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Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon qualify in top 10 for All-Star Race

Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon qualify in top 10 for All-Star Race

CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne, the first driver to qualify on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, also led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates posting the ninth-fastest qualifying time for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will be joined inside the top 10 by Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Cromax Pro Chevrolet SS.

A loose lugnut during a mandatory four-tire stop compromised Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s swift time, and the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS went from a second-place starting spot to 15th. Jimmie Johnson, the defending race winner, locked up his brakes entering pit road and sustained a costly time penalty which affected his qualifying time. Johnson will roll off the grid 18th on Saturday.

The all-star event will be televised on SPEED at roughly 9 p.m. ET following the Sprint Showdown. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers are qualified for the main event after posting a victory during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

THREE-TIME: Going into Saturday’s All-Star Race, Gordon and Johnson rank tied for first all-time with Dale Earnhardt Sr. for wins in the Sprint All-Star event. Gordon earned his three victories in 1995, 1997 and 2001, while Johnson nabbed his in 2003, 2006 and 2012. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, led 16 laps last year en route to Victory Lane.

LESSONS LEARNED: Saturday’s race is a chance at $2 million, but it’s also an opportunity to gain track knowledge for next weekend’s 600-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Charlotte. “We are learning with every lap we make in this new Chevy SS," said Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 Cromax Pro Chevrolet SS. "The segments we run this Saturday night are much shorter than what we expect to run during the '600,' but it should give us a good early indication of what will work ahead of that points race."

ALL-STAR WINNER: In nine Sprint All-Star Races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kahne has one win and three top-10 finishes. In 2008, Kahne became the first driver to win the event after being voted into the race by the fans. The 33-year-old driver has competed in the race every year since joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in 2004 and earned the pole position for the 2006 exhibition event.

BACK-TO-BACK WINS: Kahne and six other drivers have won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and have gone on to win the 600-mile race at Charlotte the following weekend: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Davey Allison (1991), Dale Earnhardt Sr. (1993), Gordon (1997), Johnson (2003), Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010).

SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified for the All-Star Race by winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup event during the 2012 season. Earnhardt led five times for 95 laps to win at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012.

ALL-STAR VICTORY: Earnhardt made history on May 20, 2000, when he became the first rookie to win the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt led two laps and beat veteran Dale Jarrett to the finish line by 1.295 seconds.

ALL-STAR STATS: In 13 appearances in the non-points all-star event, Earnhardt has scored one win, four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. His average finish in the exhibition race is 8.38. Last year, Earnhardt earned a spot in the All-Star Race by winning the Sprint Showdown. He lined up 21st for the 90-lap shootout and led 18 laps before crossing the finish line fifth.

HENDRICK IN THE ALL-STAR: In 28 All-Star Races (83 entries), Hendrick Motorsports has scored seven wins, 30 top-five finishes, 44 top-10s and led 605 laps. Most recently, Johnson won the 2012 event after leading 16 laps to earn a record-tying third all-star victory. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers are eligible for this year’s All-Star Race.