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Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt finish in top 17 at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished inside the top 17 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, despite two major on-track incidents and a lengthy rain delay that pushed the close of the 188-lap event well into dusk. Johnson finished fifth, Gordon 11th and Earnhardt 17th, while their Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne was scored 42nd after being involved in the first multi-car incident.

Here is a recap of the race by team:

Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 42nd.
Standings: Sixth.
Recap: Kasey Kahne posted the 10th-fastest speed during the first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session on Friday, and as a result earned that starting spot for Sunday’s event after qualifying was canceled for rainfall on Saturday. After starting 10th on Sunday, Kahne improved to run eighth within the first two laps. Spotter Kevin Hamlin coached Kahne through the field, and by Lap 8 Kahne was running third behind teammate Jimmie Johnson. When the first caution flag waved on Lap 23, Kahne reported his No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS was strong so crew chief Kenny Francis called for a new set of right-side tires and fuel during the ensuing pit stop. Kahne lined up second for the Lap 29 restart ahead of third-place Johnson and fourth-place Jeff Gordon. As the race unfolded, Kahne maintained his position inside the top five and was running third when he received contact from behind. He was collected in a 16-car incident and sidelined for the remainder of the 188-lap event. Uninjured, Kahne talked with the media afterward, “Yeah, I’m all right. I felt like I had a really fast Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS. I just kind of got shot through the center there, just a lot of momentum coming from behind. I felt the No. 18 pushing me, and next thing I know I was spinning.  You just can’t push with these cars.”

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 IMRON Elite Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 11th.
Standings: 14th.
Recap: Jeff Gordon lined up ninth for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race after rainfall canceled Saturday’s qualifying session and the starting grid was set according to the first practice on Friday. Rain loomed on the horizon on Sunday, and crew chief Alan Gustafson radioed to Gordon, “All right bud, that rain’s close. Won’t be long before it gets us. Let’s do it today.” Gordon was happy with his No. 24 IMRON Elite Chevrolet SS, so Gustafson opted for right-side tires and fuel during the Lap 23 caution period. When the field restarted on Lap 29, Gordon was running fourth and held his position inside the top 10 despite three-wide racing action around the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The racing intensified on Lap 43, when a multi-car incident unfolded in Turn 1. Gordon’s No. 24 Chevy SS sustained damage to the front outer fenders. Within a lap, Gordon reported he had blown a tire. Gustafson utilized multiple stops during the caution period to address the damage and keep Gordon on the lead lap. On the Lap 51 restart, Gordon was 32nd and opted to hang in the back initially. Gordon debated working with Clint Bowyer in the No. 15 car to work his way to the front when the time arose. Near the halfway point, green-flag stops began and Gordon, a six-time Talladega race winner, led one lap before hitting pit road himself on Lap 93. After green-flag stops, Gordon returned to run 30th with the skies darkening overhead. He improved to 28th, but still one lap down, when NASCAR officials waved the yellow flag for rainfall on the racetrack. On Lap 126, the red flag replaced the yellow one and teams waited for racing action to resume. Engines fired at 6:52 p.m. ET after a three hour, 36 minute rain delay. After quick pit stops under the caution flag, Gordon restarted 29th for the restart with 50 laps to go. Teams kept one eye on the radar as the race progressed, and Gordon continued his fight for the Lucky Dog position. The caution flag with 15 laps to go was a welcome sign for Gordon, who was the Lucky Dog recipient. Low on fuel, he stopped for a quick splash during the yellow flag and lined up 24th for the restart with 10 laps to go. He was trying to make up ground when he was collected in a multi-car incident four laps later. He lined up 15th for the only scheduled green-white-checkered flag attempt after pitting for fresh tires, fuel and an overall clean-up of his No. 24 Chevy SS. He improved during the final three laps to finish 11th.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Fifth.
Standings: First.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson opened Sunday’s race inside the top 10 after posting the eighth-fastest time during Friday’s first practice session. Qualifying was canceled due to rainfall on Saturday so the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS was slotted in the eighth starting spot. After the green flag first dropped on Sunday, Johnson steered his Chevy into second by Lap 5 with teammate Kasey Kahne in tow. Twenty laps later, Johnson hit pit road for right-side tires, fuel and a slight chassis adjustment to alleviate a loose-handling condition. He lined up third for the Lap 29 restart and moved into second, which is where Johnson was running when the multi-car incident unfolded on Lap 43. Johnson restarted on the outside line in second for the Lap 52 restart and held that position for four circuits when he lost momentum and slipped to seventh. The driver of the No. 48 Chevy SS held steady inside the top 10, running most of the ensuing laps from that second spot. Johnson took the lead on Lap 117 and paced the field for four laps before getting caught outside the draft. He slipped to eighth when NASCAR officials waved the caution flag on Lap 122 for rainfall on the racetrack. On Lap 126, the red flag replaced the yellow one and teams waited for racing action to resume. Engines fired at 6:52 p.m. ET after a three hour, 36 minute rain delay. Johnson stopped for two tires and fuel when pit road opened after the rain delay and lined up 11th for the restart after those stops cycled through. The threat of rain still wasn’t gone so Johnson immediately began his forward march, climbing to third within 10 laps. As the laps ticked down, Johnson raced within the top 10, sometimes losing the momentum and sometimes benefiting from it. He moved into the lead when the caution flag was waved with 15 laps to go. “I didn’t realize how dark it was out here till the pace car turned its lights on,” Johnson radioed to his team during the yellow flag period. Coming to the green flag with 10 laps to go, Johnson led the field from the inside lane. Johnson paced the field for two laps before having to contend with the momentum from the pack. A second multi-car incident unfolded with six laps to go, and Johnson was running third. He lined up third when the field reset for the only scheduled green-white-checkered flag attempt. On the drop of the green flag, Johnson pursued the bottom line and chased then-leader Matt Kenseth, but was unable to get that momentum to win at the 2.66-mile racetrack. He crossed the line fifth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 17th.
Standings: Third.
Recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. started Sunday’s race from 12th – a position he earned by posting the 12th-fastest time during the first practice session on Friday after qualifying on Saturday was canceled for rainfall. After the green flag dropped on Sunday, the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS raced within the pack, improving to 10th on Lap 8 and then slipping to 16th by Lap 19. On Lap 20, Earnhardt received contact from another competitor and sustained damage to the left-rear quarter panel so he made an unscheduled pit stop. On pit road, Earnhardt went one lap down, and used an ensuing caution period on Lap 22 to further address the damage. He returned to race at the back of the pack when the field reset on Lap 29, but was in Lucky Dog position when a multi-car incident unfolded 12 laps later.  Earnhardt drove through the scuffle unscathed and restarted 23rd when the field went green again on Lap 52. Listening to spotter TJ Majors, Earnhardt marched his way through the field and was running third by Lap 94, the halfway point. Earnhardt was running ninth when NASCAR officials waved the caution flag on Lap 122 for rainfall on the racetrack. Crew chief Steve Letarte had scheduled the next pit stop for fuel around Lap 136, so Earnhardt feathered the throttle during the yellow-flag period. On Lap 126, the red flag replaced the yellow one and teams waited for racing action to resume. Engines fired at 6:52 p.m. ET after a three hour, 36 minute rain delay. When it was permitted, Earnhardt made a pit stop for four tires and fuel under the yellow flag with 61 laps to go. He lined up 16th when the field went back to green-flag racing. Rain remained a threat in the area, and Earnhardt hovered around 16th as the race continued. He climbed to 10th by Lap 173 when the caution flag was waved. The driver of the No. 88 Chevy SS lined up 10th when the green flag dropped with 10 laps to go and moved into ninth within the first lap. He lined up seventh for the only scheduled green-white-checkered flag attempt. Momentum wasn’t on Earnhardt’s side as the final three laps ticked down, and he crossed the finish line 17th.

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