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Vickers Leads Team Hendrick in Cali Time Trials

FONTANA, Calif. (April 30, 2004) – Driving the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet, Brian Vickers qualified sixth on Friday at California Speedway.  He will start on the outside of Row 3 in Sunday’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at the 2-mile oval.

“We have a great car,” said Vickers, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender.  “The GMAC guys did a great job.”

Vickers, who was clocked at 185.807 mph, is happy with the way his season has gone so far.

“It’s gone good,” the 20-year-old said.  “We’ve had our ups and downs and growing pains.  We’re building chemistry with this team, but for the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing really well.

“I’m proud of the guys.  We’ve had some awesome tests and I’m looking forward to the race here on Sunday.”

Jeff Gordon, who won last weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, was the next-best Hendrick Motorsports qualifier.  He was 16th in the No. 24 DuPont Chevy.

“I wish we could have picked up a little bit more,” Gordon said.  “But we’ve got the car working really well through the corners.  For some reason, the overall speed’s not there, but I think we’re going to have a real good race car and we’ll see where we end up here with the DuPont Chevrolet.

“It’s been a great week—a busy week.  We’ve certainly had a smile from ear to ear all week long.  Hopefully we’ll carry that momentum through this week.”

The four-time Cup Series champion says he’s glad to be back racing at California Speedway.

“I love California since I was born here and grew up here,” Gordon said.  “It wasn’t Southern California, but it’s always a pleasure to come back here.”

Gordon was followed by teammate Jimmie Johnson, who will start 19th on Sunday in the No. 48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo.

It will be a solid starting position for the El Cajon, Calif., native, considering his primary car was damaged in practice, forcing the team to a backup Chevrolet for the qualifying session and Sunday’s event.

“It was the first lap (of practice) and I ended up crashing the car, unfortunately,” Johnson said.  “The front end of the car was dragging the track really bad and literally the front wheels were off the ground.  So I kept turning the steering wheel because I needed to make the corner and finally the car got off the track—I had way too much steering wheel put into it—and it rotated the car around into the fence.

“But after that, we worked on the backup (car).  We just have a really free setup to start with and we finally made some ground there at the end (of practice).  We’re trying to figure out what it really needs to make it right.  Hopefully, with a top-25 qualifying effort—we were 29th at the end of practice—we’ll be okay.  We learned a little bit more.  We’ll put the good motor back in and we’ll have a lot more speed and hopefully we’ll have a lot better run.
“Our primary car was our Las Vegas car (started 12th, finished 16th) and the backup car is our Darlington car (started 11th, won the race).  So we’ve got a great backup.”

Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy, will start 29th on Sunday.  The two-time champion has two top-five finishes in seven career starts at California.

Rookie Kasey Kahne won the pole position with a lap of 186.940 mph.

Sunday’s event will be broadcast live from California Speedway by FOX (3 p.m. ET) and MRN Radio (2:30 p.m. ET).

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