Earnhardt's Watkins Glen finish moves him to top of standings
By Gray Caldwell
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – There is a new leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took home an 11th-place finish at Watkins Glen (New York) International on Sunday, and with it passed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the top spot in the standings.
In a race that featured eight cautions and two red flags, Kasey Kahne was the next Hendrick Motorsports driver to take the checkered flag in 12th position. Jimmie Johnson was involved in a late-race incident that saw him scored 28th and Jeff Gordon, who experienced a loss of power after leading 29 laps, was scored 34th.
Below is a look at how all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared in Sunday’s race.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
Recap: After rolling off the grid 30th, Kahne moved up five spots in just five laps to start the race. After nine laps, he was up to 23rd position. During a Lap-10 caution, he headed to pit road and took four tires, restarting 24th. On Lap 23, he cracked the top 20, and two laps later he was up to 17th. On Lap 30, he took the lead – his first lap led in his career at Watkins Glen – as others who had not yet made their way to pit road did so. He led three laps on the afternoon. After a caution on Lap 51 due to Gordon losing power, Kahne restarted in third place. Following a red flag on Lap 57, Kahne headed to pit road, and on Lap 65 he made his way to 20th. He crossed the finish line 12th.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
Recap: As the pole-sitter, Gordon led the first 29 laps of the race before taking his first green-flag pit stop. He battled back up to second place on Lap 36 and began to chip away at the lead until reporting a loss of power, causing him to have to be pushed to his pit box. “The Drive to End Hunger Chevy was really, really strong,” Gordon said during a red flag on Lap 57. “I was having so much fun out there leading and battling with Marcos Ambrose, who I have so much respect for on these tracks.” He was able to return to the track, and told ESPN during the red-flag interview that “we’re going to fight hard all the way to the checkered flag and see what we can get out of it.” He was scored 34th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
Recap: Starting from the third position, Johnson maintained a top-five spot for the majority of the first portion of the race before making a green-flag pit stop on Lap 29. By Lap 36 he was back up to fifth place as some competitors took their second pit stops. He stayed on the track during the caution caused by Gordon’s loss of power, taking over the lead of the race. He led six laps in total. Following a red flag on Lap 57, Johnson headed to pit road. At Lap 65, he made his way up to 14th. On a restart with nine laps to go, Johnson was in the top 10 when he was involved in an incident that caused him to spin out. He returned to the track and was scored 28th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
Recap: After beginning the race in seventh place, Earnhardt moved up to fifth by Lap 5. He maintained that position for the majority of the first portion of the race before making a scheduled pit stop for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment on Lap 28. He made his way to ninth by Lap 34, sixth on Lap 38 and inside the top 10 by lap 51. After the Lap 51 caution, Earnhardt restarted in second place behind Johnson thanks to staying out of pit road. Following a red flag on Lap 57, Earnhardt headed to pit road for four tires and fuel, and he made his way back to 19th by Lap 65. He continued moving up the pack for the remainder of the race, making his way into the top 10 with less than 10 laps to go. Two more cautions were between Earnhardt and the checkered flag, which he took in 11th position.