CALIFORNIACONNECTION: How our Cali NASCAR drivers fared at Phoenix

Several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have California connections including California Chase contenders Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon who are in the top-10 in championship points. Below is a roundup of how each Californian fared in the KOBALT Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 14.


SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. (Nov. 15, 2010) – Southern California native Jimmie Johnson cut into points leader Denny Hamlin’s lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship at the KOBALT Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.  With one race remaining Johnson is only 15-points behind Hamlin. Fellow Californian Kevin Harvick remains in third-place and Jeff Gordon is in the top-10 of the championship standings in sixth.

Below are how the Golden State drivers competed in this past weekend's Sprint Cup event:

Jimmie Johnson 
No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet 
Hometown: El Cajon  
2nd (-15)

5th PLACE FINISH:  Starting from the 21st position, Johnson fought a loose car in the corners throughout much of the race. Then fuel came into play.  With 19 laps remaining, Crew Chief Chad Knaus directed Johnson to turn off all fans in the car and to not use his brakes as much.  The strategy paid off as Johnson finished fifth, and cut his deficit to points leader Denny Hamlin to only 15 behind with one race remaining.   “In the end I'm just so proud to have Chad Knaus on that pit box. I know he's going to leave no stone unturned.  Today, once that last pit stop took place, we were kind of talking about what we needed to do.  Did a good job of saving some fuel early, which was important to get to the end.  Once we really went into fuel conservation mode, I was doing anything and everything I could to try to save fuel.  It worked out.”

Kevin Harvick   
No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet 
Hometown: Bakersfield   
3rd (-46)

6th PLACE FINISH:  Harvick started the race in Phoenix in 29th. That was a tough spot for someone looking to make a move for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, but he worked it to his advantage.  During the race’s final caution flag on lap 233, Harvick took a risk of coming into the pits when the rest of the leaders stayed out.  He left pit road in 16th, but the fresh tires and full tank of gas helped him finish the race in sixth.    “We just have to be aggressive (in Homestead).  That’s been a great race track, statistically, for us.  It’s our best race track on the circuit, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Jeff Gordon   
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet  
Hometown: Vallejo  
6th (-338) 

11th PLACE FINISH:  Gordon started 22nd in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.  He slowly and methodically moved up in the field.  During the race his set-up became a little tight, but the pit crew did work on it during the stops and he was able to finish in 11th.  “[The setup] at the end of the race was close to how we had it at the beginning.  We adjusted on it and adjusted on it, and then we brought it back close to what we started with when those changes didn't work.  It was fast at the start, but I guess the track just tightened up too much and we couldn't get a hold of it.”

AJ Allmendinger  
No. 43 Insignia HDTV Ford  
Hometown: Los Gatos   

18th PLACE FINISH: Starting from the outside pole position, Allmendinger had a great chance to have an impact on the race.  He did finish on the lead lap but came across the finish line in 18th.

Scott Speed   
No. 82 Red Bull Toyota  
Hometown: Manteca    

35th PLACE FINISH:  Speed could not get his No. 82 Red Bull Toyota moving forward in Phoenix.  He started 27th but finished back in 35th.

David Gilliland   
No. 37 Taco Bell Ford   
Hometown: Riverside  

38th PLACE FINISH:  Gilliland started 37th but could not move up due to brake issues. His race in Phoenix ended on lap 274, placing him 38th.

Robby Gordon   
No. 7 Polaris Toyota   
Hometown: Orange     

33rd PLACE FINISH: Starting from 34th Gordon was able to move up one spot at the finish in 33rd.

Casey Mears   
No. 13 GEICO Toyota   
Hometown: Bakersfield  

24th PLACE FINISH: Mears drove his No. 13 GEICO Toyota from the starting spot of 24th and finished 24th.  He was one-lap behind race winner Carl Edwards at the checkered-flag.

Boris Said        
Hometown: Carlsbad  

Said did not compete in Sunday’s event.

Contenders for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs:

Pos, Driver, Points, Ldr
1, Denny Hamlin, 6462, 0
2, Jimmie Johnson, 6447, -15
3, Kevin Harvick, 6416, -46
4, Carl Edwards, 6198, -264
5, Matt Kenseth, 6151, -311
6, Jeff Gordon, 6124 , -338
7, Kyle Busch, 6115, 347
8, Greg Biffle, 6113, -349
9, Tony Stewart, 6074, -388
10, Kurt Busch, 6033, -429
11, Clint Bowyer, 6028, -434
12, Jeff Burton, 5958, -504

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