DOVER, Del. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first pole position and his third front-row starting spot at Dover International Speedway during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS toured the one-mile concrete oval in 22.243 seconds at roughly 161.849 mph to score his second pole of the 2013 Cup season and the fifth of the year for Hendrick Motorsports.
Earnhardt was joined inside the top 10 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (eighth). Jeff Gordon will start 16th, while Kasey Kahne will roll off the grid 20th for Sunday’s race, the third in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
In 59 Cup events (187 starts) at Dover, Hendrick Motorsports has 14 wins, 48 top-five finishes and 81 top-10s. Johnson, who won most recently at the one-mile oval for Hendrick Motorsports in June 2012, has seven career wins at Dover and ranks tied for first all-time at the track with Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty. Gordon has contributed another four wins to Hendrick Motorsports’ total.
Coverage of Sunday afternoon’s race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN and MRN. The green flag is scheduled to wave shortly after 2 p.m. Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Kahne finished 37th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 22 after getting caught up in a late-race incident on-track. He ranks 13th in the Chase standings with eight races remaining and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 71 points.
At Dover: Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, has one top-five finish, five top-10s and has led 90 laps in 19 Sprint Cup starts at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He earned his best finish of fourth at the track in October 2011. Kahne has eight starts inside the top 10 at the one-mile concrete oval.
Kahne (On how running helps with his Chase schedule.): “I'd say I've actually run about the same amount during the Chase. The nice thing about running is you can do it anywhere. I'm able to still get out there, get a good sweat in and get some miles in each day. I feel good about that. I really think it helps for the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) because I feel better at the end of the season. When it's all said and done, I still feel motivated, not completely drained and worn out. I remember the first couple years I was in the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup Series, by the time we got to Homestead (Fla.) at the end of the year, I was so happy for the season to be over. Probably the last two years really, I've been wishing it went a couple more races. I think a lot of that has to do with running and the physical work that I put in each year.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Gordon earned the 15th-place finish at the Sept. 22 event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the result, Gordon ranks eighth in the championship standings and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 42 points with Chase eight races remaining.
At Dover: In 41 Cup starts at Dover, Gordon has recorded four wins, four pole positions, 16 top-five finishes, 23 top-10s and has led 2,292 laps. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS finished second in this race last year and most recently went to Victory Lane in the June 2001 event at the one-mile oval.
Gordon (On Dover.): "I enjoy racing here because of the high speeds and the high-banked corners and the high-banked straightaways, but you are constantly on the edge and you can find yourself in trouble quickly - whether it be by yourself or in a group of cars. It seems like the groove can widen out here where we can run low, middle or high. You may have to search for a line or a groove that works best for your car. But another tricky aspect is the balance of the car can be different from one end of the track to the other."
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Johnson started the Sept. 22 event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway from the 11th position and recorded the fourth-place finish. With the result, Johnson holds third in the championship standings and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 18 points with eight races remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At Dover: In 23 Cup starts at Dover, Johnson has earned seven wins, 11 top-five finishes, 16 top-10s and has led 2,461 laps. Johnson’s seven victories rank him tied for first all-time at the one-mile oval with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and David Pearson. Johnson is a four-time winner of the fall race at Dover, and he most recently went to Victory Lane in the September 2010 event.
Johnson (On Dover.): “I’m really looking forward to Dover. It is one of my favorite tracks. We were close there last time, led a bunch of laps and were in position there toward the end for a win. Unfortunately, we got penalized on that final restart and weren’t able to pull it off. This Lowe’s team has had a consistent start to the Chase and I expect more of the same this weekend in Dover.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Most recently: Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, currently ranks 11th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after finishing sixth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend. With eight races remaining in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Earnhardt trails leader Matt Kenseth by 62 points.
At Dover: In 27 Cup starts at Dover International Speedway, Earnhardt has one win, five top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He has led 368 laps and completed 99.1 percent of all laps he's attempted (10,705 of 10,804 total) at the Monster Mile.
Earnhardt (On Dover.): “We haven’t been that great at Dover, but we had a top-10 finish there earlier this year. We feel pretty good about being consistent and running well at every track. I’m looking forward to getting to Dover and seeing what kind of race car we have.”