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Feese Impresses at Lowe’s Motor Speedway

CONCORD, N.C. (May 28, 2004) – Blake Feese put on a driving clinic Thursday evening at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, earning his third top-10 finish in as many ARCA Series starts since joining Hendrick Motorsports’ driver development program in March.

Feese, who started 19th in the No. 5 ditech.com Chevrolet after a disappointing qualifying run on Wednesday, methodically worked his way into the top five before a late-race incident relegated the 22-year-old to a seventh-place finish in the Quaker Steak and Lube 100.

Once the green flag waved to officially begin the event, it was obvious the ditech.com team, fielded by Bobby Gerhart Racing thanks to a strategic alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, had solved the handling problems that plagued the No. 5 Chevy throughout practice and qualifying this week in Concord.

It didn’t take long for Feese to make headway, picking up his first position on Lap 1, followed by another on Lap 5 and a third on Lap 6.

At Lap 7, the first caution of the race was displayed, which gave the driver an opportunity to radio his crew that the car’s performance—especially the handling—had improved dramatically from Wednesday’s final practice session.

The field went back to green-flag racing at Lap 11, giving Feese the chance to make up more ground—passing the No. 08 Chevrolet of T.J. Bell on Lap 14 and, one lap later, the No. 78 entry of Doug Reid.

After three more tours around the 1.5-mile oval, another yellow flag waved, allowing the No. 5 team to pick up additional track position as some of its competitors visited pit road for service.

Feese moved to 11th before the pace car exited pit road for the Lap 25 restart, putting the team within a spot of the top 10.

The Saybrook, Ill., native wasted no time taking the position, passing Damon Lusk’s No. 38 entry on Lap 26 to move into 10th.  Feese steadily made up ground from that point, moving up another three positions in the next three laps before a yellow flag was displayed at Lap 29.

The race was back under green three laps later and Feese immediately went to work, passing the No. 17 of A.J. Henriksen on the 35th circuit before yet another caution period began on Lap 41.

Feese took over fifth under yellow and relayed to his team that the ditech.com Chevy was still handling extremely well.  As the field approached the green flag, the No. 5 had only four cars ahead of it—the No. 77 of Reed Sorenson; the No. 64 of Ryan Hemphill; the No. 50 of Justin Hobgood; and the No. 88 of David Ragan.

The long yellow period ended at Lap 57, but another quickly ensued seven laps later thanks to an accident in Turn 4.  Feese picked up a spot as the cars followed the pace car, although the event’s final caution effectively ended the team’s chances of making a run at Victory Lane.

The race, which was extended by five laps because of the late caution, went green for the final time at Lap 72, with Hemphill, Hobgood, Ragan and Feese leading the field into Turn 1.

With the Feese on his bumper, Ragan’s entry ran out of fuel, resulting in contact between the No. 5 and Ragan’s No. 88 car.  The get-together pinned the ditech.com Chevy to the bottom of the race track as Frank Kimmel, Sorenson, Wayne Anderson and Henriksen passed on the high side.

It was the first time the ditech.com Chevy had been passed all night.

The result was a seventh-place showing as the No. 5 Chevy crossed the finish line on Lap 73.  It was Feese’s third top-10 in three ARCA attempts this season, including his victory at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway on April 9.

“The ditech.com Chevy was awesome tonight,” Feese said.  “The team came back from a tough week and really showed what they were made of.  I can’t thank them enough.”

Sitting atop the team’s pit box was Kyle Busch, who will compete in the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events at Lowe’s Motor Speedway this weekend.

Busch offered some coaching throughout the race and came away impressed.

“Blake drove a heck of a race,” said Busch, who is currently second in the Busch Series championship standings.  “He passed a lot of cars and the team did a great job.

“It was a good show.”

Feese, who started driving quarter midgets at age 10, is a veteran of World of Outlaws, USAC and All-Star sprint car competition.  In May 2003, he went to Victory Lane at Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track in the Outlaws Showdown Feature.

Driver Boston Reid will take over driving duties of the No. 5 ditech.com Chevrolets at Kansas Speedway in June and Kentucky Speedway in July.

Reid, a 21-year-old veteran of sprint-car racing, was named USAC Sprint Car Rookie of the Year in 2002.  He has earned one top-five finish in ARCA competition this season, coming in third at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway on May 16.

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