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Johnson Paces Hendrick in Talladega Qualifying

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 23, 2004) – Jimmie Johnson qualified eighth at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, driving his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to a lap of 189.661 mph around the 2.66-mile oval.

“Really, all I try to do is stay above the yellow line and see what I can do with the Lowe’s Chevy,” Johnson said.  “It was a pretty good run for us. The guys have been working hard.”

The performance marked the fifth time this season Johnson has earned a top-10 starting position.  In nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series attempts, the El Cajon, Calif., native has qualified lower than 12th just once.

Johnson was closely followed by teammate Jeff Gordon, who qualified 11th in the No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet.

“We’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into our restrictor plate program,” Gordon said.  “It’s paying off.

“So far we’re very excited.  We’ve got the Dupont/Pepsi program this weekend and that’s exciting. We’re looking forward to keeping it up front all day.”

Two-time Cup Series champion Terry Labonte will start 13th in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Monte Carlo, while rookie Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevy, will line up 39th for Sunday’s event.

With a lap of 191.180 mph, Ricky Rudd earned the pole position.

Sunday’s NEXTEL Cup event will be broadcast live from Talladega by FOX (1 p.m. ET) and MRN Radio (12:30 p.m. ET).

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