Polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave up the lead to teammate Jeff Gordon for two brief laps to open the Federated Auto Parts 400, then retook the top spot and held it until NASCAR's competition caution flag at lap 45.
Denny Hamlin, winner of back-to-back races, had closed in on Earnhardt for the lead at the yellow flag. Earnhardt led the race off pit road over Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., and Jimmie Johnson. Kasey Kahne, chasing Tony Stewart for tenth in the point standings, is sixth, ahead of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Sam Hornish Jr., Greg Biffle, and Kevin Harvick.
Gordon dropped outside the top-15 as his team attempted to adjust for the ill handling on his No. 24 Chevrolet that had sent him dropping through the top-10 before the yellow. Busch, his chief rival for the wild card, had steadily moved forward from a 15th-place starting position. As Gordon had to win the race or at least beat Busch by 12 points to overhaul him for the final wild card spot, so far, not so good for the four-time champ.