CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2004) – Jimmie Johnson scored the win and Jeff Gordon made the comeback. Both served notice that NASCAR’s “Chase for the Championship” is far from over.
Johnson completed a season sweep of NEXTEL Cup Series points events at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Saturday, driving his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to Victory Lane for the fifth time this year.
The win was Hendrick Motorsports’ 11th all-time at the 1.5-mile oval. No team has more.
“I’m so lucky to be able to drive for Rick (Hendrick, team owner),” said Johnson, who now has three first-place finishes in his last four starts at Lowe’s. “There are a lot of people who have watched Rick and have dreamed about driving for him. To be able to be here and be a part of it is really special.
“There isn’t anyplace else I’d rather be.”
The performance helped close the gap on first-place Kurt Busch in the points battle, but Johnson is betting on his teammate—four-time champion Jeff Gordon—in the Chase
“Now that it’s looking like a three-man race, I stack the odds in Jeff’s hands,” Johnson said. “The man has so much experience and knows how to win championships. He’s had that pressure on him. He’s got four of those trophies already.
“If you look at what he did tonight and what the team did, they were able to rally back from two incidents and finish second. Those guys know how to do it, and if I was in Vegas, I’d put some money on them.”
Gordon’s No. 24 DuPont team suffered damage in two separate accidents—on Lap 1 and Lap 76—but recovered to finish second on a night that could’ve thrown a monkey wrench into their championship hopes.
“This team deserves so much credit,” said Gordon, who remains third in the standings, just 74 points out of first. “All year long, this is the kind of fight and effort that they’ve put out. That’s why we’ve been in this position for the championship. We just never give up on it.
“I just love the fact that they believe in me and I believe in them. There were so many moments today when we could have crumbled. But we stayed calm and came back.”
Gordon called the effort his “greatest comeback.” Hendrick thought it might be a sign of great things to come.
“It was a heck of a night for the No. 24 car with all the adversity and all that went on,” Hendrick said. “To see that car come back is a championship effort by them.”
Making the evening even more special, all five Hendrick Motorsports entries featured unique platinum paint schemes to commemorate the organization’s 20th anniversary.
Terry Labonte finished 25th in his No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy, followed by 34th-place Kyle Busch in the No. 84 CARQUEST Monte Carlo.
Brian Vickers was 40th in the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will next visit Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 24. NBC (12:30 p.m. ET) and MRN Radio (12 p.m. ET) will broadcast the event live.