Gordon a judge at Monday's pageant

Updated: April 13, 2004, 4:50 AM ET
Associated Press

Jeff Gordon
Gordon
LOS ANGELES -- Race car driver Jeff Gordon and Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss were among the 11 judges who selected Miss USA 2004 on Monday night.

Missouri's Shandi Finnessey, 25, won the title over 50 other contestants and will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, on June 1.

Amanda Helen Pennekamp, Miss South Carolina, was first runner-up. Ashley Rachel Puleo, Miss North Carolina, was second runner-up, followed by Miss Oklahoma Lindsay Hill and Miss Tennessee Stephanie Culberson.

The rest of the on-camera judges were: fashion designer Jill Stuart, actors Mekhi Phifer ("ER"), B.D. Wong ("Law and Order: SVU"), Tricia Helfer ("Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Charlie's Angels'") and Liza Huber ("Passions").

Among the others on the panel were model Vanessa Haydon, former NBA player John Salley, Rocco DiSpirito of "The Restaurant," and Miss USA 1997 Brandi Sherwood.

Finnessey, a 5-foot-11, blue-eyed blonde who said her favorite food is a supersized extra-value meal from McDonald's, jumped up and down and pumped her right arm while steadying the crown with her left hand after her predecessor, Susie Castillo, pinned on the crown.

She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology and counseling from Lindenwood University, and would like to use her counseling degree in a television job. She has published a children's book.

The pageant is co-owned by NBC and Donald Trump, who opened the telecast by telling Castillo, "You're fired," his ubiquitous phrase from the network's hit show "The Apprentice."

Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood" co-hosted the 53rd annual pageant live at the Kodak Theater.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press