Kahne, Johnson and Earnhardt to start in top 13 at Richmond
RICHMOND, Va.— Fast-approaching storms on Friday prompted NASCAR officials to cancel Sprint Cup qualifying at Richmond International Raceway. As a result, the starting lineup was set according to the first practice speeds. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start inside the top 13, while Jeff Gordon will roll off the grid 25th.
In 60 Cup events (190 starts) at Richmond, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, 51 top-five finishes and 90 top-10s. Gordon leads all active, full-time drivers at the 0.75-mile short track with 16 top-five finishes, 26 top-10s, 1,464 laps led and an average starting position of 7.6. Johnson most recently went to Victory Lane there for the organization on Sept. 7, 2008.
Race coverage of Saturday's event starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and MRN. Check local listings.
Here is a look at how Hendrick Motorsports fares at Richmond:
KASEY KAHNE, DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
DARLINGTON RECAP: Most recently, Kasey Kahne led twice for a total of 23 laps and consistently ran inside the top 10 for the majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on April 12. However, he was sidelined by a late-race incident and was scored with a 37th-place finish. Kahne ranks 23rd in the driver standings.
AT RICHMOND: In 20 Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway, Kahne has earned one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He won in 2005 after starting from the pole position. Most recently, Kahne scored a 14th-place finish at Richmond in September 2013.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-815 for this weekend's race at Richmond, and Kahne immediately raced the car to top-four performances in Friday's practices. Kahne has driven this chassis four times—thrice in 2013 and once so far in 2014. Notably, Kahne has raced this car in his last two outings at Phoenix International Raceway’s one-mile oval. There, he recorded an average finish of 6.5.
KAHNE (ON HIS WORK ETHIC.): “I got that from my dad. He taught me at a young age that you have to work hard for things, and if you want something, you have to work hard to get it and stay after it. I just kind of always had the same outlook on working and getting up in the morning and doing things like that. So he applied it when I was pretty young, and I’ve always kept it because he was up and gone at five in the morning, every morning. So if he ever came home and I was still in bed that was bad. There were just different scenarios and things that went on, so I just learned from a pretty young age that you’ve got to get up and get things done and go for what you want.”
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
2014 SEASON: Jeff Gordon has finished 13th or better in each of the season’s first eight races with a series-best 7.4 average finishing position. He leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings by one point over Matt Kenseth with both drivers tied for the most top-10s in 2014 with six.
AT RICHMOND: Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, has two wins, six pole positions, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 42 Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway.
CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-816 for this Saturday night's race. This chassis was first raced at RIR in September 2013 when Gordon started first and led 49 laps en route to an eighth-place finish. It has been raced twice since with Gordon posting finishes of 14th (November 2013) and fifth (March 2014) at Phoenix International Raceway.
GORDON (ON PRACTICING DURING DAY BUT QUALIFYING AND RACING AT NIGHT.): “Richmond always presents the teams with a challenge because it’s a guessing game. We do our race runs and our qualifying practice runs during the day, but qualifying is later into the afternoon on Friday and the race is at night on Saturday. You know the track will change before qualifying starts on Friday, but how much will it change? And how much will the track have changed Saturday night compared to Friday?”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: After eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, Jimmie Johnson owns the highest driver rating with a score of 106 and ranks fifth in the driver standings. His 501 laps led rank second just behind Kevin Harvick (515 laps led).
AT RICHMOND: In 24 Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway, Johnson has three wins, five top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He has an average finish of 17.3. Johnson has started from the pole position twice at the 0.75-mile oval.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Chad Knaus selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-832 for this weekend at Richmond. Johnson most recently drove this car to a sixth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in March. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-806, which Johnson most recently raced to a fourth-place result at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September 2013.
JOHNSON (ON RICHMOND.): “I don’t have a good answer (for why the No. 48 team struggles at Richmond). We always evaluate our performance here and say, ‘maybe it was this’, and we pursue what was down that road and come back with new hope and then unload and have a frustrating practice. We manage okay finishes for the most part but we know we should be better than that. Just getting beat by a track really gets under our skin as well. We can usually accomplish what we need to and eventually figure out a racetrack. ... But I love watching races here, and for the races that I have been competitive in and had a chance to race in the top five – I love it. I think it’s a fantastic race track, it puts on a great show, it’s great for the fans, and in my heart I think we need more short tracks on the schedule. I just need to get this one figured out.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
POINTS REPORT: Eight races into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks fourth in the driver standings on the strength of one win, five top-five finishes and five top-10s. He trails leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 26 points
AT RICHMOND: In 29 Sprint Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded three wins, one pole position, nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He has led a total of 494 laps and completed 99.2 percent of all laps he's attempted at the short track (11,513 laps of 11,609 total).
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-857 for this Saturday’s race at Richmond. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to a second-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in March.
EARNHARDT (ON RICHMOND.): “We’ve had a good start to the season, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car. It was nice to have a weekend off and enjoy some time with friends, but I’m excited to get to the track and in the car for practice and see where we are at. On Saturday, everybody's going to be hunting for the bottom line. The guys that get through the middle, can keep that left-front working that line, are going to have good runs. If you get off the bottom, it's just so slick, you can't really make any ground up there.”