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The 'Chase' Is On!

As “The Chase for the Championship” heats up in the last eight races of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon remain strongly positioned to battle for the title while Terry Labonte and Brian Vickers continue to focus on winning their teams’ first race of the season.

Two races into “The Chase,” Gordon holds the top spot in the point standings. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevy has already collected six poles and five wins this season.

“We’re excited about these last races,” Gordon says. “We’re going to put everything we have – our best resources, people, race cars, engines, and everything – into it.

“We’ve got great tracks coming up and this team is pumped up. It’s going to be interesting and I wish we had a bigger gap between us and the competition, but it certainly is exciting the way this points championship is unfolding.”

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolets, currently sits in fourth position in the point standings, just 57 markers behind his teammate, Gordon.

“I think we have a great chance,” Johnson says. “With this new format, I think ‘Lady Luck’ is going to have to be on your side to do it.”

Despite missing the top-10 cutoff for “The Chase,” Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers Labonte and Vickers plan to use the remaining races to improve their teams’ performance.

Labonte is ranked 23rd in the NEXTEL Cup standings, with six top-10 finishes.

“Even though the No. 5 Kellogg’s Racing team won’t be in the championship mix, we’re focused on winning at least one race over the final two months of the season,” Labonte says.

“Sure we’re disappointed that we’re not as far up in the point standings as we thought we’d be. But there is still plenty of time for our team to show its strength.”

In his rookie season at the Cup Series level, Vickers is 25th in the point standings. The No. 25 GMAC Financial Services team has earned two pole positions and three top-10 finishes.

“Most importantly, we need to continue to improve our performance and learn,” Vickers says. “We still want to get a win before the season is out.

“One of our goals coming into the season was to win a pole and we’ve accomplished that already. There’s plenty of time for us to continue developing as a team and become more consistent from week to week. When we do that, we’ll be in a better position to go for that first win.”

The “Chase for the Championship” will end with a 400-lap event at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21.

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