KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon qualified inside the top 10 during Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Kansas Speedway. Their teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 19.
In 11 Cup events (47 starts) at Kansas, Hendrick Motorsports has three wins, 14 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. Gordon has two of those victories and ranks tied in that category, while he sits first among all drivers in top-five finishes (eight) and top-10s (nine).
Coverage for Kansas will begin at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN this Sunday.
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
At Kansas: The driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet has earned one victory, two top-five finishes and four top-10s in 10 Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway. Martin holds a 13.4 average finish at the intermediate track and has led 152 laps there.
Chase report: The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet did not qualify for the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup field, however, the team ranks 16th in the Sprint Cup standings after finishing 19th at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The highest Martin can finish is 13th in the standings.
Martin says: “The best thing to me about going to Kansas is that it’s real close to Batesville, Ark. I have a lot of fans that make the drive up there to support me and this team and that means a lot to me. I feel like our intermediate program is getting better and better. We’ve gotten top-10s in two of our last three intermediate races. Hopefully we can give them a show this weekend and get a good finish out of it.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
At Kansas: Gordon has visited Victory Lane four times at Kansas, most recently in June 2001. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has two wins, eight top-five finishes and nine top-10s at Kansas.
Chase report: Gordon enters Sunday’s event ranked ninth in the driver standings. During last weekend’s Cup event at Dover, Gordon improved from his 34th starting position to finish 12th at the Monster Mile.
Gordon says: “Obviously two of the first three races have not gone quite the way we had hoped. I’d say besides New Hampshire we kind of survived the other two. We knew that Dover was going to be a tough race for us. We didn’t anticipate Chicago, so that one kind of threw us off a little bit. We know that this starts our real run at the championship and we obviously can’t afford to just survive any more races. We’ve got to get out there and put the numbers up and this is a great weekend to do that.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At Kansas: During his 10 previous appearances at Kansas, Johnson has finished outside of the top-10 only two times. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet has earned one win, three top-five finishes, eight top-10s and led 304 laps at the 1.5-mile track.
Chase report: After earning a runner-up finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last weekend, the No. 48 team advanced to fifth in the driver standings. During last Sunday’s Cup event, Johnson led a race-high 157 laps coming into the final restart at Dover’s one-mile concrete oval, but was nudged out of the lead after the final restart.
Johnson says: “I feel good about our 1.5-mile stuff and after reviewing things coming here with Chad (Knaus, crew chief) during the week and this morning I think we are a lot smarter with our 1.5-mile stuff and should have a really, really strong showing here. So excited to get on track. It’s back to the old format which I feel is a better use of our time, tires and resources that we have at track where we have qualifying practice, qualifying and then we come back and have race practice tomorrow.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
At Kansas: During his 11 starts at Kansas, Earnhardt has earned one top-five finish and five top-10s. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet took runner-up honors at Kansas Speedway in June. Earnhardt raced hard to contend for the win, but ultimately had to go into fuel-conservation mode on the final laps.
Chase report: Earnhardt currently holds the 10th position in Cup standings after finishing 24th last Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Earnhardt says: “I don’t really let the pressure bother me too much. Attention bothers me, not pressure; you know, just feeling like you’re in the fish tank. The pressure is not a big deal. I’ve been around this sport a long, long time and I feel like I’ve got a good idea on what I’m doing. I feel comfortable doing what I’m doing and I haven’t had many opportunities to race for championships. I’m sure that’s a different situation that I’m not quite aware of. We were kind of close in 2004 and I didn’t even realize it until it was over with, how kind of close we came. So, I’m sure if I can get that opportunity again, then maybe I can revisit the pressure question.”