Monday, October 20, 2003

NASCAR Notebook

Johnson can't keep up with the boss

The Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jimmie Johnson gladly would have bumped his boss out of the way Sunday, if he had caught him. Johnson, whose car is co-owned by Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick, finished second to Gordon in the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, crossing the finish line about five car lengths behind.

"Of course, I want to pass him," Johnson said. "Of course, I want to put a bumper on him. I wouldn't have wrecked him, but that's what I'm out there to do, race for the win. I'm racing him for points."

Gordon, who is sixth in the season standings, moved within 40 points of fifth-place Johnson with four races remaining. But Johnson, in his second full season, was pleased with Sunday's result.

"I've been struggling . . . and the fastest I was all weekend was 24th or 25th," Johnson said. "To be able to get things figured out and sorted out on how to drive the track and finish second is such a cool accomplishment."

Johnson's No. 48 Chevy started 26th in the 43-car lineup and fell deeper into the field after spinning out early on the half-mile oval.

"This is one of the places that is hardest mentally to drive, and even after being spun out and all kinds of crazy stuff happened to us today, we still ended up with a good finish."

Gordon was proud of his protege, and happy Johnson didn't get too close at the end.

"I knew he'd do what it takes to beat me," Gordon said. "I just wanted to make sure he didn't get the opportunity."

TOUGH WEEKEND: Dale Jarrett crashed in qualifying Friday, started from the rear of the 43-car field and spun twice - just your everyday 11th-place finish.

"I thought we'd have a hard time running in the top 20," said Jarrett, 26th in the season points standings. "We just struggled with this car."

SPARK PLUGS: Ryan Newman finished fifth, his fifth straight top-five result and sixth in the last seven races. . . . Gordon now has won at least two races in 10 straight seasons, failing to do so only in 1993, his rookie year.

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NASCAR Notebook: Johnson can't keep up with the boss
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