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Gordon Wins From Pole at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 14, 2003) – Jeff Gordon visited Victory Lane at Martinsville Speedway for the fourth time on Sunday, earning his first win of 2003 and moving from fifth to third in championship points.  It was the four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion’s 12th career short-track victory and his 14th from the pole position.

“There are so many sweet things about getting a victory early in the season,” Gordon said.  “In the first third of the season, I think it means so much.  It just takes that weight off your shoulder.  We don’t have to go each weekend going, ‘OK, it’s been 18, 20, 30, 40,’ however many races it’s been since we won. Plus, we go into an off-weekend, so we get to enjoy it for a little bit longer than just a regular win.”

The ninth different winner in 2003, Gordon earned the fourth Winston Cup victory of the season for Chevrolet and the first for Hendrick Motosports.

“This team—I think they’ve been right there week in and week out to get a win,” Gordon said.  “We’ve been close and let it slip away and it’s awesome to finally get it—especially early on.”

Leading 190 laps of the 500-lap event for his 62nd career win, the DuPont Motorsports driver moved within 139 points of Winston Cup leader Matt Kenseth after nine events.

Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, turned in his fifth top-10 performance of the season, finishing ninth at Martinsville on Sunday.  It was his second career top-10 in just three starts at the .526-mile oval.

The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet held his fourth-place position in championship points, just 179 back of Kenseth.

Driving the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevrolet, Terry Labonte ran with the lead pack all afternoon and seemed to have locked up his second consecutive top-10 finish before making contact with the lapped car of Kurt Busch while running in the 10th position.

The two-time Winston Cup champion spun onto the apron of the track, but managed to finish the race after quickly going one lap down.  He finished 14th.

Labonte made yet another stride in the driver standings, moving up three more positions to 21st overall.  Last week, the Corpus Christi, Texas, native made a seven-spot jump following his fifth-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy, followed a strong qualifying run with a gutsy performance at Martinsville, fighting back from a one-lap deficit and handling problems early in the race to finish 15th.

Starting on the outside of Row 3, Nemechek ran with the leaders at the outset, but dropped out of the top 20 before Lap 100 with a loose-handling race car.  The team went a lap down on the 177th circuit, but fought back to regain a position with the leaders on Lap 316.

Thanks to brake problems, the team again dropped a lap toward the end of the race, but managed to hold steady in the standings at 17th, less than 100 points out of 10th.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will celebrate the Easter holiday with a rare weekend off, resuming competition next week at California Speedway.

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