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Johnson, Martin and Earnhardt finish in top 19 at Richmond

Johnson, Martin and Earnhardt finish in top 19 at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. – Jimmie Johnson turned his Saturday night run at Richmond International Raceway into an eighth-place finish, his sixth top-10 result of the season, while his teammates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 14th and 19th, respectively. Jeff Gordon was involved in a late-race incident, which ended his night early, and he was scored 39th.

Martin, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet, started fifth, and Gordon lined up his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in sixth. The duo spent the majority of Saturday’s event in the top 10, despite alternating pit sequences, and appeared to be in decent position for the seventh restart of the night on Lap 301. They were running inside the top 15 when they were entangled in an incident on the backstretch. The damage from the accident ended Gordon’s night, but Martin was able to head for pit road.

“What a shame,” said Gordon, who ranks 16th in the driver standings. “That DuPont Chevrolet was so strong tonight. I’m so proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys. I hate we lost that track position there with all the pit sequences and different strategies that were going on there. With 100 to go, everybody was losing their patience including me. We were three-wide there, and I don’t know what happened. I just know someone got in my right rear and around we went.”

Gordon’s teammates Earnhardt and Johnson benefited from the caution period that followed the multi-car incident. Earnhardt and Johnson spent the first half of Saturday’s race battling handling issues and even overcame running a lap down to be in solid position when the incident occurred on Lap 301.

When the field returned to green-flag racing on Lap 315, Earnhardt was running second and Johnson was 11th. Martin, whose No. 5 team made the necessary repairs during the pit stop, returned to the field in 20th.

Earnhardt and Johnson continued to race in the top 15, and Martin started his climb through the field as the laps unfolded at Richmond. The final stretch of the race ran under green-flag conditions, and that prompted the teams to examine their needs on pit road.

Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte anticipated the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet would be about shy on fuel, so Earnhardt made his way down pit road with 11 laps to go. During the pit stop, Earnhardt took a splash of fuel and raced off pit road. He returned to the race to finish 19th and now ranks fourth in the driver standings.

Johnson, who crossed the finish line eighth in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, remains second in the driver standings. Martin improved six spots in the final laps to finish 14th and ranks 14th in the driver standings.