RICHMOND, Va. – After an action-packed night under the lights at Richmond International Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. clinched his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while his teammate Jeff Gordon scored a spot inside the top five. Earnhardt, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson now will compete in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
It was an historic night at Richmond. During the Saturday night Cup event there, the caution flag came out 15 times to tie the track record. After being collected in an early incident on Lap 8, Earnhardt came back from being a lap down to finish 16th and secure the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet team a 10th-place position in the championship event.
Gordon led his teammates with a third-place finish at the .75-mile track followed by Mark Martin in 10th, Earnhardt in 16th and Johnson in 31st.
Gordon’s night started off relatively quiet, but by Lap 267 the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet began his charge to the front of the field. After the final green flag waved with 12 laps to go, Gordon battled for the lead but couldn’t get past leader and race winner Kevin Harvick. Gordon’s third-place finish is his 15th top-five finish at the Virginian short track. The No. 24 team is seeded third for the first race of the Chase.
Johnson, who started the 400-lap event in fourth and led 38 laps, was running in the top five on Lap 185 when he spun in Turn 2 after making contact with Kurt Busch. On Lap 246 contact with Busch occurred again and the No. 48 Lowe’s Power of Pride Chevrolet was sent to the garage for repairs. Johnson was able to return to the field 32 laps down to finish 31st.
“I’m very excited for this Lowe’s Impala,” Johnson said during his post-race interview. “Granted, we had our issues with getting turned around out there, but we had a very strong race car at the start of the race tonight. We were running in the top four or five and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t finish where we were supposed to tonight, but we will go to Chicago and have a good race.”
Johnson and the No. 48 team enter the Chase seeded sixth.
In his 52nd career Cup start at Richmond, Martin earned his 28th top-10 finish at the track. With a 10th-place finish, the driver of the No. 5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet moved up three spots & now ranks 16th in the driver standings.