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Race recap: Gordon ranks first in standings after Vegas run

LAS VEGAS (March 1, 2009) – Four-time champion Jeff Gordon now sits atop the driver standings after scoring a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, was the highest finisher among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 10th, Jimmie Johnson 24th, Brad Keselowski 38th and Mark Martin 40th.

“It’s been a great start to the season, and I’m really proud of this team,” said Gordon, who led 17 laps during Sunday’s race and now ranks seventh all-time for laps led with 20,006 total. “We’re just bringing awesome race cars to the racetrack. Three weeks in a row I’ve felt like we have the car that can win, and that’s quite a change from last year. What an exciting time this is for this DuPont Chevrolet team.”

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, started 31st and climbed through the field to score his first top-10 finish of the season.

“We really, really needed it,” Earnhardt said. “We know that we need to put together about six or seven good weeks to give ourselves a shot at getting back into the battle for the Chase. We’ve got some good tracks in a row here where we can do that. We’ve just got to keep our heads on straight.”

Johnson lined up in third place and led three times for a race-high 92 laps, but lost position during the 11th caution of the day because he was trapped on pit road. Johnson climbed through the field in his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet and was running in 10th when he got into the wall in Turn 2.

“It was just unfortunate,” Johnson said. “We had the best car. It was just unfortunate that I just got a little too aggressive and I piled it up.”

Keselowski qualified 13th for his third Cup event, driving the No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. An early incident sidelined the rookie, who returned to finish the race in 38th.

Martin, who started Sunday’s event in eighth place, was running in fourth when an engine issue affected his No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Chevrolet.

“I hate it. I sure would have liked to kept racing today,” Martin said. “We had a good race car. And we were getting better. And we’re learning each week. We’ll have to get ‘em next week.”

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