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Kasey Kahne leads teammates with seventh-place result at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kasey Kahne drove his No. 5 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS through the field to secure the seventh-place result on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. He was joined in the top 20 by Jeff Gordon, who finished the NASCAR Sprint Cup event 17th. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were affected by different incidents on-track and scored the 36th- and 40th-place finishes, respectively.

Here is the rundown by team:

Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Seventh.
Standings: 11th.
Recap: Driving the No. 5 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS, Kasey Kahne rolled off the grid 31st on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.  Kahne radioed his team prior to the green flag that he knew his car was fast and he was ready to drive it to the front of the field. He didn’t disappoint.  Despite reports of a slippery Michigan track, Kahne improved to run 24th by the time the third caution flag was waved on Lap 13. Kahne told crew chief Kenny Francis that his car was loose in the turns, so the duo took advantage of the yellow-flag period to pit for four tires, fuel and adjustments.  The lengthy pit stop cost Kahne some track position, but he made up the eight spots back on the track to run 26th by Lap 23. He ran as high as 12th before making a green-flag pit stop for four tires, fuel and more adjustments to the No. 5 Chevy SS. Back on Michigan’s two-mile oval, Kahne was clocking times as fast as the leaders. He was running 13th when the caution flag was waved on Lap 80. A loose-handling condition persisted for Kahne, who cracked the top 10 by Lap 123, and Francis informed him the track was getting slicker.  Running 11th, Kahne made a stop during a Lap 156 caution period for right-side tires, fuel and adjustments. He lined up 20th for the Lap 161 restart and improved to 13th within seven circuits. Kahne was running seventh with three laps to go and crossed the finish line there.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Axalta Standox Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 17th.
Standings: 14th.
Recap: Jeff Gordon rolled off the grid 13th in his specially painted No. 24 Axalta Standox Chevrolet SS on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.  Gordon picked up track position during the first two laps when the caution flag was waved. He moved into 11th for the Lap 4 restart, but told crew chief Alan Gustafson that his No. 24 Chevy SS wasn’t running well in traffic and had a loose-handling condition in the turns.  Gordon hovered around 13th, while the No. 24 team prepared for its green-flag stop around Lap 55.  Gordon reported that the track bar adjustment helped some, and when the caution flag was waved on Lap 70, he noted again the improvements had helped. Still, Gordon said the car was “edgy.” Gustafson and the No. 24 team continued to tweak on the Axalta Standox Chevy SS as the race unfolded, and Gordon reported that his biggest issue was carrying speed through Turns 3 and 4. After a caution period on Lap 135 for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 24 team made further adjustments during a two-tire and fuel stop. Gustafson told Gordon, who was running 14th at the time, to save fuel. Gordon improved two spots on the restart and reported he felt like he had a rear-tire going down just as a spin occurred on-track at Lap 149. Gordon dodged the spin and hit pit road during the caution period for four tires, fuel and adjustments. Gordon and Gustafson continued to work on the handling of the No. 24 Chevy SS, but Gordon struggled for track position. He crossed the finish line 17th.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 40th.
Standings: First.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson scored the third-place starting spot for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Michigan International Speedway, but was relegated to the back of the field after an incident during Saturday’s practice session. During the incident, Johnson spun and required his team to unload his backup No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS. The deep starting spot didn’t hurt Johnson. Crew chief Chad Knaus told the team prior to the drop of the green flag that the first goal would be to crack the top 10; then they’d reassess. Within the second circuit Sunday, the caution flag was waved and Johnson had improved to 34th. He made a four-tire, fuel stop during the yellow flag and restarted 39th. The opening of Sunday’s race featured three caution periods on Laps 2, 8 and 13. Johnson made another stop for four tires and fuel during the second yellow flag and was running 28th by the time the Lap 13 caution flag was issued. This time, Johnson opted to stay on-track. He cracked the top 20 on Lap 20. Johnson was clocking lap times as fast as the leaders and continued his forward march as green-flag pit stops were underway around Lap 45. Johnson led Laps 43-45 before making his pit stop, this time for two tires. Back on track, Johnson radioed to Knaus that his No. 48 Chevy SS was experiencing an engine issue. Johnson reported to pit road and then the garage. “We were just putting ourselves in position for later in the race with those early stops,” said Johnson, who already has clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “Then we had an issue there with the engine as I came out of the pits and got back up to speed dropped a couple of cylinders.  We were trying to get it figured out and see what would happen.  On my way into the pits it finally locked up and that’s the end of it.  Unfortunate day, but I’m happy that we have had such a strong opening part of the season and we have points on our side and some wins on side so we are not in jeopardy of anything going into the Chase.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 36th.
Standings: Seventh.
Recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up seventh for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Michigan International Speedway. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet SS was off to a strong start when the green flag dropped at the two-mile oval, the site of Earnhardt’s most recent Sprint Cup win (2012). He stayed out during two early caution periods on Laps 2 and 8 to gain track position.  Earnhardt told crew chief Steve Letarte his No. 88 Chevy SS was comfortable and lined up fourth for the Lap 11 restart. Earnhardt picked up another spot when the caution flag was issued two laps later, and this time, he reported the car was loose off Turn 2 and tight entering Turn 3. Still, the No. 88 team opted against pitting, and Earnhardt lined up third for the Lap 30 restart. Three laps later, Earnhardt was in a three-way battle for the lead. He settled into second as green-flag stops began, and took the lead for one circuit on Lap 42. Once green-flag stops cycled through, Earnhardt was the leader. He paced the field from Laps 54-72, when the caution flag was waved for an incident on-track. The No. 88 team delivered a swift stop under yellow, giving Earnhardt’s Chevy SS right-side tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Earnhardt lined up as the leader for the Lap 75 restart, but was shuffled to seventh. He held steady inside the top 10 and tried to take advantage of a four-tire, fuel pit stop during a Lap 104 caution period.  He ran as high as eighth before cutting a right-front tire and making contact with the wall on Lap 135. Earnhardt reported to the garage, where the No. 88 team made necessary repairs and sent Earnhardt back onto the track for valuable points. Earnhardt returned to finish 36th.

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