Gordon, Kahne, Johnson and Earnhardt qualify in top 14 at Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson scored starting positions inside the top 11 during Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Bristol Motor Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 14th for the first short track race of the year.
In 60 Cup events (191 starts) at Bristol, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, 48 top-five finishes, 87 top-10s and 11 pole positions. Gordon is tied for first among active drivers with five wins at the track, while Kahne most recently won this race for the organization in March 2013.
Race coverage will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET this Sunday on FOX and PRN. Check local listings.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: Most recently, Kasey Kahne lined up 13th and finished eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He currently ranks 15th in the driver standings.
AT BRISTOL: In 20 Sprint Cup starts at Bristol, Kahne has one win, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He also has earned one pole position and has led a total of 456 laps. Most recently, Kahne earned runner-up honors at Bristol after contending for the victory at the historic short track.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-809 for Sunday’s event at Bristol. Kahne raced this car three times last year, recording an average finish of 7.3. He notably drove it to a third-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2013 and a seventh-place result at Michigan International Speedway in August 2013.
KAHNE (ON BRISTOL.): “It was pretty awesome to win a Cup race at Bristol. We were close for a while, and to finally pull it off last year was pretty neat. You can run right against the wall, you can try to run across the bottom and somewhat slide people into the corners when you are fast enough. It’s a cool track. You get your car right in practice and make sure it’s the right direction that will last throughout the whole race. We were really solid in both races last year so I look forward to going back there this year. I’m excited because it is a track that suits us pretty well, and it’s a track we can get some more wins at.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: Gordon is averaging a finish of 6.0 after the first three races of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with places of fourth at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, fifth at Phoenix International Raceway and ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS is fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings and trails 2014 Daytona 500 winner and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 18 points.
AT BRISTOL: Gordon has five wins, five poles, 16 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s in 42 Cup starts at the high-banked short track. The 42-year old driver has an average starting position of 7.5 and average finishing position of 12.3.
CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-812 for this this weekend at Bristol. This chassis has been raced six times – all during the 2013 season – with Gordon claiming one pole (Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September) and three top-10s (Kansas Speedway in October, Richmond in September and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July).
GORDON (ON THE RACING LINE AT BRISTOL.): "The groove at Bristol has changed the last few years. It used to be right around the bottom, then it moved to the middle and now it's at the top of the track. I think it makes for some of the most spectacular racing that we have on the circuit. That's what makes Bristol so special."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: Johnson scored his third straight top-10 result of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season when he crossed the finish line sixth last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson has an average finish of 5.7 to start the season and ranks third in the driver standings.
AT BRISTOL: In 24 Cup starts at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Johnson has one win, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. He has led 789 laps at the short track.
CHASSIS CHOICES: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-728 for Bristol. This chassis has 7,200 miles on it as Johnson drove it five times last season to an average finish of 8.2. Johnson notably drove this chassis to win at Pocono Raceway in June 2013 and record top-five results at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (second), Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (fourth) and Texas Motor Speedway (sixth in April 2013). The backup car for Bristol is Chassis No. 48-784 which Johnson last raced in June at Michigan International Speedway.
JOHNSON (ON BRISTOL.): “We had a rough race last time at Bristol and got caught up in a wreck. Bristol is going to be interesting for sure. Everyone is still trying to dial in their cars with the new rule packages. We’ve had a decent start to the year – as well as our teammates on the No. 88 - I’m really proud of the entire shop. It hasn’t been easy this year – we’ve been working really hard on these cars.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: Earnhardt took runner-up honors last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and retains his lead atop the driver standings. This is the first time Earnhardt has led the standings three weeks in a row to open the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, is off to the best start of his Sprint Cup career. He is averaging a finish of 1.7 after three races this season, which leads the competition. He also has spent a league-best 752 laps inside the top 15 (96.5 percent).
AT BRISTOL: In 28 Sprint Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has scored one win, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. The 39-year-old driver has an average finishing position of 11.5 and has completed 98.9 percent of all laps he's attempted (13,865 of 14,013 total) at the short track. He has led 790 laps at the 0.533-mile oval.
CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team have unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-745. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to a second-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last September.
EARNHARDT (ON THE TEAM’S STRONG START TO THE SEASON.): “This is a good start to the season for sure. Yeah, the confidence is up there. When we first got together we'd run our guts out to run in the top 15. Then the next year we'd run our guts out to run in the top 10, and you wondered when you'd get up to fifth and start running in the top 5 regularly. We started doing that last year, and so our team keeps stepping up this ladder. It just makes total sense to me how that process has went, having lived it and having seen the progression. So the sky's the limit for us, and if we are smart and keep our composure and don't get foolish and don't get too proud of ourselves, just keep it in perspective, we've got a great opportunity this year to be this competitive every week.”