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Labonte and Johnson Test Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2003) - Years ago, Gatorade built an advertising campaign around Michael Jordan with aspiring, young NBA stars-of-the-future wanting to “Be Like Mike.”

Today, 22 NASCAR drivers would be perfect for that role, including two-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Terry Labonte and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. They all want to “Be Like Mike” after Mike Wallace, Mike Skinner and Michael Waltrip positioned themselves atop the speed chart with two days of pre-season testing now completed at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

On Wednesday afternoon, Wallace led the way around the 2.5-mile oval at a speed of 184.053 mph. Skinner, fastest after Tuesday`s opening day, is now second overall at 183.786 mph, with Waltrip third at 183.572 mph.

Labonte is 19th among the 25 drivers testing at Daytona, with a top speed of 181.844 mph in his brand new Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The No. 5 Kellogg`s / got milk? team started slowly Tuesday, but picked up nearly seven-tenths of a second to begin inching up the chart on Day 2. Johnson pushed his No. 48 Lowe`s Home Improvement Chevrolet to a top lap of 181.558 mph in Wednesday`s cool, breezy conditions.

Rounding out the top five were Elliott Sadler (fourth) and Ken Schrader (fifth).

The final day of testing for this group of cars is Thursday, with the remaining NASCAR teams arriving next week for their “Preseason Thunder” three-day session, including Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Joe Nemechek.

The 2003 season will officially begin with the running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, the sixth anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports` historic one-two-three finish in the “Great American Race.” Gordon won that year`s season opener, with Labonte second and Ricky Craven third. This year`s race also marks Labonte`s 25th Daytona 500.

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