Hendrick Motorsports trio qualify in top 10 at Atlanta
HAMPTON, Ga. – Jeff Gordon qualified in the fifth position during Friday evening’s qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is the fifth time in the last six races at Atlanta that Gordon has qualified inside the top five. Joining Gordon in the top five are Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson who will start eighth and 10th, respectively. Teammate Kasey Kahne will roll off from the 18th position.
Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which ranks the organization second all-time to the Wood Brothers (12 victories). Gordon, who won the 2011 event at the 1.54-mile oval, is eyeing his sixth career win at the track. A victory would help Gordon’s chances in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne also have reached Victory Lane at Atlanta within the last nine years (16 events).
Coverage of Sunday night’s race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and PRN. Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Kahne earned runner-up honors at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway after contending for the victory at the historic short track. Kahne, winner of the March 2013 race at Bristol, cleanly fought for the lead in the closing laps, but time wasn’t on his side. He left the 500-lap event with a second-place finish and improved to eighth in the driver standings. He has a 20-point advantage over the 11th-place driver.
At Atlanta: In 16 Sprint Cup starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kahne has two wins, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS also has two pole positions at the 1.54-mile oval. Atlanta ranks tied as Kahne’s second-best track in career wins—he also has two wins at Pocono Raceway. His average starting spot of 9.2 at Atlanta ranks him third among active drivers there.
Kahne (On racing in Atlanta.): “Since the first time I went there, Atlanta has always been one of my favorite racetracks. It kind of reminds me of racing at Eldora Speedway. When you run the outside at Atlanta right up by the wall, it feels really similar to racing a dirt track in a winged sprint car. I like that feeling you get—that sensation of being beside the wall. And then the tires fall off, and it gets really slippery. Atlanta is just fast and rough. You have a lot of things you’re kind of working through throughout a race run and just trying to get the balance of the car to be good throughout 45-48 laps. It’s tough to get it right. I’ve just always liked racing there, it’s a good one.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Gordon began the 500-lap event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway from the 32nd position and came home with a seventh-place finish. With the result Gordon now ranks 13th in the championship standings and trails 10th-place Joey Logano by 11 points with two races remaining until the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At Atlanta: In 39 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gordon leads active drivers with 16 top-five finishes, 25 top-10s and 1,280 laps led. He has also recorded five victories and two pole positions at the 1.54-mile oval.
Gordon (On Atlanta.): “This has always been such a fun racetrack - one we always slide around on. The surface - with its abrasiveness - provides the teams and drivers with a huge challenge. And that challenge is what makes it so fun.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Johnson rolled off from the 13th position for the Aug. 24 event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and came home with a 36th-place finish. Johnson now holds an 18-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer in the championship standings with two races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins.
At Atlanta: In 21 Cup starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson has scored three wins, 11 top-five finishes, 13 top-10s and has led 440 laps. Johnson’s average finish of 11.1 ranks him first overall among active drivers at the 1.54-mile track.
Johnson (On racing in Atlanta.): “It is a busy 500 miles there. You leave there spent, physically and emotionally, but it’s awesome. The track has so much character to it. You can drive anywhere on the racetrack. That is what we like as drivers – to have options – and there are plenty of options there.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard “Race 2 Achieve” Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Earnhardt began the Aug. 24 event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway from the 19th position and led for 32 laps before coming home in the 10th position. With the result Earnhardt remained seventh in the driver standings. He has a 33-point lead over the 11th-place driver with two races remaining until the 12-car field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At Atlanta: In 25 Cup starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has one win, two pole positions, eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has an average start of 16.2 at Atlanta, and his average finish of 12.5 ranks as his second-best at a track. He has completed 99.5 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (8,034 of 8,075 total) there and has led 632 laps, his fourth-best at a track.
Earnhardt (On Atlanta.): “I always enjoy racing at Atlanta because I feel like I can run really good there. It always seems like I’ve had pretty good cars and had good speed pretty much every time. I’m looking forward to getting in the car and hopefully it’s comfortable and got good speed.”