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New Cup car proving to be versatile
Cars driven to top-five finishes by Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in the 30th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway had “raced, placed and won” prior to Saturday night.

All at tracks smaller than Daytona’s 2.5-mile environs.

Such versatility is a hallmark of NASCAR’s new car, which can be campaigned at different tracks. After running 16 of 36 events in 2007, the new car – NASCAR’s now-generation race car – debuts fulltime in 2008 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Prior to Saturday, Johnson’s car had logged one pole, two wins and one other top-five finish in 2007.

Gordon’s car had logged one win, one pole and one other top-five finish, also in 2007.

"One of the premises behind the design of this car was that it could race at virtually every track,” said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby. “You can say that all you want, but when you have someone that actually is in a position where they need to do that, as was the case with the 24 and 48 cars, then that proof really validates itself.

“The 24 car won last year at Darlington and the 48 car won both Richmond races last year and both were competing for the win here last night at a superspeedway. That's unprecedented."

Last season, Johnson’s same No. 48 Chevrolet won both Richmond International Raceway events, qualifying fourth for the May race and winning the pole in September. It also ran in the June event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, qualifying 10th and finishing fifth.

Richmond is .75 of a mile in length; New Hampshire is one mile.

Also in ‘07, Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet captured the pole at .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in March and finished third. The same car qualified 10th in May at 1.3-mile Darlington Raceway and won that event.

Gordon’s and Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Mountain Dew AMP Chevrolet), won Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout.

Johnson, the reigning and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, finished third behind Earnhardt. Gordon, a four-time series champion, finished fourth.

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