Johnson to start on the pole, teammates in the top 11 at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. – Jimmie Johnson was awarded the pole position for Sunday afternoon’s 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway after rain officially washed out Friday’s qualifying session. This is the 23rd time that a Hendrick Motorsports driver has been awarded the pole position due to qualifying being canceled for rain and the first time it has happened at Pocono.
Joining Johnson inside the top 11 are Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt will roll off from the sixth position, Kahne from seventh and Gordon from 11th as NASCAR determined that Sunday’s starting lineup will be set based on the 2013 owner point standings as a result of practice and qualifying being canceled on Friday.
Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest organization at Pocono with 13 Cup victories. In 58 Cup races (189 starts) at the 2.5-mile racetrack, Hendrick Motorsports has gathered 55 top-five finishes and 98 top-10s. Gordon most recently went to Victory Lane for Hendrick Motorsports at the Tricky Triangle in August 2012. With six victories, Gordon is ranked first among drivers all-time at the Tricky Triangle. Gordon’s 965 laps led are the most among drivers all-time at Pocono.
Coverage of Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET on TNT and MRN. Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet SS
At Pocono: In 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway; Kahne has recorded one win, four top-five finishes and six top-10s. He has two career pole positions at the track and won from the top spot in June 2008 after leading 69 laps. He has completed 99.2 percent of laps attempted and has led 151 laps at the 2.5-mile track. Most recently at Pocono, Kahne finished second in August 2012.
Most recently: Kahne led two laps and finished 23rd at Dover (Del.) International Speedway after being involved in a late-race incident. He now ranks seventh in the driver standings and trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 81 points.
Kahne (On his relationship with crew chief Kenny Francis.): “We’ve had some things thrown at us over the years, and we’ve just always stuck together. At the end of each year, we’ve talked and sometimes he’d be like, ‘Man, do you want me to still be your crew chief’ or ‘Do you want this’ or ‘What are you thinking,’ and we were always up-front with each other. It’s just easy to say that I don’t want anybody different for myself. He’s given me more opportunities to win in the situations we’ve been in than anybody else ever would have. I just have a lot of respect for Kenny Francis. There is no one else I want to work with, and I think he feels the same way right now. That is where we are at. We both feel that we have a team surrounding us that is capable of doing a lot this season.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS
At Pocono: In 40 starts at the Tricky Triangle; Gordon has recorded six wins, 18 top-five finishes, 28 top-10 finishes and two pole positions. Gordon is also the track’s all-time leader in two categories; wins (six) and laps led (965).
Most recently: Gordon started 20th in the 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup event last weekend at Dover International Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS ran inside the top 15 for much of the afternoon and utilized some late-race pit strategy to get into the top-five, ultimately finishing third. With the top-five finish, Gordon tied Hall of Famer David Pearson for third all-time in top-five finishes with 301. He now sits 11th in the driver standings, 10 points behind 10th.
Gordon (On Pocono.): “Pocono is a unique track. You can go out there thinking you’re pushing hard and be a second off the pace. It’s a track where a lot of speed can be lost or gained based on how hard you push it. Finding the edge and the limits is a little bit tougher on such a big racetrack with three unique corners.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS
At Pocono: Johnson swept the 2004 races at Pocono and led a combined 250 laps in the process. To accompany the two victories, Johnson has recorded nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s. In addition, he has run 2,376 laps inside the top 15 in the previous 16 races at Pocono, ranking him first overall in NASCAR’s loop data statistics.
Most recently: Johnson rolled off from the 24th position last weekend at Dover International Speedway and wasted little time moving towards the front. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS moved into the lead for the first time just past the half-way point and remained out front for 143 laps. However, a pass-through penalty for jumping a restart with 20 laps to go knocked Johnson off the lead lap, ultimately leading to a 17th-place finish. He now holds a 30-point lead in the driver standings.
Johnson (On Pocono.): “I like Pocono. I’m interested to see how the new surface acts going back. I think it went really well for all of us after the repave and it should only be better this time. I’m also excited to shift again up there.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
At Pocono: In 26 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway; Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has completed 96.9 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (4,796 laps of 4,947 total). The 38-year-old driver led laps in both Pocono races in 2012 and has led a total of 151 laps at the 2.5-mile track.
Most recently: Earnhardt scored his eighth top-10 finish of the 2013 season last weekend at Dover International Speedway. With the top-10 finish, the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS ties Brad Keselowski and teammate Jimmie Johnson for the league lead in top-10s with eight. He remains sixth in the championship standings and trails leader Johnson by 75 points.
Earnhardt (On Pocono.): “We are looking forward to getting back to Pocono and getting on the track and practicing. I’m looking forward to seeing where our speed is at compared to last year. We had a pretty good car, and I felt like we had a real fast car for both races. I’m just ready to see what we’ve got. It should be a good weekend.”