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Hendrick Teams Gearing Up for California

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 24, 2006) – And now, the fun begins.

Hendrick Motorsports would like to land four teams in the 2006 Chase for the Championship—no small feat, but it’s not fun if you’re not trying.  The heavy lifting begins this weekend at California Speedway, a track that has been very good to Hendrick, whose drivers have won five of 11 NEXTEL Cup races at the track.

Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet have enjoyed the most success at Fontana—in fact, Gordon, who has won three races on the two-mile track, is the only driver to win more than once. But if he’s been the most successful, each of the other three Hendrick drivers has enjoyed his moment in the California sun as well.

Last fall, Kyle Busch drove his No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet to his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win, becoming the youngest driver ever to win a Cup race. Busch’s teammate Jimmie Johnson also won his first Cup race at Fontana, in 2002, and has finished second there twice (in the spring of 2005 and in 2004).

In his five races at Fontana, Johnson has finished an average of 8.5. Brian Vickers, driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet, has an average starting position of 4.5 in his three California races.

Though speaking for himself and his Kellogg’s team entering the second race of the season, Busch may well have been speaking for everyone earlier this week.

“It may sound corny, but I feel confident every time I get to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car,” Busch said.  “We’re producing what I feel are the best cars and the best horsepower in the garage, and you always feel like you can be a threat to run well and win. We really seem to do well at the mile and a half and two-mile tracks, and I think this weekend is going to be no different.”

Vickers, who has one top-five at Fontana, may be the only Hendrick driver without a California win, but he’s hopeful that might change this weekend. At the very least, he heads into the race with a measure of confidence that only comes with experience.

“I think we should run well at California and have another solid day with a top-five or top-10 finish,” he said this week. “And if we’ve a shot at it, we’ll go for the win.”

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