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Cup Notes: Mr. H Steps In

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 30 2010

Rick Hendrick is keeping peace among his drivers. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Richmond, Va. – Rick Hendrick attempted to defuse the potential feud between Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson earlier this week when he spoke with his two drivers on a conference call.

Gordon was still stewing over a late-race move at Talladega on Sunday when Johnson pulled in front of him forcing the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet to drop onto the apron.

“Our conversation was pretty good,” Johnson said. “In a lot of ways from Rick’s standpoint, my standpoint and Jeff’s, it was just a mistake that I made.

“And, unfortunately, it was coming off the heels of Texas and the fact that Jeff crashed after that and the emotions were high and he got out of the car and said some things that he probably didn’t want to.”

Busch on top: Kyle Busch, winner of three of eight races in the Nationwide Series this season, won the pole Friday afternoon for Friday night’s Bubba Burger 250 race at Richmond International Raceway.

The 3 is back: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will pilot a No. 3 Chevrolet sponsored by Wrangler Jeans in the Nationwide Series race in Daytona in July.

But the third generation driver says he’s indifferent when it comes to whether anyone should campaign on a regular basis the number his father made famous in the Sprint Cup Series.

“I really don’t have an opinion,” Earnhardt said. “If someone wants to run the no. 3, let them run the No. 3. Numbers are numbers.

“Even if somebody runs the No. 3, I don’t think anyone is going to forget what daddy did with it. It is ridiculous to try to retire numbers or favor numbers for certain drivers.

“The No. 3 meant a lot to daddy and meant a lot to a lot of race fans. But there is some kid that is growing up that really was never a Dale Earnhardt fan, but he drives the No. 3 and he might want to be the No. 3 all his life. To not give that guy the opportunity just isn’t fair.”

Big choices: Following opening practice for Saturday night’s Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Greg Biffle said taking tires or staying on the track during a late caution will depend on how the competition reacts.

“That is always a ‘what if’ situation,” Biffle said. “Do you have six guys stay out behind you so fresh tires are three rows back and then four guys took two and the rest have four?

“It all depends. If a guy starts behind you, or one or two behind you have fresh tires, then you are probably a sitting duck. It depends on the situation, how many laps to go and how many cars stayed out on old tires.

“The perfect scenario is that four or five cars behind you stayed out, four or five cars took two and then on back is four tires. That would be the perfect scenario for a 10-lap shootout.”

Passing fancy: There was plenty of buzz this week about the record 88 lead changes in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jeff Burton, who led the most laps in the event, said it’s hard to label a race as perfect.

“We led every lap at New Hampshire (in 2000). I thought that was perfect,” Burton said. “But (the media) seems to hate it, so I guess the definition of perfect is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

“I just don’t think there’s ever a race that everybody is going to say, ‘that’s the best race you can possibly have.’ There is always a debatable issue.

“I certainly thought that Sunday’s race was exciting from the driver’s standpoint. I haven’t watched the race from a fan’s perspective yet, but from the driver’s standpoint I liked the tempo of the race. It was aggressive, but I didn’t think it was overly aggressive.”

Crew chiefs inked: Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that it has signed crew chiefs Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson to four-year contract extentions.

Knaus is crew chief for four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Gustafson for Mark Martin.

Gustafson said he was pleased with his deal, even if he doesn’t know what his contract says.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t read it,” Gustafson said. “I just signed it, so I don’t know. I am not worried about that. Mr. Hendrick has always been…I didn’t read it, but you know me, I didn’t study it, I didn’t go through all that stuff. Mr. Hendrick has always been above and beyond, he has gone above and beyond for me, so, I am not concerned about it. I haven’t even thought about it to be honest with you.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 30 2010
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