JOLIET, Ill. – The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is underway, and three Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished inside the top 14.
At Chicagoland Speedway, Jimmie Johnson led the way in 11th, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. just behind him in 12th. Jeff Gordon, who led 40 laps, got caught up in a restart with five laps remaining and finished 14th.
"Once I got three-wide, we were done. It was over at that point," said Gordon, who tied former teammate Ricky Rudd for the most consecutive starts in Sprint Cup Series history Sunday. "I'm very encouraged by how good our Axalta Chevrolet was today -- the whole team. That's what we'll be bringing every single week."
Kasey Kahne took the checkered flag in 24th.
Denny Hamlin won the Chase-opening event.
Below is a look at how the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared Sunday afternoon.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the green flag in eighth, though he fell out of the top 10 on Lap 11. At Lap 48, Kahne had fallen back to 20th, and on Lap 69 he was passed by the leader to fall a lap down. He continued racing, looking to move into position as the first car on the lead lap, though it never materialized. On Lap 205, he found himself in 24th, the first car two laps down. With 20 laps to go, Kahne found the top 20 once again, though he ultimately finished 24th.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Gordon started the first race of the Chase in 10th, but he fell outside of the top 10 briefly before moving back in on Lap 11. From there, he continued to climb up the standings. While competitors headed to pit road for green-flag pit stops, Gordon moved as high as second before heading to pit road himself. When he returned to the track, he was in eighth, but by Lap 98 he was all the way up to fifth. On Lap 120, he entered the top three, and on a restart at Lap 136 he jumped to the runner-up position. On Lap 145 during a restart, Gordon jumped to the lead. He proceeded to lead the next 40 laps before heading to pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 185 when he reported that he was completely out of gas. The field did not completely cycle through after Gordon returned to the track, as a caution flag was thrown for debris on Lap 192. It cost Gordon the lead, though he jumped from sixth to fourth with two laps of the ensuing restart. On Lap 240, Gordon passed a competitor for second place just before heading to pit road for a green-flag stop. When the field cycled through once again, Gordon was in third with 20 laps to go. Three laps later, he was back in second place, chasing down the leader. When a caution flag waved with 10 laps to go, Gordon elected to stay off of pit road, but on the restart with five laps to go, he fell all the way outside of the top 10. He ultimately finished 14th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Johnson rolled off the grid 11th, but he quickly entered the top 10. At Lap 25, he was up to seventh, and he returned from a green-flag pit stop on Lap 54 to the track in sixth. He joined teammate Gordon in the top five on Lap 115, and continued racing toward the front through several cautions. On a restart at Lap 136, Johnson was fourth, but when another caution flag waved shortly thereafter, Johnson fell to 14th on the ensuing restart after heading to pit road. After a green-flag pit stop, Johnson was back on the track waiting for the field to cycle through when a debris caution was thrown on Lap 192. It left the driver a lap down, though he took a wave-around before the ensuing restart to return to the lead lap. He jumped from 14th to 12th on the restart. With 20 laps remaining, Johnson once again cracked the top 10. Johnson ultimately finished 11th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Earnhardt began Sunday’s race in 19th, but quickly established himself as the biggest mover. On Lap 48, he entered the top 10 for the first time all day. When competitors headed to pit road for green-flag stops, Earnhardt moved as high as fifth before heading to pit road himself. He returned to the track in 10th and continued moving up the field. On Lap 100 he was in seventh just behind teammates Gordon and Johnson. After heading to pit road during a caution on Lap 139, Earnhardt fell back to 10th on the ensuing restart. After a green-flag pit stop, Earnhardt was back on the track waiting for the field to cycle through when a debris caution was thrown on Lap 192. It left the driver a lap down, though he took a wave-around before the ensuing restart to return to the lead lap. He jumped back into the top 10 on the restart. Earnhardt ultimately finished 12th.