RICHMOND, Va. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. recorded his 12th top-10 finish at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS posted a 10th-place result, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates finished inside the top 21. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson finished 11th and 12th, respectively, while Kasey Kahne was involved in a late-race incident and crossed the finish line 21st.
Here is the race by team:
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 21st.
Recap: Kasey Kahne opened Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Richmond International Raceway from the fourth position and immediately noted a tight-handling condition in the turns. The driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet SS slipped to fifth by Lap 14, but rallied to run third within the next five circuits. After a four-tire and fuel stop under caution on Lap 41, Kahne was running eighth after 21 laps. He reported the car was loose in Turn 1 and tight everywhere else, so crew chief Kenny Francis formulated a plan of attack for the ensuing stop. Meanwhile, Kahne improved his position by two spots and was running sixth when the caution flag was waved on Lap 109. During the yellow-flag period, Francis called for a chassis adjustment, four tires and fuel. The adjustments didn’t provide relief immediately, and the No. 5 team kept working on the handling of the Quaker State Chevrolet SS through several pit stops throughout the course of the race. As the race unfolded, Kahne and Ryan Newman made contact around the Lap 246 mark. The contact didn’t appear to cause much damage to Kahne, who pushed his way past Newman and into the top 15 on the following circuits. With 92 laps to go, Kahne was running 17th when the caution flag was waved. Kahne told Francis that his No. 5 Chevy was all over the place, so he hit pit road during the yellow-flag period for four tires, fuel and adjustments. He restarted from the 17th position on Lap 333, but was collected in an incident four laps later. Kahne returned to the track after his pit crew assessed and fixed the damage. He finished 21st.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 11th.
Recap: Jeff Gordon seemed to have a lot going for him at the beginning of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Richmond International Raceway. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS had led the final practice on Friday and had qualified third for the 400-lap event. When the green flag first dropped on Saturday, Gordon immediately climbed into the second position. But within the first several circuits, he reported a handling condition that the No. 24 team would spend the majority of the night chasing. The predominant theme for Gordon seemed to be a loose-handling condition in the corners, offset by a tight-handling one in the middle. The combination, Gordon told crew chief Alan Gustafson, made it difficult for him to effectively brake around the .75-mile short track. The duo continued to work on the handling, and with 80 laps to go, Gordon lined up 13th for the restart. Six laps later, he successfully maneuvered his No. 24 Chevy SS through a spin on the track, climbing into 10th before pitting for four tires and fuel during the ensuing caution period. He restarted 13th behind several cars that either opted not to pit or stopped for two tires only. But within four laps, the yellow flag was waved again, and Gordon lined up ninth for this restart. Gordon and Gustafson opted to pit during a late-race caution period and lined up 14th for the green-white-checkered flag restart with fresh tires. Gordon improved to finished 11th.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 12th.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson was the biggest mover earlier in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Richmond International Raceway. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet SS improved from 26th to 12th within the first 75 laps, clocking times that rivaled those of the leaders. Thirteen laps later, Johnson had cracked the top 10. “Guess you’ve been saving your tires,” spotter Earl Barban radioed. “Good work.” Johnson continued to move through the field, ticking off three more spots by Lap 105. The No. 48 team turned in a solid four-tire pit stop during caution on Lap 110 to give Johnson another two spots, and he lined up fourth for the ensuing restart. Johnson maintained his position inside the top 10 as the race unfolded, laying down fast laps and benefiting from swift pit stops to hold steady on the raucous .75-mile short track. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus made a last-minute decision to pit with 92 laps to go under caution for right-side tires and fuel. Johnson was the first car off pit road and he lined up fifth behind cars that opted not to pit. Almost 20 laps later, Johnson was running ninth -- a bit further back in the pack after getting shuffled around some on the restart – when he was involved in a pin. Nearby, Tony Stewart's Chevrolet SS became loose and made contact with Johnson. The collision cost Johnson track position, but didn’t appear to injure No. 48 Chevrolet SS. Back on the track, Johnson was running 16th when another spin happened on Lap 333. This time, the No. 48 team wasn’t as fortunate and sustained damage as teammate Kasey Kahne also was collected in the incident. Johnson returned to the track and crossed the finish line 12th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 10th.
Recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 19th on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway and improved two spots by Lap 8, despite noting a tight-handling condition. When the caution flag waved on Lap 41, Earnhardt hit pit road for four tires and fuel as well as air and chassis adjustments to help the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS. Earnhardt restarted 16th and within five laps radioed that the tight-handling condition had returned. Crew chief Steve Letarte worked with Earnhardt and the No. 88 team to address the continual handling issue as the race unfolded. Letarte used subsequent pit stops to make the minor changes, and by Lap 158, Earnhardt had improved to run 12th when the caution flag waved. Letarte told Earnhardt to stay out, and the driver of the No. 88 Chevy SS managed to stay inside the top 16 by the halfway point of the 400-lap event. He took advantage of a Lap 233 caution flag for fresh tires, fuel and another chassis adjustment. Earnhardt stayed midpack, and with 120 laps to go, reported a lack of forward bite. Letarte’s group continued to tweak on the No. 88 Chevy SS, but Earnhardt slipped to 24th with 80 laps to go. He climbed a couple spots on the track, but got his biggest boost during an ensuing stop under caution. It was then that Earnhardt picked up 12 spots on pit road with a two-tire and fuel stop. He lined up 10th for the Lap 333 restart and was running 13th with 20 laps left. Letarte called a 12th-place Earnhardt down pit road during a late-race caution period and sent him back onto the track in 13th with fresh tires. He improved to finish 10th.