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Johnson Second at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 4, 2003) – Jimmie Johnson nailed down his fourth consecutive top-three performance on Sunday, driving his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to a runner-up finish in the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Johnson, who started third in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, moved from fourth to third in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship standings with two races remaining. He has three victories, a dozen top-fives and 18 top-10 finishes this season.

“We had a great day and I wish we could have had another trophy,” Johnson said. “But in the big picture, it was a great day for us.

“Hopefully, the No. 48 can stay consistent and keep knocking top-fives and top-10s these last few races and be in the top three in points.”

After starting fourth, Jeff Gordon brought home his seventh straight top-10 finish, coming in seventh at Phoenix in the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo.

The performance moved the four-time Winston Cup champion to fourth in the driver standings, just 59 points behind Johnson and 72 back of second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In just his third-ever Winston Cup start, Brian Vickers started on the outside pole and finished 13th at Phoenix after running in the top 10 for much of the afternoon.

“It was a good run for us,” said Vickers, driver of the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevy. “Our first race we completed together after we had some bad luck in Atlanta.

“The guys did a good job in the pits today, and the car just got a little tight on us and we didn’t expect that. That got us off sequence. We went back a lot further than we ended up, so we came back from a long ways and I’m proud of the guys.”

Terry Labonte and Kellogg’s / got milk? Racing finished 30th at Phoenix after a vibration in the car forced the team to pit late in the race. The unscheduled stop put the two-time champion multiple laps down to the leader after running in the top 20 throughout the early going.

After 34 of 36 races, Labonte is 11th in Winston Cup points, just 54 markers away from a spot in NASCAR’s Top 10.

In his 145th career start, Earnhardt Jr. won on Sunday at Phoenix, leading the final 51 laps to earn his second victory of 2003.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will next visit North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., for the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400. TNT and MRN Radio will broadcast the event live beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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