The Joy Of Six

HAMPTON, Ga. - Bobby Labonte passed Jeff Gordon with nine laps to go and won Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 his sixth career NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Gordon held on for second followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. Elliott Sadler, Jimmy Spencer, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek and Ryan Newman completed the first ten.

Labonte led nine times for 172 laps on his way to his 20th career Winston Cup victory. There were 23 lead changes among nine different drivers.

""These guys did a great job on this car," Labonte said. "The 24 (Jeff Gordon) just kept us honest. He was so fast.

"I was terrible on restarts, but after we had the fast car on Saturday, we thought we could do this. This is great to do this. The pit stops were great, the restarts were terrible, but the car was awesome."

Gordon took the lead after the race's last caution flag with 13 laps to go when Ricky Rudd lost an engine. Gordon's DuPont Chevy sped by Labonte on the restart to claim the top spot.

But Labonte's car was clearly faster and the eventual winner moved his Interstate Batteries Chevrolet behind Gordon as the duo raced down the main straight with nine laps remaining and loosened him up before making the final pass for the win.

"Bobby had the best car all day," said Gordon who came from the 30th starting position to finish second. "We swapped back and forth a little bit. When I got the lead, I got in front of him, but I was just too tight and Bobby was so strong. I learned some things from him today."

Third place finisher Earnhardt also had a come from behind day bringing the Budweiser Chevrolet from the 37th starting spot.

"Finally had something that made us real happy," said Earnhardt. "The car was good and we were able to run well as the race went well. Good run for us."

Kenseth takes over the point lead by 49 markers over Stewart with Michael Waltrip, who led entering the day, in third place 75 points back after finishing 27th.

The first caution of the day didn't come until lap 135 when Mark Martin's Viagra Ford lost an engine. The disappointment was the second straight engine failure for Martin who was also sidelined last weekend at Las Vegas.

Martin's Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch brought out the second caution only ten laps later when he also lost an engine. Busch, who won last fall's Atlanta race, lost the motor on his Sharpie Ford while racing down the backstretch. Behind Busch, Brett Bodine and Kenny Wallace made contact, sending Bodine's Hooters Ford hard into the wall and out of the race.

Caution number three flew on lap 186 for yet another blown engine, this time in Ken Schrader's BAM Dodge.

The fourth yellow waved with 116 laps to go when Jamie McMurray's Havoline Dodge showed smoke from what was thought to be another engine failure. It turned out the car was smoking because of a fender rub on his left front tire and the race quickly went back to green.

The Winston Cup Series now travels to Darlington Raceway for next Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

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