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Johnson Finishes Sixth at Martinsville

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 21, 2002)—Jimmie Johnson cracked the top 10 for the 20th time this season in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, finishing sixth in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday.

“Out of the races remaining, this was the one that I was fearful of,” Johnson said. “And to come out of here sixth and having a shot at winning the race, qualified seventh—just a great weekend.

“I’m real excited for the rest of the races. I think our best chance to win will be next weekend in Atlanta. Phoenix, Rockingham and Homestead—I think we’ll run well—but Atlanta, I finished third earlier in the year there, and really looking forward to going back.”

Johnson began the race in the seventh position after another strong qualifying run at Martinsville, where he started 14th in April. The rookie driver, second in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver standings, closed within 82 points of leader Tony Stewart with four races remaining.

Two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte finished 22nd at Martinsville in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy, running as high as second after starting in the 34th position. The veteran had one of the fastest cars on the race track, but struggled with handling problems for much of the event.

Labonte remains 23rd in the driver standings, less than 150 points behind Robby Gordon in 20th.

After starting on the outside pole, Jeff Gordon finished 36th following a brush with the No. 99 of Jeff Burton that caused front-end damage to the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo.

“It’s disappointing,” Gordon said. “We want to be a factor for the championship—we know that every race is critical. We’re not even going to talk about points for the rest of the season—we’re just going to go out there and do everything we can to win races.”

Gordon remains sixth in championship points, 291 back of Stewart.

Joe Nemechek, who qualified sixth in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet, finished 41st after fighting a tight-handling car all afternoon. The Lakeland, Fla., native had multiple run-ins throughout the event, including brushes with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brett Bodine, which caused extensive damage the No. 25.

After starting 29 of 32 events this season, Nemechek is currently 36th in points,

Kurt Busch won the Old Dominion 500, earning his second victory of 2002.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the 1.54-mile quad-oval of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. ET start, the NAPA 500 will be broadcast live by NBC and PRN.

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