Hendrick Motorsports

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Gordon wins, Johnson third in first Gatorade Duel

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2009)—Jeff Gordon climbed from his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet after winning Thursday’s first Gatorade Duel and hugged his daughter Ella, wife Ingrid and team owner Rick Hendrick.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Victory Lane,” Gordon said, smiling during the postrace interview. “I’ve got to take advantage of it.”

Gordon started the 60-lap event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in fifth and led three times for 15 laps en route to winning his fifth Daytona qualifier. Gordon, who will start in the second row of Sunday’s Daytona 500, most recently won a Duel in 2007 after leading one lap. He also won in 2006, 2002 and 1993. In 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona, Gordon has six wins, 11 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s.

Gordon last visited Victory Lane in October 2007, and while Thursday’s non-points qualifying event doesn’t count toward his 2009 win total, the NASCAR veteran is even more excited about the season.

“Who says we can’t win?” Gordon said. “I’m so fired up about this year. ... This team has just never waivered, never given up. (Crew chief) Steve Letarte, he’s an awesome leader. We’re determined to get it done this year.”

Teammate Jimmie Johnson lined up third in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet and finished third. He led one time for four laps.