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Labonte Nabs Top-Five Finish at ‘Dega

  • Apr 07, 2003

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 7, 2003) – Terry Labonte and Kellogg’s / got milk? Racing finally got the result they were looking for, finishing fifth at Talladega Superspeedway and advancing a full seven positions in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings.

In a race that featured all four Hendrick Motorsports teams in the top five during the final laps, Labonte worked the draft masterfully to come away with his first top-five result of 2003, his best since driving the No. 5 Chevy to a third-place finish at Infineon Raceway in June of last year.

“It was a good finish for us,” said Labonte, who started 28th. “We’ve had really good cars the last three or four races, but we’ve had some trouble. So today it was nice to finish and not have anything go wrong.

“It was a good run for us, we stayed out of the wreck there, and the guys had a great pit stop there at the end and we got pretty good track position. It was a good finish.”

The two-time Winston Cup champion moved from 31st to 24th in the championship standings, only 16 points out of a spot in the top 20 and just 66 markers behind his brother, Bobby Labonte, who owns the 15th position.

Driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season and continued his push toward the top of the standings, moving up one spot to fifth overall.

“The car was awesome,” Gordon said. “At one time I thought we really had the piece to win. You’ve just got to be in position at the right time and we weren’t there at the end.”

Gordon, who started fourth at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, is just 222 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth.

After qualifying in the seventh position, Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing finished 15th after a late-race spin knocked them out of the top 10.

“I just tried squeezing into a hole that wasn’t big enough,” Johnson said. “We’ve got these little mirrors on the left side that you try to use and try to judge how much room you’ve got in there. I squeezed down in there and I turned around. It was just kind of a racing deal.”

Johnson advanced one position in the championship standings to fourth overall with four top-10 finishes on the season.

After a solid run in the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy, Joe Nemechek lost a cylinder late in the race and dropped from his position in the top five to a 21st-place finish.

Nemechek, who started 29th, remains 17th in driver points after eight races.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the .526-mile oval of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the Virginia 500. Broadcast live on MRN Radio and the FOX television network, the event is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET green flag.

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