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Gordon Third at Phoenix

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 11, 2002)—Jeff Gordon earned his second consecutive top-five on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, finishing third in the Checker Auto Parts 500 after starting fourth.

The four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion has finished in the top-five in four of the last seven events, with a total of 12 so far this season.

“It was a great effort for us,” Gordon said. “I`m real happy with everything that went on this week—we qualified fourth and came home third. I`m real happy with that effort for the DuPont Chevrolet team.

“All in all, it was a great day for us to come home third. That is our best finish here. It was by far our best effort.”

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, jumped one spot to sixth overall in the driver standings, just nine points behind third-place Kurt Busch.

Jimmie Johnson finished 15th in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy for his 26th top-15 finish of the season. The rookie has three wins, six top-fives and 20 top-10 finishes in 2002.

The El Cajon, Calif., native is currently fourth in championship points, eight markers out of third.

Two-time series champion Terry Labonte started the race in 31st and finished 26th overall at Phoenix. Driving the No. 5 Kellogg’s Monte Carlo, the veteran finished two laps down to race winner Matt Kenseth, but remains the only driver to complete every race at the 1-mile oval since it was added to the Winston Cup circuit in 1988.

Labonte remains 23rd in the standings, just 60 points behind 22nd-place Kevin Harvick.

Joe Nemechek fought handling problems at PIR, finishing 33rd after a solid qualifying effort put the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet on the outside of Row 4 to start the event.

“I don’t want to let a rough finish spoil what was a really positive weekend for the No. 25 UAW-Delphi team,” Nemechek said. “We had a fast car all weekend. The qualifying effort was great and our practices were right on the money.

“I think we can have another great week at Miami and finish the year on a positive note.”

After starting just 32 of 35 races this season, Nemechek remains 35th in driver points.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the 1.5-mile oval of Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 17 for the last race of the 2002 season. Slated for live broadcast on NBC and MRN Radio, the event is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET green flag.

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