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Kahne, Gordon qualify in top six at Daytona

Kahne, Gordon qualify in top six at Daytona

DAYTONA, Fla. – Kasey Kahne was the best qualifier among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates during Friday's session at Daytona International Speedway. Kahne will line up fourth, while Jeff Gordon, a six-time winner at the 2.5-mile restrictor-plate track, will start sixth.

Jimmie Johnson will line up 17th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid 25th.

In 57 points-paying events (182 starts) at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports has achieved 10 wins, 44 top-five finishes, 79 top-10s and has led 1,380 laps. Four of those wins were earned during the annual July event, with the most recent victory happening in 2004 when Gordon won from the pole position.

The Hendrick Motorsports teammates go into Daytona coming off a strong weekend at Kentucky Speedway where all four drivers finished in the top six. Kahne raced to a second-place finish at the 1.5-mile track followed by Earnhardt in fourth, Gordon in fifth and Johnson in sixth. The last time all four teams finished in the top eight was in April 2011 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

Saturday’s race at Daytona will be broadcast on television (6:30  p.m. ET on TNT) and radio (6:30 p.m. on MRN).  Check local listings.

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet
Qualified:  Fourth.
At Daytona: In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway, Kahne has two top-five finishes and six top-10s, including a runner-up spot in the July 2010 event. In the last 15 races at Daytona, Kahne has more green-flag passes (3,265) than any other driver, according to NASCAR loop data. He ranks second for speed under the green flag with an average pace of 187.623 mph and is tied for sixth with Greg Biffle for fastest laps run (64 laps). Kahne is the seventh-fastest driver early in a run with an average pace of 188.712 mph.
Most recently: Kahne raced his way back from a lap down to take runner-up honors at Kentucky Speedway last weekend. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet encountered an issue soon after the first round of green-flag stops causing him to fall off the lead lap. Kahne captured the “Lucky Dog” spot and returned to the lead lap on Lap 148 of the 267-lap event. He rocketed four spots in the final 20 laps to finish second. Kahne ranks 14th in the driver standings.
Kahne says: “The restrictor-plate races are always unpredictable.  We had a lot of speed in the (Daytona) 500, but got caught in a wreck at the end. We fell back at Talladega (Ala.) and still got a top-five. You have to make the right decisions and a lot of it is luck, but I know the Hendrick Motorsports guys will give me a fast car and a good chance to get to the front.”

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet
Qualified: Sixth.
At Daytona: In 39 Cup starts at Daytona, Gordon leads all active drivers with six wins. In addition, he has three poles, 12 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s at the superspeedway. Gordon’s driver rating of 87.9, ranks him sixth among active drivers at Daytona. According to NASCAR loop data for the last 15 races at the 2.5-mile track, Gordon ranks fifth for laps led (150) and eighth for laps run in the top 15 (1,548).
Most recently: Gordon earned his third consecutive top-10 finish of the season during last weekend’s Sprint Cup action at Kentucky Speedway. He opened the 267-lap event from ninth-place and consistently ran in the top 10 throughout the night. Gordon ran lap times in the No. 24 Chevrolet that rivaled those of the race leaders on his way to a fifth-place finish. After his strong performance at Kentucky, Gordon now ranks 18th in the driver standings.
Gordon says: "We don't know what kind of racing we are going to have at Daytona. Based on February (there) and based on (the other restrictor-plate track) Talladega - given the challenges we had with tandem racing - we now have equal or greater challenges. And one of those challenges - managing (engine oil and water) temperatures - will be crucial during the race on Saturday night."

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Qualified: 17th.
At Daytona: In 21 starts at Daytona, Johnson owns one win, six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and one pole. His driver rating of 83.5 ranks him 10th among active drivers at the superspeedway. According to NASCAR loop data statistics for the last 15 races at Daytona, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has run 1,613 laps in the top 15, completed 1,680 quality passes and led 33 laps at the 2.5-mile track.
Most recently: Johnson earned his first pole of the season and Hendrick Motorsports’ first pole at Kentucky Speedway during NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the 1.5-mile track last weekend. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet led 21 laps during the 267-lap event before picking up his fifth consecutive top-10 finish of the season. Johnson’s sixth-place finish at Kentucky helped him improve to third in the driver standings.
Johnson says: “We are so boxed in, chassis-wise, due to the restrictor-plate rules (at Daytona). Vehicle-wise, it’s very similar. NASCAR has given up a higher pop-off valve due to the higher temperatures we will have there. Really, it’s kind of as is. It has been pretty easy from my standpoint on restrictor-plate tracks anymore because the rules have stayed the same.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard-An American Salute/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
Qualified: 25th.
At Daytona: In 25 Sprint Cup starts at Daytona, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, nine top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and has led 396 laps. Earnhardt notched his first pole position at the 2.5-mile superspeedway during last year’s Daytona 500 qualifying. He averages a starting position of 10.3 and an average finish of 14.5 in points-paying events at Daytona. Earnhardt owns the fifth-best driver rating (88.0) at the superspeedway where he has run 1,674 laps in the top 15.
Most recently: Earnhardt earned his seventh top-five finish of the season at Kentucky Speedway last weekend. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet opened the race from seventh position and stayed inside the top 15 throughout the 267-lap event. Earnhardt finished fourth at the 1.5-mile track and improved to second in the driver standings, trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 11 points.
Earnhardt says: “I want to go up and win the race. I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about riding in the back.  I think you could do it, if that is something you wanted to do.  However I don’t plan on doing it.  I never really plan on doing it.  It may sound like we make that decision prior to the race, but you make it during the race when something happens or you see something happen that you don’t like.  You’re like, ‘Man, these guys are probably going to wreck; I don’t want to be right up behind it. I can’t get around them because the track is four- or three-wide.’ So you move back a couple of hundred yards.  I think it is poor judgment to think about it during the week, because you are not thinking about what you need to do to win the race.  You are thinking about going backwards.  That is not something I want to concentrate on.”