Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Labonte's Win Puts Him on Gordon's Tail

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Labonte's Win Puts Him on Gordon's Tail

Article excerpt

It was almost a worst-case scenario for Jeff Gordon as Terry Labonte took advantage of the defending Winston Cup champion's misfortune Sunday to move within one point of the series lead by winning the UAW-GM Quality 500.

Labonte posted only his second victory of the season, and his first in 37 career starts on the 1 1/2-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval. The victory, combined with Gordon's 31st-place finish, brought Labonte nearly all the way back from the 111 points he trailed his Hendrick Motorsports teammate by coming into the race.

Labonte, the 1984 Winston Cup champion, lived up to his nickname of The Iceman, as he calmly discussed the win. "I'm glad we're back in the points race," he said. "We have three races left. It's going to be close." Gordon said: "We're going to see what we're made of now and see if we can't win this thing." Gordon, who came into the race with an opportunity to match the modern NASCAR record of four consecutive victories, led several times early in the race. But, on lap 176, while running third, he suddenly slowed and drove onto pit road for an unscheduled stop. His crew raised the hood and poured water into the overheating engine. But the stop cost Gordon three laps. He lost more ground later, slapping the fourth-turn wall on lap 227, then being held for a one-lap penalty after passing several cars on the way in for a caution-period pit stop on lap 235. "We knew we couldn't have bad days," he said. "We're going to have to fight hard from here on out. It's unfortunate." It is the third year in a row that Gordon has had problems in this race. Last year, he finished 30th because of a broken driveshaft. In 1994, he wound up 28th after tangling with Ricky Rudd with eight laps left. Labonte took the lead on lap 308 of the 334-lap event and pulled steadily away from second-place finisher Mark Martin, who wound up 3. …

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