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Step up pleases Gordon

Tucked between the driver's uproar a week earlier at Darlington Raceway and the first restrictor plate race this weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway was a forgotten race.

Forgotten to all but Jeff Gordon, his team and fans who suffered through a terrible August.

In the four races last month, Gordon finished 23rd or worse in all of them.

"I'm thankful to get August out of the way and come into September," Gordon said. "We haven't been able to show what we're capable of. If we just get things clicking we can be championship caliber."

Gordon was fourth in the Southern 500 on Sept. 3 at Darlington and followed that with his win in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 on Saturday at Richmond International Speedway.

It was his third victory this year and 52nd of his career.

"I see these guys coming together, and I just try to keep them up and tell them the good things they're doing and the things we can do better as a team," said Gordon, who is 10th in the standings. "I think it's just a need to see us all come together and get together before these events.

"I think everyone needs to know it's not one person out there doing it on their own. It's not me. It's not (crew chief Robbie Loomis). It's all of us collectively."

FIRED: With just nine races remaining on the Winston Cup schedule, Geoffrey Bodine was fired Monday as the driver of the No. 60 Chevrolet owned by Joe Bessey Motorsports.

Bessey, a Busch Grand National veteran, will drive the car in the remaining nine races.

"I was flabbergasted," Bodine told the Associated Press. "I told him "Good Luck.' I was stunned, it was all I could come up with."

Bodine has made just 12 starts this season and is 44th in the standings. He missed the early part of the season after being injured in a horrific accident during a Craftsman Truck event in February at Daytona.

"He had been looking for sponsorship and the team has been kind of in the dark about it and we lost some key people because of that," said Bodine, who joined the team last season. "Plus, the Besseys were quite upset that I drove the truck and got hurt. They blamed all their problems on me not driving."

IN A FUNK: Michael Andretti didn't feel well for the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday. It's a safe bet he felt even worse after watching his six-point lead in the standings vanish with a 14th-place finish.

Gil de Ferran, who finished second behind teammate Helio Castroneves, now leads Andretti by six points with four races left.

"The car handled very well and we had no big problems," de Ferran said.

FINED: Jimmy Elledge, crew chief for Kenny Wallace and the No. 55 Chevrolet team, was fined $10,000 by NASCAR on Monday for using illegal parts.

The trailing arms were lighter than specifications. NASCAR discovered the illegal parts during an inspection on Friday.

Wallace finished 14th in the Monte Carlo 400.

PIT STOPS: Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta has advanced to four final rounds in his past five NHRA races. He has won two of those, including a victory over Gary Scelzi in the postponed Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Busch Grand National driver Tony Raines sustained a fractured shoulder blade during the Autolite Fram 250 Friday at Richmond International Raceway. Instead of carrying live coverage of first-round qualifying at New Hampshire, TNN will broadcast a Dukes of Hazzard rerun at 4 p.m. Friday. Qualifying will be shown tape-delayed at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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