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Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson inside top eight, teammates in top 23 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kasey Kahne was the top qualifier among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup session at Daytona International Speedway. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet SS will roll off the grid fourth, marking his third straight points-paying event at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in which he’s started inside the top 10.

Jimmie Johnson will open the race eighth, his eighth straight top-10 starting spot in points-paying events at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 16th, while Jeff Gordon will start Saturday’s race from the 23rd position.

In 59 points-paying events (190 starts) at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports has achieved 11 wins, 46 top-five finishes, 82 top-10s and has led 1,428 laps. Most recently, Johnson won his second Daytona 500 crown and teammate Earnhardt scored runner-up honors earlier this year. The last time Hendrick Motorsports swept both Daytona events was 1986 when Geoff Bodine won the Daytona 500 and Tim Richmond went to Victory Lane in the July event.

Coverage of Saturday’s race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT and MRN. Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Fourth.
At Daytona: In 2010, Kahne was able to reach Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway with a win in the second Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying race run prior to the Daytona 500. In 19 points-paying starts at Daytona, Kahne has recorded two top-five finishes and seven top-10s, including a runner-up result in the July 2010 race.
Most recently: Most recently, Kahne scored an 11th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race event held at Kentucky Speedway last weekend. He remains 11th in the driver standings and is one point outside of 10th.
Kahne (On being a Hendrick Motorsports driver.): “You don’t have to worry about so many things. I just focus on myself, communicating with the team and how we can all pull together and win. We have everything it takes to win, and I get to drive every week. As a driver, you don’t get that very often. (Team owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick gives all of us that opportunity. There is nothing I have even asked for because there is more than enough.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 23rd.
At Daytona: In 41 starts at Daytona International Speedway, Gordon has recorded six wins, 12 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s, 621 laps led and ranks tied for fifth on the 2.5-mile superspeedway’s all-time wins list. Gordon is a three-time winner of the 400-mile summer event at Daytona.
Most recently: Gordon scored his second consecutive top-10 finish last weekend when he took eighth at Kentucky Speedway. With the finish, Gordon improved to 12th in the driver standings, two points out of 10th with nine races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon (On the unknowns of restrictor-plate racing.): “The only unknown is when that big wreck is going to happen and what is going to cause it. Sometimes it happens when you least expect it, but you can be assured that when you get a full group of cars in the closing laps racing for a win, it’s going to happen. It’s just whether or not you get caught up in it or not.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Eighth.
At Daytona: In 23 Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway, Johnson has earned two wins, seven top-five finishes, 10 top-10s, two pole positions and has an average start of 9.2. 
Most recently: Johnson led a race-high 182 laps and recorded his series-leading 11th top-10 finish last weekend at Kentucky Speedway, with a ninth-place result. With the finish, Johnson remains first in the driver standings, 38 points ahead of second-place Carl Edwards. 
Johnson (On the type of racing you can expect at Daytona.): “It’s a shorter race and at night, so it will carry through any handling issues that may exist. I really feel like the vehicle, itself, at Daytona, we can’t get away from one another and the side-drafting is so big that it created some of the racing we saw in February. I thought Talladega (Ala.) was much more exciting due to the fact the track was wider and, when somebody would try to side-draft you, you could move away from them and get away and not let it have that big of an effect. That is a percentage of it, but people underestimate the driver’s desire to finish at the time. There are a lot of times we are running single file because we just want to get 350 miles in of a 400-mile race before you crash. You work too hard to go down there and crash 10 or 15 laps into the race. A lot of times, the single-file racing is just due to the drivers being patient.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 16th.
At Daytona: In 27 Sprint Cup starts at Daytona, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 15 top-10s and has led 396 laps. Earnhardt notched his first pole position at the 2.5-mile superspeedway during 2011 Daytona 500 qualifying. He averages a starting position of 11.1 and a finish of 14th in points-paying events at Daytona. Earnhardt has finished all but three Cup events at the 2.5-mile superspeedway and is the 2001 winner of the 400-mile event.
Most recently: Earnhardt captured his first pole of the 2013 season last weekend at Kentucky Speedway setting a new track record with a lap of 29.406 seconds (183.636 mph). After leading 10 laps, Earnhardt brought the No. 88 Chevrolet SS home with a 12th-place finish and currently ranks sixth in the in the driver standings. He trails leader Johnson by 98 points
Earnhardt (On Daytona.): “I really enjoy racing at Daytona. I’m really excited about what the racing is going to be like. We saw a unique way the race played out at Daytona for the 500. I’m interested to go back and see what, if any differences there are or if we have a similar race. I love the racetrack and love going down there so I look forward to it.”

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