Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt qualify in top 15 at Fontana
FONTANA, Calif. – Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon advanced to the final round of Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Auto Club Speedway and earned starting spots inside the top six for Sunday’s race. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne qualified 15th and 26th, respectively.
Friday’s qualifying consisted of three rounds. Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson advanced to the second round after posting times inside the top 24. Gordon was the fastest driver during the second session and posted a lap of 187.515 mph to advance to the final round with teammate Johnson. In the final five-minute round, Johnson and Gordon qualified third and sixth, respectively.
In 24 Cup events (94 starts) at Fontana, Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins, 31 top-five finishes and 44 top-10s. A victory this weekend would make Fontana the 11th track where Hendrick Motorsports has 10 or more wins.
Here is a look at Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers going into Sunday’s race. Race coverage is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX and MRN.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 TIME WARNER CABLE CHEVROLET SS
KAHNE AT FONTANA: In 17 Cup starts at Fontana, Kahne has recorded one win, four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. He lined up from the pole position in 2004 for his first Cup start at the two-mile track and has gone on to earn nine more top-10 starting spots. Kahne enters Sunday’s race with an average start of 10.6 and an average finish of 14.5 at Fontana.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis have unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-820 for Sunday’s event at Fontana. Kahne raced this car twice last year, finishing 15th at Kansas Speedway in October and then 13th at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
AT FONTANA: Gordon has three wins, two pole positions, 10 top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 24 Cup starts at the Southern California track. The 42-year old driver has an average starting position of 13.2 and average finishing position of 11.8.
CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-861 for this Sunday's 400-miler in Southern California. This is a new chassis that has never been raced.
GORDON (ON THE RACING LINE AT FONTANA.): “I think a lot of drivers like racing at Fontana because the racetrack is so wide and there are so many lines and grooves you can race through the corner. And I think the fans like it because the drivers will race two, three and sometimes four wide.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S SPRING IS CALLING CHEVROLET SS
AT FONTANA: In 19 Cup starts in Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Johnson has five wins, 12 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. He has led 851 laps and has completed all laps attempted (100 percent of 4,484 laps). Johnson leads drivers all-time at the two-mile California track in wins (five), top-five finishes (12), laps led (851) and average finish (5.7). Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon ranks second with 622 laps led there and is tied for second in wins (three) and tied for third in poles (two) among all-time drivers at ACS.
CHASSIS CHOICES: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-799 for California. Johnson notably drove this chassis to Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway last June and to a fifth-place result at Chicagoland Speedway last September. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-784 which Johnson last raced in June 2013 at Michigan International Speedway.
JOHNSON (ON CALIFORNIA.): “I love going back to California to race. If I had a home track, Fontana is definitely mine. It was the site of my first win in ’02 so it’s very special to me. I have some local favorite restaurants I like to hit up and get to see a lot of friends.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
AT FONTANA: Earnhardt has scored five top-five finishes and six top-10s in 21 Sprint Cup starts at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. He recorded a career-best runner-up finish at the two-mile racetrack in September 2006 and again in March 2013.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte have unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-810 for this weekend's 400-mile event at ACS. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to a 15th-place finish at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October 2013.
EARNHARDT (ON CALIFORNIA.): “The last couple of times we’ve been to California, we’ve had some good race cars. It’s a track where we can move around and change our line. The driver can have a little input on how the car is driving. You can find speed out there. If we are tuning on the car and studying hard during practice, I think we’ll have a good weekend.”