AVONDALE, Ariz. – Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin held on to finish inside the top 16 in Sunday’s KOBALT Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The Hendrick Motorsports duo, along with teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, encountered handling issues as they raced the 312-lap event on the newly repaved oval.
Promise was high for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates when the green flag dropped on Sunday. Martin was the top starter and rolled off the grid fourth. But it was Gordon who initially was the biggest mover, improving from his 23rd starting spot to run as high as 11th by Lap 91. But handling issues further surfaced as the race unfolded, and by Lap 200, brake issues arose. Gordon spent the remainder of the event carefully touring Phoenix in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. He finished 32nd and slipped to 11th in the championship standings.
Johnson started 16th and used pit strategy to climb as high as eighth within the first 100 laps. Unfortunately, that early pit stop proved that taking two tires wasn’t as effective as the No. 48 team had hoped on the newly repaved oval, and Johnson quickly told his crew that the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet was “scary loose.” The team worked throughout the remainder of the race to address the issue, and Johnson was able to 14th. Johnson improves to fifth in the driver standings.
Martin rolled off the grid fourth and held steady within the top 20 as his team continually tweaked the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. He crossed the finish line 16th and now ranks 20th in the standings.
Earnhardt lined up 22nd at Phoenix and hovered inside the top 25 on Sunday. The No. 88 team made every adjustment possible, and the driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy Chevrolet persistently looked for track position on the one-mile oval. Earnhardt finished 24th and now ranks seventh in the standings.