CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 30, 2002)—Hendrick Motorsports stole the show in the Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday as Jeff Gordon earned his third victory of the year, Jimmie Johnson took the lead in championship points, Joe Nemechek earned his first top-five finish of the season and Terry Labonte placed a fourth Hendrick entry in the top-12.
Driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Gordon led the most laps on his way to Victory Lane, moving up one position in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver standings to fourth behind Johnson, second-place Mark Martin and third-place Tony Stewart.
“I’ve got to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports—and this entire team,” Gordon said. “What a great effort and pit stops by this team. The chassis department and body department at Hendrick Motorsports—the No. 48 (Johnson), the No. 25 (Nemechek), and the No. 5 (Labonte)—all the guys did a great job.
“The guys in the engine shop did a heck of a job, too, bringing us the great horsepower.”
Nemechek joined Gordon in the top-five with his best performance of the season in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy, finishing fourth and jumping two spots in points to 34th overall. It was the Lakeland, Fla., native’s ninth career top-five and 33rd top-10 finish since 1993.
“It was just an awesome day to drive this car,” Nemechek said. “This whole week was exactly what this team needed to get on track. We had a great test in Kentucky and worked really hard all week getting ready for this race at Kansas.
“The guys were on it all weekend—we had great practices, a solid qualifying run and our best race of the season. Everyone is just so pumped up and ready to do it again.”
Behind the wheel of the No. 48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo, Johnson battled back from a cut tire to finish 10th, taking over the lead in championship points after starting on the outside pole. It was his 18th top-10 finish in 29 events this season.
“Unfortunately we had a flat tire,” Johnson said. “It cost us and we got down but we had a great race car and a great team and we weren’t going to let it get us down.
“I want to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Lowe’s for their support. Who knows? It’s been a bad place to be leading the points these days. Everybody keeps having trouble. But hopefully we can take it and hang onto it.”
Two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte pulled out of a summer-long slump on Sunday, finishing 12th in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy, his best result since a ninth-place showing on July 28 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Labonte remains 23rd in the driver standings, less than 100 points out of 20th.
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the 2.66-mile tri-oval of Talladega Superspeedway for the EA Sports 500 on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. ET. NBC and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of the event beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.