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Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne qualify in top four at Richmond

Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne qualify in top four at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. –  Jeff Gordon earned the third starting spot for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Richmond International Raceway during Friday’s qualifying session, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates rounded out the top 26. Kasey Kahne joins Gordon inside the top 10 with the fourth-fastest spot. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 19th, and Jimmie Johnson will line up 26th.

ONE-TWO: For the third time this season, Hendrick Motorsports teammates rank first and second in the driver standings. Johnson is first, while Kahne ranks second after earning runner-up honors last weekend in Kansas. Johnson was also part of the two previous instances in which Hendrick Motorsports ranked one-two as he and Earnhardt held the top-two spots following the first two races of the season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.  

GORDON AT RICHMOND:  Gordon ranks tied for first among active drivers with five pole positions and leads active drivers with 1,415 laps led and average starting position of 7.9. Also, in the last 16 races at Richmond, Gordon ranks eighth in average running position (13.774), sixth in driver rating (96.6), sixth in fastest laps run (317) and eighth in laps run inside the top-15 (4057, 63.3 percent).

CAREER FIRSTS: Kahne earned his first career Sprint Cup win at Richmond in May 2005. Starting from the pole position, Kahne dominated the race, leading 242 of 400 laps and taking the checkered flag and becoming one of three active drivers who have won from the pole there. Kahne also finds himself second in the driver standings for the first time in his career, 37 points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson for first. This is the highest he has ever been in the driver standings.

EARNHARDT AT RICHMOND: In 27 Sprint Cup starts at Richmond International Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded three wins, one pole position, nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has also completed 99.1 percent of all laps he's attempted at the short track (10,707 laps of 10,803 total). To go along with this, in the last 16 races at the .750 mile oval, Earnhardt ranks ninth in average running position (15.197), fifth in fastest laps run (320), fifth in green flag passes (839) and 10th in laps led with 219. 

RICHMOND WINS: Among active competitors, Earnhardt and Johnson are two of four drivers ranked tied for second with three Cup victories at Richmond. Earnhardt most recently went to Victory Lane at Richmond on May 6, 2006, after leading 47 laps and Johnson on September 7, 2008, leading 32 laps.

HELMET OF HOPE: For the third weekend in a row, Johnson will be drawing for two charities that will be included on his helmet for the Helmet of Hope campaign.  The program runs through May 26 and at the completion, 13 charities will find their names on Johnson’s helmet. Beginning in 2008, Helmet of Hope awards a selected charity with a $10,000 grant and more. To date, the program has contributed more than $430,000 to 61 different charities. Click here for more information.

RICHMOND FIRSTS: Gordon, Earnhardt, Kahne and Johnson each captured their first checkered flag at Richmond in the spring event. Gordon led 124 laps to win at the .750 mile oval on March 3, 1996, while Earnhardt celebrated his first Richmond victory on May 6, 2000, after leading 31 laps. Kahne won on May 14, 2005, and Johnson on May 6, 2007. 

HENDRICK AT RICHMOND: In 58 races (182 starts) at Richmond, Hendrick Motorsports has tallied 10 wins, 51 top-five finishes and 88 top-10s. The organization’s 16 pole positions rank second-best for the team behind Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (17 poles).  

DOUBLE DIGITS: Richmond is one of 10 tracks where Hendrick Motorsports has 10 or more victories. Of Hendrick Motorsports’ 10 wins at Richmond, half have occurred in the first race of the year. Terry Labonte earned the organization’s first spring victory there in March 1995. Most recently, Johnson went to Victory Lane at the short track in May 2007.

TWO-FOR-TWO: Hendrick Motorsports is two-for-two at short tracks this season with victories by Kahne at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on March 17 and Johnson at Martinsville Speedway on April 7. Including last year when Johnson won at Martinsville in October, the organization has won three straight short track events.  The last time the organization swept the first two short track events to start the season was 2007 when Kyle Busch won at Bristol and Johnson won at Martinsville.