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Hendrick Motorsports trio qualifies in top 15 at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon earned starting spots inside the top 15 during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson will start from the third position, Earnhardt from seventh and Gordon from 13th. Teammate Kasey Kahne will roll off from the 31st position.

In 59 races (190 starts) at Michigan, Hendrick Motorsports has six wins, 44 top-five finishes and 80 top-10s. Gordon ranks tied for first among active, full-time drivers with 18 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. He also leads active drivers with five pole positions.

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 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
31st.
Most recently: Kahne finished 34th at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 11 after being involved in a multi-car incident. He ranks 12th in the driver standings and trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by 186 points with just four races remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At Michigan: In 19 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway, Kahne has one win, seven top-five finishes, eight top-10s and has led 63 laps. He has two pole positions at the two-mile oval and won from the top starting spot in June 2006. Kahne’s average start there is 10.8, and his average finish is 16.9. Most recently in June at Michigan, Kahne led 14 laps and was leading when his right-front tire blew that resulted in him making contact with the Turn 2 wall. The incident ended Kahne’s day, and he was credited with a 38th-place finish.
Kahne (On returning to Michigan.): “We’ve been fast at Michigan a lot over the years. In June, we were really good there and had a big lead. When we had a right-front tire problem that was just kind of bad luck. It had nothing to do with what we were doing as far as setup goes. I feel like we’ll go back and be really fast again. Our teammates are going to be really good there also, and I think any one of us could’ve won the first Michigan race but we all had bad luck. It was tough on Hendrick Motorsports, but we had super-fast cars and when we go back the second time hopefully one of us gets the win.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Standox Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
13th.
Most recently: Gordon lined up from the 28th position at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 11 and was involved in an incident that sent the No. 24 Chevrolet SS to the garage for repairs 26 laps into the event. After returning to the track, Gordon was able to improve six positions and record the 36th-place finish. He ranks 13th in the driver standings, 15 points out of 12th.
At Michigan: In 41 career Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway, Gordon has recorded two wins, 18 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. He also has led 954 laps and has earned five pole positions, the most of any active driver at the two-mile oval. Gordon (On returning to Michigan.): “I feel like we’ve learned some things recently that will really help our performance in qualifying as well as the race. I was pretty happy with my car when the race started here in June. Hopefully, we have a strong car again. And hopefully we’ll be around at the end to battle for the win.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
Third.
Most recently: Johnson lined up from the 18th position for the Aug. 11 event Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Surviving two late-race cautions, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS was able to come home with an eighth-place finish and clinch a spot in the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Johnson, the points leader, retains his streak as the only driver to have qualified for the Chase every year since its inception in 2004.
At Michigan:  In 23 Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway, Johnson has scored four top-five finishes, nine top-10s and has led 583 laps. Michigan is one of only five tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule where Johnson has yet to visit Victory Lane. 
Johnson (On winning at Michigan): “I have done everything but win there. I have thought many times that day was the day and stuff happens. When we win there – I know we are going to win there – when we do, it’s going to be a very enjoyable Victory Lane and I hope it comes soon.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet SS
Qualified:
Seventh.
Most recently: Earnhardt rolled off from the 25th position and was involved in an incident with less than 10 laps remaining at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 11. Upon returning to the track, Earnhardt was able to improve three positions and come home with a 30th-place finish. He currently ranks sixth in the championship standings. He has a 47 point lead over the 11th-place driver with four races remaining until the 12-car field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At Michigan: In 28 Cup starts at Michigan, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, two pole positions, six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. He has completed 98 percent of all laps he’s attempted (5,383 laps of 5,495 total) and led 327 laps.
Earnhardt (On his approach to Michigan International Speedway.): “I’m looking forward to getting back to Michigan. It’s a track where we always seem to have good speed. We led a bunch of laps the last time we were there and had a car that was flying at the end. I’m looking forward to going back there and trying to get a win.”

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