ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2004) – Jeff Gordon led Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying at North Carolina Speedway on Friday, posting the fifth-best time of the 45-car session. Gordon was clocked at 154.318 mph in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, marking his 17th top-10 start in 23 races at Rockingham. Rookie Brian Vickers will start 20th in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet. The 20-year-old started on the outside pole position at the 1.017-mile track last November. “We picked up some time from where we practiced, but we were just too loose,” Vickers said. “Our main focus right now is getting the car adjusted for the race because qualifying doesn’t pay any points. “Running well on Sunday is what it’s all about.” Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing will start 29th, followed by teammate Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Monte Carlo, in 35th. Ryan Newman earned the pole position at 156.475 mph. Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Busch will start 13th in Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series event, the best of any rookie in the field. He drove the No. 5 Lowe’s Chevrolet to a lap of 150.766 mph in qualifying. Johnny Benson picked up the pole at 153.169 mph, but the lap was disallowed when his car failed post-qualifying inspection. David Stremme will start from the first position.