Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualify in top eight at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. - Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. advanced to the final round of Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup knockout qualifying at Pocono Raceway to score the fifth and eighth respective starting positions for Sunday’s 400-mile race.
Their Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson paced the 2.5-mile triangular race track to qualify 20th while fellow teammate Kasey Kahne will start Sunday's race from the 27th position.
In 197 starts at Pocono Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has 15 wins, 60 top-five finishes and 103 top-10s. The organization’s 15 wins are the most among competitors in the Sprint Cup Series, with Jeff Gordon leading the team and series in Pocono victories (six). Hendrick Motorsports swept Pocono last season, winning both the pole and the race at the June and August events. Kahne most recently took the checkered flag there in August 2013, after teammate Jimmie Johnson won the pole position at the Pennsylvania track. Prior to that, Johnson started from the pole position and led 128 laps en route to his third career victory at the 2.5-mile triangle in June 2013.
Sunday's Cup race will be televised at 1 p.m. ET on TNT and MRN. Check local listings.
Here is a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports teams have fared at “The Tricky Triangle.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: In the first 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season, Kahne ranks third in the closers category (27 positions improved in the last 10 percent of each race). He also ranks eighth for fastest speed in traffic with an average running position of 11.154, eighth in fastest drivers early in a run (11.000), ninth in quality passes (849), ninth in fastest laps run (119) and 10th in green-flag speed (11.400).
AT POCONO: In 20 Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono, Kahne has recorded two wins, five top-five finishes, seven top-10s and has earned two career pole positions at the track. The driver of the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS has completed 98.8 percent of laps attempted and has led 217 laps at the 2.5-mile track.
DOVER LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR loop data in the last 18 races at Pocono, Kahne is third in both fastest laps run (296) and speed in traffic (160.185 mph). He also ranks fourth in fastest drivers late in a run (160.515 mph) and fifth in the following categories: fastest drivers early in a run (162.859 mph), laps led (213) and green-flag speed (161.404 mph). Kahne has the eighth highest driver rating of 92.8.
SPEEDWAY STATS: In 110 starts on tracks two miles or longer, Kahne has posted 24 top-five finishes and 43 top-10s. In addition, he has collected four of his 16 career Cup wins and six of his 26 pole positions at these tracks. Kahne has scored wins on both of the Cup circuit’s two-mile tracks, finding Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway and the Fontana, California, oval in 2006.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-870 for Sunday’s race at Pocono. Kahne last drove this chassis to a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway in May 2014. ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “We just didn’t have quite the speed we needed to move on to Round 2. We were a little quicker than we were in practice, but not near fast enough. We just have to look at things for tomorrow. Pit stalls are all good here so hopefully we can move up through there.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
AT POCONO: Gordon holds the record for most wins at “The Tricky Triangle” with six victories. The 42-year-old driver also has two pole positions, 19 top-five finishes (one shy of Mark Martin’s record of 20) and 29 top-10s in 42 starts at Pocono.
UP FRONT AT POCONO: The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has led 972 laps at Pocono Raceway during his 22-year career. That ranks Gordon first on the all-time list at the 2.5-mile track, 162 laps led more than the runner-up.
AVERAGE TOP-10 RUNNING POSITION: Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, has a 9.193 average running position through the first 13 races of the 2014 season. He is the only driver to post an average better than 10.0 in that statistical category.
CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-869 for this Sunday’s race. Gordon previously raced this chassis to Victory Lane earlier this year at Kansas Speedway. ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “I feel really good about it. We have certainly made some great improvements from practice when we first rolled off to make our first qualifying run. Great job to Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and all the guys on this Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. We went faster each time out and qualified fifth. You always want to be faster and some guys put up some really good laps. There are just a few little areas where we could have gone faster, but all in all I’m pretty happy.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: After 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, Johnson owns the highest driver rating with a score of 109.3. Following his win at Dover, Johnson jumped two positions in the driver standings and now holds the honor of the most laps led this season with 963.
DRIVER RATING: Johnson has the highest driver rating at Pocono with a score of 109.3 in the past 18 races at “The Tricky Triangle.” The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.
AT POCONO: In 24 starts at Pocono, Johnson has three wins, ten top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and has led 733 laps around the 2.5-mile track. He has completed all but nine of all possible laps run at the Tricky Triangle for a career completion rate of 99.8 percent (4,458 out of 4,467).
THREE-PEAT: During Johnson’s 13-year Sprint Cup career, he has recorded three consecutive wins on two occasions – once in 2004 and once in 2007 during a span of four consecutive victories. He is the most recent driver to win three consecutive races.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-824 for this weekend’s 400-mile race. Johnson last cruised this chassis to a third-place finish at Darlington Raceway. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-728, which Johnson most recently raced in March at Bristol Motor Speedway. ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “I just got too greedy down in (Turn) two and lost the nose in corner exit. I knew it killed the lap. Sure enough, when I came back around, it was only good enough for 20th. I feel bad for my guys, but this one is one me.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
2014 STATISTICS: After 13 races in the 2014 season, Earnhardt has earned one win, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s. His six top-five results rank him tied for first overall with Joey Logano.
POCONO POLE POSITION: Earnhardt earned his Sprint Cup pole position at Pocono in August 2007 and went on to lead eight laps there for a second-place finish, matching his best performance at the Pennsylvania track. Earnhardt also recorded a runner-up finish at Pocono on July 29, 2001, after leading for 31 laps at the 2.5-mile triangle.
AT POCONO: In 28 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has completed 97.1 percent of all the laps he's attempted (5,116 laps of 5,267 total) and has led a total of 153 laps at the 2.5-mile track. In 2013, the 39-year-old driver had a fourth-place average finish at "The Tricky Triangle."
CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-810. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to a 12th-place finish at Fontana, California.