- Associated Press - Sunday, September 22, 2013

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. went from engine failure and a 35th in the Chase opener to leading 17 laps and finishing sixth at New Hampshire.

His nice rebound was enough to nudge him from 13th to 11th in the standings. Not a contender, but certainly not totally hopeless.

Jeff Gordon couldn’t overcome a poor pit stop and was 15th. Kasey Kahne slammed into the wall with 48 laps left and was 37th.

Throw in Jimmie Johnson’s fourth-place finish, and Hendrick Motorsports was all over the chart Sunday at New Hampshire

Gordon’s solid run was busted up on the pits when the No. 24 Chevrolet slid past his stall and needed to back up. He said he was “highly disappointed” in his miscue that dropped him from seventh to eighth in the standings.

“I carried a little bit more speed in there and crossed the splitter over the line by an inch,” he said. “That’s all it takes to make a difference between a chance at winning at finishing 15th.”

Earnhardt led a handful of laps to find some encouragement after a disappointing start to the Chase. He’s still searching for his first win of the season in the No. 88 Chevrolet and will have to get one soon _ and probably more _ if he’s going to make any dent on leader Matt Kenseth.

“The car was fast as heck, one of the top three cars I thought,” he said. “Glad we were able to get a decent finish out of it. Just want to win one. I’m trying hard.”

Kahne also was in the thick of a solid run until he lost control of the No. 5 and hit the wall. His wrecked car was towed off the track and he went to the infield car center. Kahne had no clue how his car ended up against the inside wall.

“I seriously don’t remember how it happened,” he said.

Kahne dropped from 10th to 13th _ the last spot in the Chase field. Already 71 points behind Kenseth, it’s almost impossible for him to catch up.

Among the Hendrick drivers, only Johnson could be considered a legitimate contender.

“We’re in a good spot,” he said. “We haven’t given up too many points.”

If only his teammates could say the same.

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