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Gordon Fifth at ‘The Rock’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 4, 2002)—Jeff Gordon brought home his 11th top-five finish of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season on Sunday with a fifth-place showing at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C.

Driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Gordon battled from the 18th starting position to wrap up his second consecutive top-10 and seventh overall top-five at the 1.017-mile oval. The four-time Winston Cup champion is seventh in driver points, just 267 out of first, and remains mathematically in contention for the 2002 title.

Joe Nemechek finished 28th in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy after qualifying 21st for the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at “The Rock.” The Lakeland, Fla., native fought handling problems early in the event, falling a lap down to the frontrunners.

“It’s a little disappointing coming off such a great run in Atlanta (second place) and after having a really positive test session at Rockingham in October,” Nemechek said. “I thought our setup would’ve been pretty close to perfect, but we somehow ended up being off at the beginning of the race.

“If we hadn’t lost that lap, I think we would’ve been in good position because Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) and the guys on the UAW-Delphi pit crew did a great job getting the car back in shape. We were running quick lap times and I think it could’ve been a top-10 race car if we hadn’t started so loose.”

Nemechek remains 35th in the standings after starting just 31 of 34 events this season.

Two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte started 38th and finished 32nd in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy after struggling through handling problems for much of the afternoon. The veteran driver remains 23rd in points with four top-10 finishes on the season.

Jimmie Johnson finished 37th, but remains third in championship points, just 219 behind leader Tony Stewart. The rookie started 31st in the No. 48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo in only his second appearance at Rockingham.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the one-mile oval of Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 10. Scheduled for a 2 p.m. ET broadcast start, the Checker Auto Parts 500 will be carried live on NBC and MRN Radio.

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