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Johnson Picks Up Atlanta Top-Five

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 14, 2004) – Jimmie Johnson finished fourth at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, earning his second top-five finish of the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.

“I’m happy to get a top-five out of this today,” said Johnson, who started third.  “It’s definitely a boost to this Lowe’s team.  We needed a decent finish.  We needed a little bit of luck.

“We didn’t have the fastest car today, but (I) felt like we were a top-10 car all day long.”

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, moved up 10 positions to ninth in the overall standings.

Joining his teammate in the top 10, Jeff Gordon finished 10th after starting fourth in the No. 24 DuPont Chevy.  It was the four-time champion’s third top-10 finish in four races this season.

Gordon is currently fifth in the NEXTEL Cup standings, just 130 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

Rookie Brian Vickers fought handling problems to finish 21st at Atlanta in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevy.  The 20-year-old started to the outside of pole-sitter Ryan Newman on Row 1.

“We had a decent finish, but that’s not what we wanted,” Vickers said.  “The GMAC crew never gave up on me.  We worked on it and worked on it and we got it pretty decent there at the end.”

Vickers is currently 28th in points, just 114 markers out of the top 10.

Driving the No. 5 Kellogg’s Monte Carlo, Terry Labonte came in 24th at Atlanta after a 36th-place start.  It marked the fourth consecutive race this season that the two-time champ has finished in a better position than where he started.

Labonte is 20th in the driver standings, 46 points behind his brother, 10th-place Bobby Labonte.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will next visit the 1.366-mile Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sunday, March 21.  Broadcast live on FOX and PRN, the 293-lap event is scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET green flag.

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