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Earnhardt to start Showdown third; Johnson, Gordon in top eight for All-Star lineup

Earnhardt to start Showdown third; Johnson, Gordon in top eight for All-Star lineup

CONCORD, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. will open his bid for a spot in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race from the third position, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates established their qualifying spots in the non-points event on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson will start sixth, Jeff Gordon took eighth, and Kasey Kahne will line up 20th for the exhibition race.

The NASCAR Sprint Showdown will be televised live on SPEED at 7:30 p.m. ET and will precede the All-Star Race, which should air around 9 p.m., also on SPEED.

Earnhardt will make his second career appearance in the Sprint Showdown, and either a win, runner-up finish or the fan vote on will ensure the driver of the No. 88 The Dale Jr. Foundation/Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet will participate in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Last year, Earnhardt qualified for the All-Star Race by winning the fan vote. Voting continues until 5 p.m. ET prior to Saturday’s events. The qualifying races will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Winner of the 2000 All-Star Race, Earnhardt has one win, three top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 12 appearances in the exhibition event. His average finish in the exhibition race is 8.66. Last year, Earnhardt earned a spot in the All-Star Race by winning the fan vote. He started 21st and crossed the finish line 14th.

Johnson, Gordon and Kahne will line up for the All-Star event, slated to begin at 9 p.m.

Johnson, who will drive a specially painted No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet, enters Saturday’s event with two previous wins (2003 and 2006), six top-five finishes and six top-10s. His average finish in the non-points race is 7.2. Johnson will start the race sixth.

Gordon, who will roll off the grid eighth in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, has three wins in the All-Star Race (1995, 1997 and 2001). Those victories tie him with Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most all-time.

"Every week we're racing and pushing as hard as we can to try to win the race or get the best finish possible," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "It doesn't matter if points are on the line or not. I don't approach the All-Star Race any different than I do any other race.

"However, it is a win-or-nothing kind of situation. If we don't win, then we don't lose any points - so you can kind of leave (the track) with a smile on your face."

Kahne, who will start 20th on Saturday, has participated in the All-Star Race every year since joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in 2004. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet has one win (2008) and two top-10 finishes in those eight appearances. Kahne will start 20th after an incident in Friday’s qualifying session required him to go to a backup car.

“You can’t run the All-Star like any other race,” Kahne said. “With the format changes, your strategy is never the same as last year. Winning a segment is going to mean a lot this year. No one is looking for just a good finish. We all want the win.”