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Dura Lube 500k - Phoenix International Raceway

Qualifying-
The 24 car will start 24th for Sunday's race at the one mile desert oval. Jeff Gordon rounded the track in a time of 247.248 seconds at an average speed of 132.120 mph during Friday afternoon's qualifying session.

Rusty Wallace earned his ninth Bud Pole for the year, with a record lap of 26.830 seconds (134.178 mph). His new rookie team mate, Ryan Newman, will start 10th. Bobby Labonte, the current leader of the NASCAR Winston Cup Points Standings, will start 9th. While Dale Earnhardt, his closest contender for the Championship, will start 31st.

Race-
Jeff Gordon gained his eight top-10 finish in nine races Sunday afternoon at Phoenix. Gordon steadily gained positions over the first 20 laps. Having started in 24th seemed to be bad for the team, but when caution came out on lap they got Jeff out in 11th place for the 42nd lap restart. From then on it was just racing as usual; however, the car was having a slight handling problem.

"It's the best we've run here at Phoenix in awhile, but we're still missing something. We've got to get something and get better to beat those guys. It might have been the weather. We were definitely chasing it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. We were wearing the right rear tire out real bad. Finally we got the right rear hooked up and got the car turning up off the corner and driving off good. The car just came to life."

On lap 294, a caution came out for the kind of thing that keeps races interesting. Rick Mast slowed drastically going into the 3rd turn, and Mike Bliss could do nothing but run into the back of him. These two cars were about to go a lap down. The race leader, Ricky Rudd, who hasn't won a race since Martinsville in '98 and looked to have this one all but in the bag, ran right into Mike Bliss's car as it slid back across the race track. Gordon was in fifth when the incident happened. As the leaders pitted, Gordon's team was able to get him back out in the same spot he came in in. With ten laps to go, the green flag waved, and Mark Martin was the leader. However, his car had old tires, and he was soon passed by Jeff Burton. One lap prior to that, Gordon was passed by Jeremy Mayfield. Soon after, Bobby Labonte passed him also to put Gordon in 7th. As the laps wound down, Martin slid back to sixth. Gordon could not pass him, though, and he finished in 7th.

Jeff Burton completed the weekend sweep by winning the Busch Series race and the Winston Cup race at Phoenix.

Bobby Labonte managed to get a top-5 finish and extend his lead over Dale Earnhardt in the points standings. Jeff Gordon is still in ninth place with a 114 point lead on 10th place Ward Burton, 147 points behind 8th place Mark Martin.

Next weekend the teams return to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the second annual Pennzoil 400. Jeff will also be racing in his final Busch Series race this weekend.

Article by: Charlie Young

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