By Anthony Rhoads
In the past six weeks, no other NASCAR Winston Cup driver has been performing better than Jeff Gordon.
Gordon continued his hot streak Monday by winning the rain-plagued Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race was started on Sunday but heavy rains forced it to be postponed until Monday. Gordon was in seventh place when the race was stopped at lap 39 on Sunday.
It was Gordon's second straight victory after winning in Martinsville last week and it was his sixth-straight top-five finish.
"I felt like we had a great race car today," Gordon said. "We had awesome pit stops. We didn't have the best car on new tires, but on long runs, we ran awesome."
It was also a pretty good day for Gordon as a car owner. Jimmie Johnson, who races the No. 48 car that's co-owned by Gordon and Rick Hendrick, came in third.
"That's all we had today," Johnson said. "We ran after the 24 and used up our tires. We had to fall in line and stay in third. We were too far away to catch the 24 and 20. Our third place finish was a great run today."
Gordon led the final 35 laps and held off a determined Tony Stewart to win the race, which ended under a caution. The yellow flag came out with three laps to go when Ryan Newman spun out after being bumped by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I didn't know if I was going to win or not," Gordon said. "It was exciting. We were battling it out and the caution came out."
Stewart, the spring 2002 winner at Atlanta, led for 109 laps. The second-place finish was his sixth consecutive top-five.
"I was really proud of the team," he said. "Everybody did an awesome job. We had a good car all day. We just didn't win."
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte placed fifth. Labonte, who has won five of the last 12 Atlanta races, led for 66 laps.
"This is our first top five since July 4 at Daytona, so we're pretty happy about that," he said. "But when you come to a track that you're real good at all the time and have a shot at it, well you hate to miss on. But our car just wasn't quite as good as we wanted today."
Dawsonville's Bill Elliott placed fourth for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish.
Elliott has been making a late-season surge and is ranked ninth in the points standings.
"We started out decent, but couldn't make up no time," Elliott said. "But all in all, we ran well. I'm pleased."
Rounding out the top 10 were Earnhardt Jr., Jeremy Mayfield, Kurt Busch, Jimmy Spencer and Joe Nemechek.
"We started in the back (39th) and drove it to the front," Nemechek said. "Atlanta has been a good race track for me in the past and to come out and get a top-10 the first time with these group of guys is very good. Hopefully, this is a start of many more solid results for the U.S. Army team."
Current Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth finished 11th.
When the race was stopped Sunday because of rain, Kevin Harvick was leading with Bobby Labonte in second at lap 39. Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five when the race was halted.