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Hendrick Puts Three in Miami Top 10

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 18, 2002)—The NASCAR Winston Cup Series wrapped up its season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday as Hendrick Motorsports placed three teams in the top 10 for the second time in the final eight races of 2002.

Driving the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet, Joe Nemechek finished second after starting on the outside of Row 2 at the 1.5-mile oval. The Lakeland, Fla., native led 111 laps, the most of any driver, and earned his second runner-up finish in the last four races.

“I’ve got to say thank you to UAW-Delphi, Chevrolet, GMAC and all these folks that keep this thing going,” Nemechek said. “I’m on board and Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) is on board for next year and this is just a sign of things to come.”

Nemechek climbed one position in the Winston Cup driver standings, vaulting Casey Atwood to finish the season at 34th overall after starting just 33 of 36 events in 2002. The veteran earned three top-five finishes in the last eight races and four top-10 starts in the final nine.

Jeff Gordon bounced back from a poor qualifying effort to grab fifth-place in the No. 24 DuPont Chevy for his third top-10 finish in four Homestead-Miami starts. The four-time Winston Cup champion started 37th, using a provisional for the first time in his career, but raced to the front for the 13th top-five finish of his 2002 season.

“It was just great pit work, great strategy and track position was everything,” Gordon said. “There were some good calls by Brian (Whitesell, team manager) and Robbie (Loomis, crew chief) in the pits and I’m real proud of this effort. I thought we were going to get a third or fourth out of it, but we got messing with a few guys and just couldn’t get by them. We’ll take a fifth-place finish and be happy with it.”

Gordon finished the season fourth in Winston Cup points, with 20 top-10s and three victories, marking the ninth consecutive year that he’s finished in the top 10 overall.

Jimmie Johnson capped off his stellar rookie campaign by finishing eighth at Miami, his 21st top-10 of the season in the No. 48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo.

“All in all, it has been just an incredible year,” Johnson said. “I’ve got to thank everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for all the hard work and dedication of making it exist. And on top of that, I can’t say enough for Lowe’s; all the support from their employee-owners and everyone in their corporate offices. That’s been a great relationship. It’s just the start of great things for us. We got a top-five (in the final standings) and we’ll go on from here.”

After earning six top-five finishes and three victories in 2002, Johnson finished just seven points behind Gordon, his teammate and car owner, in the championship standings.

Behind the wheel of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy, Terry Labonte came in 28th at Homestead-Miami Speedway after starting in the 30th position. The two-time Winston Cup champion finished the season 24th in points and set a personal single-season record by running to the finish in 30 races.

Overall, Hendrick Motorsports posted six wins, 23 top-fives and 48 top-10s throughout the 2002 Winston Cup season, along with eight pole positions and four runner-up finishes. A Hendrick Motorsports team has visited Victory Lane in every season since 1986—17 consecutive years—the longest current streak among all teams competing at the Winston Cup level.

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