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Gordon, Labonte Lead Hendrick at California

  • Apr 29, 2003

FONTANA, Calif. (April 28, 2003) – Former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte both posted solid efforts as they paced Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday at California Speedway.

Gordon, who has won twice at the two-mile race track in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, finished 11th and kept his third-place position in championship points.

“We made a lot of good calls there at the very end,” Gordon said. “If you’re going to have your day come together, you want to have it happen there at the end.

“Eleventh is a good finish for us, but what a frustrating day. We were decent at the beginning and then we were just so loose on new tires that we would lose several seconds to everybody. Then, the car would be halfway decent. But, we had to get it tightened up. We made a lot of adjustments, but nothing really seemed to work for us. Luckily, we put some tires on there at the end and came up to 11th—almost 10th.”

Driving the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevy, Labonte finished just behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, earning 12th-place in the 250-lap event.

“Our car was a little bit tight in long runs,” Labonte said. “We kept working on it. We had to get it to where we started out pretty loose and then try to get it to where it wouldn’t be so tight. But, it was a good, solid run for us.”

Just shy of a top-10 finish, Labonte, who moved into 19th in points, credited his team for their hard work.

“We’re close,” Labonte said. “I feel really good about our team. The guys are doing a great job.”

A sure top-10 finish for Jimmie Johnson turned sour after the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet made contact with the California Speedway retaining wall.

“I just got real tight behind the ‘9’ car off of Turn 4 and got into the outside wall,” Johnson said. “Everybody tried to check up and got into the back of me and started everything. I don’t think I really got hit until I got into the wall.

“The day was great. I’m just bummed that once again we had a great car, a great effort, and then we get to the very end—the last lap—and something else happens. It’s no one’s fault.”

Johnson slid one position to fifth in championship points, just 207 behind leader Matt Kenseth.

After a solid qualifying effort that put the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet in the top-10, Joe Nemechek had a rough day at California, finishing 32nd and losing three positions in the Winston Cup driver standings.

Nemechek dropped to 20th overall, but remains less than 40 points out of 15th and a mere 123 out of 10th.

Kurt Busch won his second race of the 2003 season, winning at California Speedway for the first time in his career.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit the .75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday, May 3. Coverage on MRN Radio and the FX television network will begin at 7 p.m. ET.

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