worked on the handling of the No. 5 Chevy as the race unfolded and maintained footing in the top 10. Kahne started to lose grip on the track as the race wound down, but held on to finish third. He now ranks fourth in the championship standings.
Kahne says: “We got our first top-10 of the year at Texas, and it started a great streak for the team. I always love coming to this track. It’s fast with a lot of room to move around and race. I think that really fits my style and gives us a good chance to win.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Texas: In 23 Cup starts at the Lone Star State track, Gordon has earned one win, eight top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and two pole positions. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has a driver rating of 91.3, ranking him ninth among active drivers in the last 15 races at Texas. According to NASCAR loop data from the same timeframe, Gordon ranks sixth for fastest laps run (251) and eighth for laps run in the top 15 (3,089). In April, Gordon scored up a fourth-place result at Texas and finished sixth in this race one year ago.
Most recently: Gordon quickly rose through the field in the opening laps last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, running second by Lap 35 and passing teammate Johnson for the lead on Lap 67. Gordon began to struggle with a loose-handling condition on his No. 24 Chevrolet. He was in a position to race for the win after the final restart with four laps to go, but ultimately finished seventh. Gordon now ranks sixth in the championship standings.
Gordon says: “A lot has changed since April, and the setups are constantly evolving. But I’m looking forward to this weekend’s race because of how we ran in that race and because of what we’ve learned since then.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At Texas: Johnson has earned one win, eight top five-finishes and 13 top-10s in 18 Cup starts at the Texas oval. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet owns an average finish of 9.7, and has only finished outside the top 15 twice in his career at the intermediate track. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Johnson’s driver rating of 100.6 ranks him fourth among active drivers at Texas in the last 15 races. Johnson took runner-up honors at the Lone Star State track in April.
Most recently: Johnson lined up from the pole position for Sunday’s Cup race at Martinsville and led the first 67 laps of the 500-lap event. Johnson maintained his footing in the top 10, often battling teammate Gordon for the lead. Johnson took advantage of his pit stall location at the end of pit road to maintain his track position during pit stops. He took the lead with 14 laps to go and held on to first-place through the final restart. Johnson led 191 laps en route to his seventh trip to Victory Lane at Martinsville and now leads the championship standings.
Johnson says: “It’s (Texas Motor Speedway) a little bit older, so we have a higher tire wear. Most cases, I don’t want to say you’ll never take two, but four tires really makes a big difference there. We’ll race from the line to the wall, something we weren’t able to see at Kansas. This new asphalt we have at places like Charlotte, Michigan, Kansas, Phoenix, it doesn’t wear the tire, and the car gets really nervous. There’s a lot of grip. When you get close to the edge of traction, the car gets nervous and starts wandering around a little bit and then spins out on you. Texas doesn’t have that feeling. You can actually slide the car, drift it around. It’s really just the interaction between the tire and the surface itself. Texas, although it’s fast and plenty challenging, you can at least drift it a little bit and not get in trouble.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Texas: Earnhardt earned the first Sprint Cup victory of his career at the Texas oval on April 2, 2000. Including his win, the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet has earned three top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and two pole positions in 20 Cup starts at Texas Motor Speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics for the last 15 races at the 1.5-mile oval, Earnhardt’s driver rating of 92.8 ranks him eighth among active drivers at Texas. He ranks second for laps run in the top 15 (3,930 of 5,020) and 10th for fastest laps run (172) in that same timeframe. Earnhardt finished 10th during the Cup event at the Fort Worth oval in April, and he earned a seventh-place result in this race last year.
Most recently: Earnhardt ran quietly in the top 10 during the Cup event at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 28. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet improved from a 20th-place starting position to crack the top 10 by Lap 27. Earnhardt ran as high as third during the 500-lap event at Martinsville and maintained his footing in the top 10 as the event unfolded. He was involved in a late-race incident with another competitor that caused him to lose track position. Earnhardt ultimately was scored 21st and ranks 12th in the championship standings.