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Hendrick Motorsports off to strong start in 2013

CONCORD, N.C.—Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have combined to give Hendrick Motorsports a solid start to the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.  Driving the new Gen-6 Chevrolet SS race car, Hendrick Motorsports has two victories in the first five races, including the Daytona 500, and its teammates have averaged an overall average finish of 11.55. 

Here are some other statistics and notable moments five races into 2013:

NEW LEADER: Earnhardt sits atop the driver standings for the first time this season and leads defending series champion Brad Keselowski by 12 points. This is the first time Earnhardt has led the driver standings in back-to-back seasons, and he is joined inside the top 10 by teammates Johnson (third) and Kahne (seventh). 

LAP LEADERS: Five races into the year, all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers rank inside the top 10 for most laps led. Kahne is tied for first with 223 laps, while Gordon ranks seventh with 97 laps.  Johnson is eighth with 84 laps, and Earnhardt, who has paced the field for 47 circuits this season, ranks 10th.

MR. CONSISTENCY: Earnhardt has recorded six consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to his 10th-place result in the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This year, he is tied for the lead with Keselowski for most laps completed (1,483) and ranks first in laps run on the lead lap with 1,468 (98.99 percent). 

DRIVER RATINGS: Johnson leads the Cup competition with a driver rating of 110.2. Kahne is fourth (103.6), Earnhardt is sixth (102.2) and Gordon is 13th (87.0). The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

FASTEST LAPS: Kahne ranks first among drivers with 149 fastest laps turned this season, while Johnson is fifth with 72 circuits. Gordon is tied for 10th (49), and Earnhardt holds 12th (46).

STARTING TOWARDS THE FRONT: Kahne, Johnson, and Gordon all rank inside the top five for average starting position in the 2013 season. Kahne sits second with an average starting position of 6.0, while Johnson is fourth (9.2) and Gordon is fifth (9.4). Also, for the second time in three years Gordon qualified the No. 24 Chevy on the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500.

ELITE COMPANY: Johnson won the Daytona 500 in his 400th Sprint Cup Series start, joining Dave Marcis and Hall of Famers Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers to win in the milestone start. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS has two Daytona 500 trophies to his name. He previously won The Great American Race in 2006.

CHEVY SS FIRST: Johnson’s Daytona 500 victory was not only a big win for himself, but also a first for Chevrolet’s new Gen-6 design in a points paying race. This is the second time Hendrick Motorsports went to Victory Lane in a new body style first for the manufacturer. Previously, the organization won the first race with the Chevrolet Impala (Car of Tomorrow) body style at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on March 25, 2007. 

FOUR IN A ROW: With the ninth-place result in Phoenix, Gordon now has finished inside the top-10 four consecutive times in the spring race in “The Valley of the Sun.” The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS has an average finish of 11.4 at the one-mile oval with 10 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s during his career.

BRISTOL VICTOR: Kahne reached Victory Lane for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17 after leading 109 laps. He steered the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS toward the front throughout the afternoon, running all 500 laps inside the top 15 and scoring an average running position of 2.374. 

BRING IN THE CLOSER: Earnhardt Jr. has gained the most positions of all drivers in the final 10 percent of each race (26 total) to lead all Cup contenders in this category. That’s an average of 5.2 positions gained per race. Most recently, Earnhardt rallied from 18th position with 10 laps to go at Auto Club Speedway to record his second runner-up finish of the 2013 season on March 24. 

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