SPARTA, Kan. – NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying had an exciting beginning on Friday at Kansas Speedway, complete with Kasey Kahne making a last-lap charge to advance to the second round. But Kahne and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates weren’t as fortuitous in the second round and qualified just outside the top 12.
Jeff Gordon scored the 13th starting spot, while Jimmie Johnson will line up 14th. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 17th and 22nd, respectively.
With four victories at Kansas, Hendrick Motorsports ranks tied for first among teams all-time at the 1.5-mile speedway. Johnson and Gordon each have two victories at Kansas to rank tied for first all-time with three other competitors. Gordon ranks first with nine top-five finishes, while Johnson ranks first with 13 top-10s and 562 laps led at Kansas.
Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on FOX and MRN. Check local listings.
Here is a look at each Hendrick Motorsports driver going into Saturday’s race:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE “THANK A MILLION TEACHERS” CHEVROLET SS
STARTING POSITION: 17th.
TALLADEGA RECAP: Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance “Thank A Million Teachers” Chevrolet SS, was quiet on the radio as he rallied from a deep starting spot at Talladega (Alabama) Superspeedway to finish eighth -- his fifth career top-10 finish at Talladega and his third of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Kahne ranks 20th in the driver standings.
KAHNE AT KANSAS: In 13 Sprint Cup Series starts at Kansas, Kahne has earned three pole positions, three top-five finishes, six top-10s and has led a total of 78 laps there. Kahne has qualified in the top 10 in eight of his 13 races there.
SEASON-TO-DATE: In the first 10 Cup races this season, Kahne ranks seventh for fastest speed in traffic with an average running position of 12.200. He is tied for ninth in the closers category (15 positions improved in the last 10 percent of each race), ninth in fastest laps run (87) and ninth in quality passes (758).
KANSAS CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has chosenHendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-870 for Saturday night’s event at Kansas. This is a new chassis that Kahne and the No. 5 team first used during the Kansas Goodyear tire test in April.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
STARTING POSITION: 13th.
POINTS LEADER: Despite being involved in a Lap 138 multi-car accident and finishing 39th at Talladega (Alabama) Superspeedway on Sunday, Jeff Gordon remained the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader and is three points ahead of Matt Kenseth. Both drivers are tied for the most top-10s in 2014 with seven apiece.
AT KANSAS: The 42-year-old driver has two wins, nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 16 Cup starts at Kansas. Gordon’s nine top-five finishes tops all drivers at the 1.5-mile track while he is tied for most victories (two) and most starts (16).
KANSAS CHASSIS: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-869 for this Saturday night’s race. This chassis is new and has not been raced previously.
GORDON (ON WHY HE LOOKS FORWARD TO RACING AT KANSAS.): “There’s something about Kansas that really suits my driving style – even after the repave a few years ago that created some new challenges. Even with the new surface, the groove has widened out the last few races. It’s a smooth track that’s very fast, and I love the transitions and how you transfer from the flatter straightaways into those banked corners. I’m really excited about this weekend because this Axalta Racing team has been strong on mile-and-a-half tracks this year.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
STARTING POSITION: 14th.
SEASON-TO-DATE: After 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, Jimmie Johnson owns the third-highest driver rating with a score of 103.2 and ranks seventh in the driver standings. His 503 laps led rank second just behind Kevin Harvick (553 laps led).
AT KANSAS: In 15 Cup starts at Kansas, Johnson has two wins, six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. He has an average finish of 7.5 and has led 562 laps. Johnson has started from the pole position three times at the 1.5-mile speedway.
CHASSIS CHOICES: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-799 for this weekend at Kansas. Johnson last drove this car to qualify third and lead 104 laps before encountering a late-race tire issue and finished 24th at Fontana, California. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-728, which Johnson most recently raced at Bristol (Tennessee) Motor Speedway.
JOHNSON (ON NIGHT RACING AT KANSAS.): “It’s just about sorting out the new rules package and getting to work. I think night racing is great for our fan base. It’s tough for the teams and drivers because we are so used to a Sunday format and what happens. We sit around a lot in the morning. The crew goes to work, and the drivers sit and wait, and then it’s finally time to go. If the fans are smiling, and hopefully they will show their support by coming out and tuning in Saturday night on television.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
STARTING POSITION: 22nd.
POINTS REPORT: Ten races into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has earned one win, five top-five finishes and six top-10s and ranks fourth in the driver standings. He trails leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 19 points.
AT KANSAS: In 15 Cup starts at Kansas, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, one top five-finish and seven top-10s. He has completed 98.1 percent of all the laps he's attempted (3,876 laps of 3,953 total) at the 1.5-mile racetrack. The 39-year-old driver has led a total of 92 laps there.
CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend at Kansas, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-877 for this weekend at Kansas. This is a brand new chassis that has not been raced.
EARNHARDT (ON KANSAS SPEEDWAY.): “We have had fast cars all season, and we are bringing another new chassis this weekend. We did the Goodyear tire test at Michigan (International Speedway) last month, and we were able to learn some things for this weekend. I’m looking forward to getting on the track and seeing what kind of speed we have.”