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Johnson qualifies 12th, teammates in top 25 at Chicagoland

Johnson qualifies 12th, teammates in top 25 at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. – Jimmie Johnson scored the 12th starting spot during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Chicagoland Speedway, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates will line up inside the top 25.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, enters Sunday’s initial Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event ranked sixth in the championship standings. He has an average finish of 10th at the 1.5-mile Illinois track, but has yet to reach Victory Lane there. In nine Cup starts at Chicagoland, Johnson has five top-five finishes and seven top-10s.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 19th in his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet. In 10 starts at Chicagoland, Earnhardt has one win, two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He last won there in 2005 when he started from the 25th position. Earnhardt enters Sunday’s race ranked 10th in the Chase.

“We were pretty tight and hit the ground a little bit in (Turns) 3 and 4," Earnhardt said. "We missed it just a little bit on the setup, but we improved a lot on just the grip of the car. Since we’ve struggled in qualifying all year long, we really really are wanting to fix that. I think we made some gains on that and might help us the rest of the season.”

Jeff Gordon will line up 23rd on Sunday. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has one win, six top-five finishes and three top-10s at Chicagoland Speedway and averages a finish there of 8.6. He last visited Victory Lane there after starting from the 13th position. Gordon enters the first race of the Chase with momentum. He ranks third in the driver standings on the strength of his two wins during the 2011 season.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet, will roll off the grid 25th on Sunday. In 10 Cup starts at Chicagoland, Martin has one win, one top-five finish and four top-10s. He is the most recent Hendrick Motorsports victor at the 1.5-mile racetrack. Martin went to Victory Lane there in 2009 on his way to a third-place finish in the championship standings.

Race coverage will begin at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.