Hendrick Motorsports teammates qualify in top 28 at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Jimmie Johnson scored the 18th starting spot to lead his Hendrick Motorsports teammates during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Watkins Glen International. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, qualified during the fifth group along with teammate Kasey Kahne, who earned the 19th starting spot. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon made their attempts during the sixth group and will line up 25th and 28th, respectively.
In 27 races (92 starts) at Watkins Glen, Hendrick Motorsports has six wins, 18 top-five finishes and 33 top-10s. Gordon ranks second on the all-time win list at WGI with four victories. Gordon earned Hendrick Motorsports’ most recent victory at the road course when he won the 2001 event.
Coverage of Sunday’s race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN and MRN. Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
At Watkins Glen: In nine Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen International, Kahne has three top-15 finishes. He has completed every lap that he has attempted at the 2.45-mile road course (814 laps total). The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS has two top-10 starts at the Glen, including an outside pole position in 2006. Kahne earned his best result at Watkins Glen last year when he crossed the finish line 13th.
Most Recently: Kahne drove the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS to Victory Lane on Aug. 4 at Pocono Raceway after starting from the 18th position and leading 66 laps. With his second win of the 2013 season, Kahne improves one position to eighth in the driver standings. He trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 160 points and fifth-place teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 44 points.
Kahne (On gaining more confidence after winning last weekend at Pocono Raceway.): “It gives me confidence and gives the whole team confidence – Kenny (Francis, crew chief), the pit crew guys and everybody that’s part of it. It closes the gap. If we finish in the top 10 and get into the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup), it will be closer to Matt (Kenseth) and Jimmie (Johnson) who already have four wins so I think wins are key for sure. Then just for our points, I mean the Chase is what it’s all about in NASCAR. You need to make it for the sponsors and for the teams. We’ve been right there on the edge with kind of the way our summer went so it was nice to get two wins. It gives us much more hope going in. We’ll just start a lot closer.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
At Watkins Glen: In 20 starts at Watkins Glen International, Gordon has recorded four wins, two pole positions, six top-five finishes and nine top-10s. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS has also led a total of 233 laps at the 2.45-mile track, which ranks him first on the track’s all-time lap leaders list. Gordon’s first victory at Watkins Glen in 1997 kicked off a record-setting streak of six consecutive wins on the road courses of Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and Watkins Glen.
Most Recently: Gordon began the 400-mile event at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 4 from the 22nd position and came home with the second-place finish behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. With his ninth top-10 result of the 2013 season, Gordon improved one position to ninth in the driver standings. He is now eight points ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart with five races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase.
Gordon (On the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS at Watkins Glen and what his expectations are for the race.): “I expect it to be an exciting race, especially the restarts. Like we’ve seen recently on the road courses, the double-file restarts should be wild and crazy. The new Chevy SS has a lot of downforce and drag which helps you get into the braking zones, so I expect the lap times to be quicker here this weekend compared to years past. But the faster you’re going, the more ‘on edge’ you are with the car and the tires.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
At Watkins Glen: In 11 starts at Watkins Glen International, Johnson has scored four top-five finishes, six top-10s and one pole position. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS also has the fifth-best driver rating at the 2.45-mile track with a rating of 102 percent. Watkins Glen is one of only five tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule where Johnson has yet to visit Victory Lane.
Most Recently: Johnson started the Aug. 4 event at Pocono Raceway from the pole position after recording a track record lap of 49.819 seconds at roughly 180.654 mph during Friday’s qualifying session. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS led 43 laps, but ultimately had to rebound from a flat-tire to earn the 13th-place finish. Johnson now leads second-place Clint Bowyer by 77 points in the driver standings with five races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Johnson can become the first driver to clinch his spot in the Chase if he leaves Watkins Glen with a 193-point lead over the 11th-place driver. Tony Stewart currently ranks 11th and trails Johnson by 178 points.
Johnson (on the differences between Watkins Glen and Sonoma): “Really the speed. Watkins Glen is a much more ‘flowy’ racetrack. The speeds are a lot higher not only on the straightaways but through the corners, as well. Downforce, brakes – those come into play a lot more than what we see at Sonoma.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
At Watkins Glen: In 13 starts at Watkins Glen International, Earnhardt has recorded two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He has completed 92 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (1,080 laps of 1,174 total). The 38-year-old driver has led 46 laps there.
Most Recently: After finishing fifth last weekend at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt remains fifth in the championship standings. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 116 points with five races remaining until the 12-car field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Johnson and Earnhardt are the only two drivers who have remained inside the top 10 in points for the first 21 races of the season.
Earnhardt (On racing at Watkins Glen.): “At Watkins Glen, we’ve got long straightaways and then a 90-degree corner, then a straightaway and another corner. If you make a mistake in a corner, you still can reset the car and get everything figured out to make something out of the rest of the lap. Even sometimes you can do well enough to make up for your mistake and still put down a good time. It is fast there. The tough part is in the chicane and through the carousel. I don’t know if I go through that thing the same way twice, but you try to go through it as fast as you can.”