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Hendrick Motorsports teammates qualify at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kansas –  Hendrick Motorsports will use the final two NASCAR Sprint Cup practice sessions on Saturday at Kansas Speedway to find more speed after its drivers qualified deep in the field on Friday. Jimmie Johnson was the top qualifier among his teammates, recording the 21st position. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 23rd, and Kasey Kahne will roll off the grid 27th. Jeff Gordon, who made contact with the wall during his qualifying run, was scored 43rd; he will go to a backup No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS.

“I was committed,” Gordon said afterward of his lap. “We had been tight, and it wasn’t tight. It felt great coming to the green flag. I was pretty happy with it through (Turns) 3 and 4. And got down into (Turn) 2 and starting picking up the throttle and slowly came around. For a second, I thought I was going to save it.”

Here are some notes for Sunday’s race, which begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN.

FARMERS 85TH ANNIVERSARY: Kahne will drive a specially painted No. 5 Farmers Insurance 85th Anniversary Chevrolet SS this weekend at Kansas Speedway to celebrate the company’s 85th Anniversary and pay tribute to the very first Farmers insured automobile – a 1925 Cadillac Phaeton. Fans can join the celebration by visiting FarmersRacing.com/85years, where they can play a matching game and be entered to win prizes.

1.5-MILE SUCCESS: Kahne has collected nine of his 15 career Cup wins and 15 of his 26 pole positions on tracks one-to-two miles in length. Specifically at 1.5-mile racetracks, there are only eight active drivers who have more career wins than Kahne, who has five.

CONSISTENCY IN KANSAS: Johnson, a two-time winner in Kansas (2008, 2011), owns the series’ best driver rating of 119.5 at the 1.5-mile oval.  He also has only two finishes outside the top 10 (October 2004 and 2006), an average finish of 8.0 and has led 547 laps in 13 previous starts.

HELMET OF HOPE: For the second weekend in a row, Johnson will be drawing for two charities that will be included on his helmet for the Helmet of Hope campaign.  This year’s campaign will run during six Sprint Cup race weekends and began last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The program runs through May 26 and at the completion, 13 charities will find their names on Johnson’s helmet. Beginning in 2008, Helmet of Hope awards a selected charity with a $10,000 grant and more. To date, the program has contributed more than $430,000 to 61 different charities. Click here for more information. 

KANSAS RETURN: Earnhardt did not compete last October at Kansas Speedway after being diagnosed with a concussion following the fall race at Talladega. Earnhardt most recently tested at the Kansas City, Kan., track in August 2012. 

INTERMEDIATE TRACK STATS: In 229 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Earnhardt has recorded six wins, six pole positions, 44 top-five finishes and 90 top-10s. He has a 16.5 average starting position and an average finishing position of 16.6 on these racetracks.

BACK-TO-BACK: Gordon is the only driver to win back-to-back races in the Cup series at Kansas Speedway. Gordon won the inaugural race in 2001 after starting from the outside pole and leading 53 laps. He followed that performance by leading 116 laps en route to his second consecutive victory at the 1.5 mile oval in 2002. 

HENDRICK AT KANSAS: With four victories at Kansas, Hendrick Motorsports ranks tied for first among teams all-time at the 1.5-mile speedway. Johnson and Jeff Gordon each have two victories at Kansas to rank tied for first all-time with two other competitors. Gordon ranks first with eight top-five finishes, while Johnson ranks first with 11 top-10s and 547 laps led at Kansas.

ALL-TIME AT 1.5-MILERS: Johnson and Gordon rank best among drivers all-time in several categories at 1.5-mile racetracks. Johnson leads drivers with 14 career victories at 1.5-mile racetracks, while Gordon ranks third with 11. Gordon can catch second-place Tony Stewart if he wins this weekend at Kansas. Gordon also ranks first in career top-five results with 52, while Johnson has the second-most with 41 top-five finishes. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates rank one-two in top-10 results as well – Gordon is first with 69, and Johnson has 66.

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