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UAW-GM Quality 500 - Lowe's Motor Speedway

One year ago:
Gordon grabbed the Bud Pole, but a crash left him to finish in 39th.

By: Kelly Morris

Jeff Gordon started 20th in the race at Charlotte on a cool crisp morning. He started next to title rival Ricky Rudd also. As the race got under way, Jeff moved his way through the pack all the way up to the sixth position. His new teammate Jimmie Johnson was also having a good run, staying with Gordon for a good while. On lap 51, the leaders pitted and Jeff came out of the crowded pits unscathed but that was not the case for Ricky Rudd. He and Rusty Wallace made contact and that eventually effected Ricky's whole race. This incident would play a key factor later during the race and for the championship.

On lap 113 Jeff made his first green flag pitstop of the day, a few laps earlier than the leader Tony Stewart and then a caution came out when Dave Blaney spun. This put Gordon a lap down along with a lot of other cars. Luckly he was on the tale end of the lead lap and would have a chance to get his lap back on the restart. As they went back to green, he pulled away from the leaders and was blessed with a caution on lap 126 when Bobby Hamilton hit the wall. Jeff was able to get his lap back.

So far this had been a very eventful day for the 24 team. Unfortunatly it was about to get even worse. On lap 168 Jerry Nadeau lost control and crashed. This led to pit stops and Jeff getting an equalized tire. This forced Jeff to have a very ill handeling race car and slid him back to the 18th position. Figuring it was too risky to stay out any longer, Jeff came in about 10 laps early for his next pitstop to fix the tire problem. Once again another caution came out and trapped him a lap down again. Fortunatly, Ricky Rudd was having trouble with his car also and pitted with Jeff and was now 2 laps down.

The race was won by Sterling Marlin and Tony Stewart finished 2nd. Jeff hung on to finish 16th, one lap down. The good news is that Rudd finished 21st, so Jeff did not lose any ground in the championship battle. He is now 237 points ahead of Rudd and 390 points up on Stewart.

Next week the cup series heads to Martinsville for some good ol' short track action.

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