Atlanta 500: Labonte beats Gordon to win

Bobby Labonte stormed home to take his sixth Atlanta 500 victory in the Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Monte Carlo after a race-long battle with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Junior

Atlanta 500: Labonte beats Gordon to win

Labonte's Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy was fast all weekend, but from one-third distance in the 325-lap race, it was clearly the pace-setter. In 23 lead changes during the race, Labonte was in front nine times - eventually leading for a dominant 172 laps overall.

Atlanta does not usually see a lot of caution periods but the second half of the race was plagued with them. The last of these was with 16 laps to go. Gordon got the jump on Labonte at the restart, but with 11 to go Labonte gave the Dupont Chevrolet a hard tap and went to the outside in a gutsy move. Once by, Labonte simply pulled away as he had been doing for most of the race.

"The 24 car [Jeff Gordon's] just kept me honest," said Labonte afterwards. "I saw him go so fast I had to drive my heart out just to keep up with him. I'm terrible at restarts, that's all there is to it, so I had to get him back there and it took a lot."

Gordon didn't see it quite that way: "Bobby is really fast around here. We threatened but to be honest I learned a few things from him. But the team did a good job and hopefully we can start doing that every weekend."

Dale Earnhardt Jr had a great day and he was running under the boot latches of Labonte and Gordon with 10 to go, but his car had been getting loose for a while and there simply wasn't enough left in the DEI Chevy for him to fight for the win. Nevertheless a fight-back from 37th on the grid to finish third was not a bad result!

"Finally we had something to make us pretty happy," said Earnhardt. "Last week's run and this week's run we got a lot of points to get our game back. The car was good. We had an awkward set-up today that I didn't feel real confident in. It worked!"

Matt Kenseth maintained his early lead in the title chase with a strong run late-on to take fourth ahead of Tony Stewart's Home Depot Monte Carlo, making it four Chevrolets in the top five showing a turn-around in recent form for the manufacturer.

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