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Johnson qualifies on outside pole, Gordon and Earnhardt in top 12 at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jimmie Johnson earned the outside pole position—his first at Martinsville Speedway—after touring the .526-mile track in 19.061 seconds at roughly 99.344 mph. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS has started from the front row four times and won three of those events. His average finish when starting from the front row is 1.5.

Johnson was joined inside the top 10 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon (ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th). Kasey Kahne will line up 25th on Sunday.

Hendrick Motorsports has recorded its most wins, top-five finishes and top-10s at Martinsville. The organization has 20 victories there, with Johnson most recently reaching Victory Lane at the short track in April 2013. Johnson ranks third among drivers all-time with eight victories at Martinsville. Gordon leads active drivers at the Virginia short track in the following statistical categories: top-five finishes (26), top-10s (33) and laps led (3,515). Gordon also ranks first among active drivers with a 7.2 starting position, and Johnson ranks first with an average finish of 5.3.

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
Qualified: 25th.
Most recently: Kahne finished 36th in the Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 20. Kahne is ranked 13th in the Chase standings and trails 10th-place driver Carl Edwards by 33 points with four races remaining in the 2013 season.
At Martinsville: In 19 Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Kahne has recorded three top-five finishes and four top-10s. He scored his best result at the short track in April 2005 when he rallied from a 35th-place starting spot to finish second. In this race a year ago, Kahne led 12 laps and scored a third-place finish at Martinsville in October 2012. Most recently at the paperclip oval, he started fifth and finished fourth.
Kahne (On the team’s focus for the remainder of the season.): “We have a strong team, and we’ve been one of the best cars at times throughout the whole season. Hopefully we can hit on it again these last couple races and at least finish strong and get back in the top 10. I think at this point in time that would be a successful year for where we’re at right now.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Ninth.
Most recently: Gordon led three laps and earned a 14th-place finish in the Oct. 20 event at Talladega Superspeedway. With the result, Gordon dropped one spot to fifth in the championship standings. He trails leader Matt Kenseth by 34 points with four races remaining in the Chase. 
At Martinsville: In 41 Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Gordon has recorded seven wins and leads active drivers with 26 top-five finishes, 33 top-10s and 3,515 laps led. Gordon’s seven victories rank him second among active drivers at the .526-mile oval. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS most recently visited Victory Lane at Martinsville in October 2005. 
Gordon (On Martinsville.): “It took me a while to figure out how to get around here. During a test early in my career, we were just doing lap after lap after lap and finally it just clicked for me. We started having success after that. With all the experience and success that we’ve had here, that can carry over from race to race and even season to season. Because of that, we always seem to enter a Martinsville race weekend with confidence.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Qualified: Second.
Most recently: Johnson led a race-high 47 laps and took the checkered flag in the 13th position on Oct. 20 at Talladega Superspeedway. With the result, Johnson moved into first in the championship standings. He leads second-place Matt Kenseth by four points with four races remaining in the Chase. 
At Martinsville: In 23 Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson has recorded eight wins, sixteen top-five finishes, 20 top-10s and has led 2,327 laps. Johnson’s eight victories rank him first among active drivers at the Virginia short track and third overall. He trails Hall of Famers Richard Petty (15) and Darrell Waltrip (11). The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS most recently went to Victory Lane at the .526-mile oval in April 2013.
Johnson (On this weekend’s race at Martinsville.): “Martinsville has been good to us in the past. We’ve got to go there and race. There is going to be a lot of strong competition. We will make sure we get buttoned up and ready to go for this weekend’s race and go up there to that paper clip and see what we can do.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Qualified: 12th.
Most recently: Earnhardt advanced to sixth in the Chase standings after finishing second at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend. With four races remaining in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Earnhardt trails leader and teammate Johnson by 52 points.
At Martinsville: In 27 Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt has scored 10 top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and has led 868 laps. He twice has recorded his career-best runner-up finish at the Virginia short track behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet—first in October 2008 and again in April 2011.
Earnhardt (On Martinsville.): “Martinsville isn’t quite the momentum racetrack you think. If you get some clear room and a bit of space between you and your competitors, you can get into a rhythm where you’re doing things repetitively from corner to corner that are working and that give your car speed. So it’s not really about momentum as it is about repetition. You’ll find a line that you like and just continue to repeat that or do little tweaks on it each time you go through the corner and find things that work and don’t work.”

 

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