BRISTOL, Tenn. – Jeff Gordon posted his fourth straight top-10 finish of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, finishing in seventh under the lights after a lengthy rain delay. This marks the first time in Gordon’s 22-year Sprint Cup career that he has opened up a season with four consecutive finishes in the top 10.
Gordon was joined in the top 10 by teammate Kasey Kahne, who raced his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS to an eighth-place result. Kahne’s finish at the historic short track marked his second straight top-10 result of the 2014 season. Together, Gordon and Kahne’s results gave Hendrick Motorsports its 1,500th career top-10 finish.
Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.finished 19th and 24th, respectively. Johnson struggled to recover from an early blown tire, while Earnhardt encountered a late-race mechanical issue.
Here’s a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared at the 0.533-mile oval:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne started Sunday's Sprint Cup event with plenty of momentum, moving into the eighth position by Lap 10. He was shuffled back to the 14th position by Lap 33 and was running 13th by Lap 80. The defending race winner maneuvered through traffic to settle into the 11th position by Lap 93. Kahne cracked into the top 10 again at Lap 101, moving into the ninth position. He pulled onto pit road at Lap 119 for fuel, four tires, a chassis adjustment and air pressure changes. He restarted ninth after a lengthy rain delay and was running eighth by Lap 200. Kahne’s momentum continued, as he broke into the top five for the first time that day by Lap 224. He moved into third by Lap 242 and won the battle for the runner-up position six laps later. Kahne took the lead at Lap 269, saying that his car was getting better as he continued racing. He came into pit road at Lap 277 for four tires and fuel. He lost the lead at Lap 285 and slipped to fifth by Lap 292. Kahne battled through traffic to crack the top three again by Lap 317. Crew chief Kenny Francis called the No. 5 Chevy SS into pit road at Lap 333 for fuel, air pressure, four tires and a chassis adjustment. Despite these adjustments, he slipped to sixth by Lap 353 and made additional adjustments at the next yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 396. The adjustments seemed to work in his favor, as Kahne moved into fourth at Lap 408. He restarted in eighth with 38 laps to go and remained there to record his second straight top-10 result this year.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS:
RECAP: Gordon started Sunday’s race from the sixth position and quickly moved into the fifth position by the second lap. The five-time Bristol winner had momentum and charged into the top three by Lap 11. Gordon's run was stalled momentarily, however, when his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS made contact with another competitor on pit road during the first yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 52. He restarted 34th, and undaunted, began his forward march. He maneuvered through heavy traffic to climb nine positions by Lap 89. When officials waved the red flag for rain at Lap 125, Gordon had propelled his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS back into the top 16. He restarted from the 16th position, and reported a handling issue to crew chief Alan Gustafson. Gordon slipped to 20th by Lap 176, but Gustafson’s ensuing adjustments at the next yellow-flag pit stop on Lap 188 seemed to help. Gordon broke into the top 10 again by Lap 277 and moved into the ninth position by Lap 300. Gustafson called Gordon onto pit road during caution at Lap 335 for further adjustments, and Gordon restarted 12th. With 96 laps to go, Gordon was running eighth. He moved into fifth with 84 laps to go behind teammate Kasey Kahne. Gordon restarted for the final time in 10th with 38 laps to go and moved into the seventh with 25 laps to go. He finished seventh at the 0.533-mile oval.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: After starting from the 11th position, Johnson slipped two positions before climbing back into the ninth position by the first competition caution at Lap 50. Crew chief Chad Knaus opted for a two-tire change for No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS at the first yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 50. Johnson’s quick trip to pit road put him in the top position for the first restart at Lap 58. After leading for 44 laps, he fell into the runner-up position at Lap 98. Johnson was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag pit stop at Lap 115 after shredding his right-front tire. Johnson restarted 39th and three laps down by the time the officials waved the red flag for rain. Unfortunately for the No. 48 team, Johnson was unable to navigate through the tight Bristol traffic and was running toward the back in 35th by Lap 197. He gained several positions as the race continued and made up a lap as the race unfolded. He moved into the 23rd position by Lap 347. After the second-to-last caution period, Johnson restarted 19th with 38 laps to go and held on to finish 19th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at Phoenix and Las Vegas, Earnhardt quickly climbed five positions by Lap 9 at the historic short track. By Lap 20, Earnhardt was running seventh, before settling back into the eighth position in front of teammate Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt restarted from the seventh position after taking his first yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 50 and broke into the top five by Lap 86. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS made a yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 121 and was fifth off pit road after taking four tires. Earnhardt was running fifth when the red flag was waved for rain at Lap 125. After the delay, Earnhardt began to experience tightness in his No. 88 Chevy SS and slipped to the 18th position by Lap 195. Crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team tinkered on the National Guard Chevy SS, but only made slight gains. Earnhardt continued to experience mechanical issues for the remainder of the race and held on to finish 24th.