HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson qualified 10th in his quest for his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates rounded out the top 16 during qualifying on Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hendrick Motorsports has three runner-up results at Homestead-Miami Speedway and still is looking for its first victory at the 1.5-mile oval, which was added to the Cup schedule in 1999. Hendrick Motorsports has yet to win at just two tracks on the Cup schedule – Homestead and Kentucky Speedway. In 13 races (51 starts) at Homestead, Hendrick has two pole positions, 11 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s. Jeff Gordon leads drivers all-time there with six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. Kasey Kahne and Johnson are among the drivers tied for first all-time with two poles at Homestead.
Sunday’s championship finale event at Homestead will be broadcast on television (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) and radio (2 p.m. on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Homestead: In eight Cup starts at Homestead, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has earned one top-five finish, four top-10s and two pole positions. During the last seven years, Kahne has led 100 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, ranking him fourth among drivers during that time. Kahne is the only driver with eight starts or more at 1.5-mile Florida oval to have an average starting position inside the top-10 (7.2). He enters Sunday’s race with back-to-back top-10 finishes at Homestead.
Most recently: Kahne started fourth last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers insurance Chevrolet maintained a spot in the top 10 for the majority of the race, despite a brief loose-handling condition. After a late-race caution, Kahne restarted fifth for the green-white-checkered flag finish. He crossed the line fourth and now ranks third in the championship standings, a career-best to date for Kahne.
Kahne says: “I’m excited to finish off the season strong at Homestead. We usually qualify really well there, and we’ve had strong finishes the last couple of years. The track always has multiple grooves, which I really like.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
At Homestead: In 13 Cup starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Gordon has earned six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s, leading drivers all-time in those categories at the 1.5-mile oval. According to NASCAR loop data for the past seven races at Homestead, Gordon has the seventh-best driver rating with a score of 92.9 and owns 68 of the fastest laps run in that timeframe at the intermediate track, ranking him ninth. In this race last year, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet earned a fifth-place result at Homestead.
Most recently: Jeff Gordon lined up 11th for last Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. As the race unfolded, Gordon cracked the top five on Lap 151, despite battling lapped traffic. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet worked with crew chief Alan Gustafson to address various handling conditions as the sun set on the desert one-mile oval. Gordon improved to run eighth with 88 laps left in the 312-lap event and maintained his position in the top 10. Misfortune struck Gordon, who was running fifth with seven laps left in the race, when he was involved in a late-race incident with a competitor. He was ultimately scored 30th and ranks 10th in the championship standings.
Gordon says: "DuPont gave a young guy with a dream a shot - and I'll never forget that. They have been a partner in so many more ways than just sponsoring our team. Over two decades, not only have they supported the business of racing at Hendrick Motorsports and my career, but we have built very strong relationships with all of the DuPont employees. After a few years into the sponsorship, I started to consider myself a DuPont employee - which is an honor. So I just want to thank all of my 'co-workers' for being my most loyal supporters for the last 20 years."
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At Homestead: In 11 Cup starts at Homestead, Johnson has led 74 laps and earned four top-five finishes, seven top-10s and two pole positions. While still searching for his first victory at the 1.5-mile oval, Johnson fifth-best driver rating (95.2) among active drivers in the last seven races at Homestead. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet also ranks fifth for laps run in the top 15 (1,321) and sixth for green-flag speed (162.408).
Most recently: Johnson started from 24th last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, but climbed inside the top 15 by Lap 62. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet began searching for different lines to find speed as the race reached the halfway point. On Lap 234, misfortune struck Johnson. He reported a lack of brakes after his No. 48 Chevy made hard contact with the outside wall. Johnson reported to the garage, where his team began repair on the right-front suspension. Johnson returned to the track with 36 laps to go, running 33rd and benefited from the green-white-checkered flag finish to take 32nd. He now ranks second in the driver standings.
Johnson says: “My focus is going down there and winning the race. We typically haven’t had to have that mentality going into this race, but we have shown we can race for the win. We did it in 2010 against Denny (Hamlin), finished second and won the championship. This 48 Lowe’s team can do it again. We have nothing to lose and can gamble and take chances. Brad (Keselowski) doesn’t have that luxury. This isn’t over. This team never gives up and we don’t intend to, now.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Homestead: In 12 Sprint Cup starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Earnhardt has led 93 laps and recorded three top-15 finishes and five top-20s. He scored his best finish -- 11th -- at Homestead in the 2011 season finale. According to NASCAR loop data statistics for the last seven races at 1.5-mile Florida track, Earnhardt ranks fifth for fastest laps run (93) and first for green flag passes (635). The driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew finished 11th in the season finale at Homestead last season.
Most recently: Earnhardt opened last weekend’s Cup event at Phoenix International Raceway from 23rd and fought handling conditions that made gaining track position difficult for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earnhardt remained inside the top 25 as the race wound down, and he continued to work with crew chief Steve Letarte to find the appropriate handling response. When Johnson encountered an issue late in the race, the members of the No. 88 team stepped up to help their teammate repair the right-front suspension. Earnhardt crossed the finish line 21st and ranks 12th in the championship standings.
Earnhardt says: “Homestead has turned into a really good racetrack. We are able to move all over the track and look for speed in different places. The cars seem to respond to that. The track is very unique even though it looks quite simple. It is really a challenge. Both corners are very different from each other and require the cars to handle differently in each corner. And then you have other things like the wind. But it is a fun place to race.”