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Gordon Second at Atlanta

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 10, 2003) – Jeff Gordon finished second in Sunday’s Bass Pro Shops/MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, earning his first top-five finish of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, while teammate Joe Nemechek scored his second consecutive top-10 finish in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy.

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, gained 12 spots in the Winston Cup standings, moving to eighth overall from the 20th position, just 141 points out of first.

“What a great day,” said Gordon, who started 30th. “I’m real happy. To come from 30th and drive up the way we did. I had a lot of fun racing with (Dale Earnhardt) Junior to get up through there. I just couldn’t believe how awesome our race car was. The guys did an incredible job.

“We had great pit stops. It was a whole team effort and hopefully we can do that every weekend.”

Nemechek, who started the race 13th, finished ninth for the second consecutive week and moved within two markers of a spot in the top-10 in points.

“We could never hit (the setup) perfectly,” Nemechek said. “When we had to make time up we could go, but it’s disappointing coming home ninth. We had a much better car than that.”

The Lakeland, Fla., native is one of only 13 drivers with multiple top-10 finishes after four races. He sits just 146 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth.

Two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte held his ground in the standings, finishing 20th in the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevrolet and earning 103 championship points.

Following an encounter with some debris on the race track that put a hole in the grille of the No. 5 Chevy, Labonte fought handling problems and an apparent short-circuit, which filled the car’s cockpit with smoke.

After dousing the fire with water from his drinking bottle, the Corpus Christi, Texas, native pulled into pit road, where the team assessed the problem and quickly returned the Monte Carlo to the 1.54-mile speedway.

Labonte, who started the race in 39th, is currently 26th in points, just four behind 25th-place Mark Martin and 50 back of Sterling Marlin, who sits in 20th.

Team Lowe’s Racing and driver Jimmie Johnson were once again the victims of bad luck as the No. 48 Chevrolet lost an engine toward the end of Sunday’s 500-mile event while running in the top-10.

“This doesn’t happen to us very often,” said Johnson, who finished 32nd after starting 11th. “I went up through the gears and was in fourth coming off of (Turn) 2 and I felt a really bad vibration, and that was it.”

One week earlier, the team was in the top-10 on the last lap at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the No. 48 was spun by Marlin, costing them a third top-10 finish in three races.

Johnson is currently fourth in championship points, just 99 off the pace.

The teams of Hendrick Motorsports will next visit Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for the fifth of 36 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events on Sunday, March 16. The race will be broadcast on the FOX television network and MRN Radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST.

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