HAMPTON, Ga. – Jeff Gordon earned the fifth starting spot during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was joined in the top 32 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (17th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (29th) and Mark Martin (32nd).
Gordon will start Sunday’s race fifth. When starting eighth or better, Gordon averages an 8.5 finish. In 37 Cup starts at Atlanta, Gordon has four wins, 14 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. The driver of the No. 24 Chevy is 93 points ahead of 11th-place and has clinched at least a wild card spot for the postseason NASCAR championship hunt. Gordon can guarantee a top-10 spot with at least a finish of 40th; or 41st and at least one lap led; or 42nd and the most laps led. Gordon’s two victories this season help him achieve the wild card status.
Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, will roll off the grid 17th at Atlanta. Johnson secured his spot inside the Chase after finishing fourth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. In 19 Cup starts at Atlanta, Johnson has three wins, 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. His average finish at the 1.54-mile track is 10.4.
Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard Military Intelligence/AMP Energy Chevrolet, will roll off the grid 29th. In 23 Cup starts at Atlanta, Earnhardt has one win, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. Earnhardt currently is 39 points ahead of 11th-place and needs to leave the Atlanta event with a 49-point cushion in order to secure his spot inside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. No specific finish guarantees Earnhardt a spot in NASCAR’s postseason championship.
Martin will line up 32nd on Sunday. In 50 Cup starts at Atlanta, the driver of the No. 5 CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet has two wins, 14 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. Martin still has a shot at making the Chase through the Wild Card seeding, but there are too many variables to consider one particular scenario prior to Sunday’s race.
Race coverage will begin Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.