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Kahne, Gordon and Johnson qualify in top 10 at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. – Kasey Kahne earned the fourth starting spot during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Chicagoland Speedway. This is the second straight season in which Kahne has lined up for the opening race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from inside the top four. Last year, he rolled off Chicagoland’s grid in third and went on to finish sixth.

The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS was joined in the top 10 on Friday by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon (sixth) and Jimmie Johnson (ninth). Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 18th.

In 12 races (50 Cup starts) at Chicagoland, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded two wins, 18 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. Gordon earned Hendrick Motorsports’ first Cup win at the racetrack in 2006.

Coverage of Sunday afternoon’s race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN and MRN. The green flag will wave shortly after 2 p.m. Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Fourth.
Most recently: Kahne finished 14th at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Sept. 7 and qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by virtue of a Wild Card spot. Entering the Richmond race weekend, Kahne already had clinched one of the Wild Card spots based on his two wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season. He is ranked 11th in the championship standings and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 15 points.
At Chicagoland: In nine Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland, Kahne has two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He has an average finish of sixth in the last four Cup events at Chicago, including two third-place finishes in 2009 and 2012.
Kahne (On staying focused during the Chase.): “The pressure’s on you each week from the driver to the team to the pit guys on Sundays. It’s a tough part of the season, but it’s what we’re all here for, too—to step up when it really counts and make things happen. I know we have a really strong team. If we can run strong the next few weeks, I think we’ll be in a really good spot. We just need to try and put those final 10 races together. That’s what it’s all about.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Sixth.
Most recently: Gordon began the Sept. 7 event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway from the pole position and came home with an eighth-place finish. The pole was the 73rd of Gordon’s Cup career and marked the 21st consecutive season in which he earned at least one pole position.  He was added to the Chase field as the 13th seed on Friday at Chicagoland Speedway.
At Chicagoland: In 12 starts at Chicago, Gordon has scored one win, one pole position, six top-five finishes, seven top-10s and has led 134 laps. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS most recently visited Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile oval on July 9, 2006, after starting from the 13th position and leading 20 laps.
Gordon (On Chicagoland.): “We’ve had some good runs here recently, but this is the first time we will have raced the new Chevy SS here. We’re learning more and more about the car each and every week, and I think we have made gains in our intermediate track program as the season has progressed. We’re hoping to take another big step forward this weekend.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Ninth.
Most recently: Johnson started the Sept. 7 event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway from the rear of the field after missing qualifying due to the birth of his daughter and came home with a 40th-place finish. Johnson, who has qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for 10 consecutive seasons, ranks second in the championship standings with 2,012 points. He trails leader Matt Kenseth by three points as the Chase kicks off this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. 
At Chicagoland: In 11 Cup starts in Chicago, Johnson has earned six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and has led 537 laps. Chicagoland is one of only five tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule where Johnson has yet to visit Victory Lane. 
Johnson (On Chicagoland.): “We have been close so many times at Chicago. We always run well there. We just haven’t gotten the win. I think it’s one of five tracks we haven’t won at. It’s got a little more significance for us, too, since Chad (Knaus, crew chief, Rockford, Ill.) is from the area. We really want to get a win for him. Hopefully, we can seal the deal this weekend. It would obviously be a great way to start the Chase.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 18th.
Most recently: Earnhardt qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the sixth time in his career after a 14th-place result in the Sept. 7 race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. With the result, Earnhardt is seeded ninth to start the 2013 Chase. This is the third straight season in which Earnhardt has qualified for the Chase. The driver of the No. 88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS has 2,000 points and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 15 points going into the 10-race playoff, which begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
At Chicagoland: In 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Chicago, Earnhardt has one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. He has an average start there of 17.0 and an average finish of 14.2. He has completed 98.1 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (3,145 of 3,207 total) and has led 121 laps at the track.
Earnhardt (On the Chase.): “We are pretty excited to be in the Chase. I’m real confident in our ability to perform well enough in these 10 races. We’re going to work real hard, and I think we’ve got as good a shot as anybody, so we’re going to go in there with a good attitude and work real hard and see what we get. It all starts at Chicago, and I’m looking forward to getting in the car and seeing what we’ve got.”

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