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HMS Notes:  Bristol

HMS Notes: Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 26, 2004) – Brian Vickers has made four career starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, all in the NASCAR Busch Series. Sunday’s 500-lap event will mark the Thomasville, N.C., native’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut at the half-mile venue, where he most recently qualified third and finished seventh during last fall’s Busch Series race. “To me, Bristol provides the greatest sensation of speed of all the tracks we race at,” Vickers said. “It’s a place where you really have to hustle the car and experience a lot of ‘Gs’ (G-force) because it seems like you’re always in the corners due to the short straight-aways. “You use every bit of the track exiting the corners and run so close to the outside walls that you see the fence posts just zipping by, making it feel like you’re going extremely fast.” Vickers and the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services team will field a new car for this weekend’s race. Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 2559 will make its race debut after being introduced by the team at a March 17 test at the .533-mile oval. The car was damaged during the session after a problem with the brakes as Vickers made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turns 3 and 4, requiring the chassis to have its rear clip replaced. “The car was quick,” Vickers said. “We were probably one of the fastest, if not the fastest car there during the test in race trim. “Even though we didn’t get an entire day of testing in because of the accident, I think we learned a couple of things which really seemed to help the car -- stuff that we can apply to Bristol and other tracks we’ll be going to.” ‘5’ IMPROVES QUALIFYING EFFORT: With the first short-track race of the year coming up this weekend at Bristol, Kellogg’s Racing hopes to continue its improvement in qualifying. Terry Labonte’s 26th-place starting position for the March 21 event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway was his best in five races this year and the two-time champion has had good success in qualifying at Bristol. He’s started on the front row six times, including a pole position in 1987. MAKING UP GROUND: Despite his 19th-place finish at Darlington, Labonte had his best points day of the young season -- gaining 36 on series leader Matt Kenseth. Labonte is 21st in the standings, 214 points behind Kenseth and 107 behind 10th-place Elliott Sadler. Only drivers in NASCAR’s Top 10 and others within 400 points of first place after 26 events of this year’s 36-race schedule have been run will be eligible to participate in the “Chase for the Championship” over the final 10 weeks of the season. TIME FLIES: Two years ago at this time, Vickers elected to skip his high school prom to compete in the Busch Series race at Bristol on March 23, 2002, finishing 14th in his debut at the half-mile bullring. He was a senior at Trinity (N.C.) High School, just two months away from graduating with honors. LABONTE AT BRISTOL: At Bristol, Labonte has two victories and four runner-up finishes, most recently to teammate Jeff Gordon in 1998. ALL ALONE: Through the first five races of the 2004 schedule, Labonte is the only driver who has finished in a higher position than he started in each event. SOLID ON CONCRETE: In the six Busch Series events run on concrete tracks in 2003, Vickers captured one win, two top-fives and five top-10 finishes. STREAK NOW 47 RACES: Labonte is the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver without a DNF (did not finish) through the first five races of the season. By running to the end of the March 28 event at Darlington, Labonte extended his series-high streak of consecutive races without a DNF to 47. The last time he failed to complete a race was in October 2002 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The modern-era record is 56 in a row, set by Gordon in 2001-02. HENDRICK AT BRISTOL: Car owner Rick Hendrick has seven career victories at Bristol, tying him with Richard Childress and Roger Penske for third on the all-time list. Junior Johnson is first with 20 wins, while Holman-Moody ranks second with nine. LABONTE REMEMBERS TEXAS WIN: This Sunday marks the five-year anniversary of Labonte’s 21st career victory -- a stirring triumph at his “home track” of Texas Motor Speedway. On March 28, 1999, Labonte out-gunned Dale Jarrett down the stretch to take the checkered flag in what he’s called one of the biggest wins of his career. STILL GOING: Labonte has now gone 20 races without the need of a provisional starting position, his longest such streak since he put 24 straight races together in 1998.