ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2004) – Jeff Gordon earned his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series top-10 result in as many starts this season, finishing 10th at North Carolina Speedway on Sunday in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
The four-time Cup Series champion started from the fifth position and now has 11 top-10 finishes in 23 races at the 1.017-mile track. He moved to fifth in the driver standings after two of 36 points-paying events in 2004.
Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Vickers was second among Hendrick Motorsports’ four drivers, finishing 16th overall at “The Rock.”
“We were just too tight in the center (of the corners) all day,” said Vickers, who started 20th in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet. “We kept adjusting and kept adjusting until the very end. The team never gave up and we ended up with decent finish.
“I’m looking forward to Las Vegas and Atlanta. I think we’ll continue to improve and gain momentum.”
The 20-year-old moved up 10 spots to 29th in the NEXTEL Cup driver standings.
Two-time Cup Series champ Terry Labonte finished one spot behind Vickers in 17th overall after starting 35th in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy.
The Corpus Christi, Texas, native is now 16th in points, just 19 markers out of NASCAR’s Top 10. He was 19th after the season-opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson finished a disappointing 41st at Rockingham thanks to a brush with Ken Schrader’s No. 49 entry that put an early end to the day of Team Lowe’s Racing.
“It’s just a shame for this Lowe’s team,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Monte Carlo. “This is definitely a way that we didn’t want to start the season, but there are still a lot of races left.”
Johnson, who had been in the top 10 in points for 70 consecutive weeks, slid from fifth to 25th in the standings.
After its first off-weekend of the season, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will next visit Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 7. The event will the broadcast live on FOX (2:30 p.m. ET) and PRN Radio (2:15 p.m. ET).