Rookie refrain: R-E-S-P-E-C-T By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 1999) As the 1999 Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates gathered together for the first time to meet the press at Daytona International Speedway on Monday, they shared...
Rookie refrain: R-E-S-P-E-C-T By Brett Borden
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 1999) As the 1999 Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates gathered together for the first time to meet the press at Daytona International Speedway on Monday, they shared more than their first-year status in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. They spoke in unison of the lumps they expect to take in their inaugural turn around the circuit.
"I expect to be schooled a lot here," said Tony Stewart. Stewart passed his first test with flying colors, qualifying on the outside of the front row in the Home Depot Pontiac in Saturday's Bud Pole Qualifying for next Sunday's Daytona 500. Monday was a different story, as he posted only the 39th-best time in practice.
"I got schooled in practice already today," he said. "It's those lessons that you learn. You have to remember those in order to be successful in this series. Trust me, it's a big book. It's bigger than the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There's chapter after chapter that must be learned in order to be good in this series."
Buckshot Jones, who like Stewart will wear his yellow rookie stripe on the Crown Fiber Communications Pontiac, concurs.
"You're just trying to get out there and get your feet wet," he said. "All of us here have run Daytona before, but Winston Cup is just a little bit different. You're trying to get comfortable with them (other competitors) and get them to be comfortable with you.
"You've got to have all your cars ready. You have to have the right personnel on your team, a good engine program. You just have to have everything you need. I don't think anybody can really say, 'Yeah, I'm ready to make that step up to Winston Cup.' It's just something you have to go do."
Like Stewart and Jones, Elliott Sadler came to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series from the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. Sadler takes over a ride replete with historical significance -- the No. 21 Wood Brothers Citgo Ford. He says the pressure can be daunting coming out of the gate in your sport's biggest race.
"We feel like we're in the basketball playoffs and we're playing the Chicago Bulls in the first game," said Sadler. "I mean, everybody's got their best stuff here at Daytona, so that makes it pretty tough on us. But all of us are pretty lucky to have great teams on our sides and, hopefully, we'll just be able to stay out of trouble, learn as much as we can and move on.
"There is a lot of pressure. If you look at who drove for the Wood Brothers in the past, it's like the Who's Who of NASCAR racing. I feel like an apple right now in a basket full of oranges. I'm kind of new at this deal, but those guys have really bent over backwards for me." According to Dan Pardus, driver of the No. 50 MidWest Transit Chevrolet, it only benefits the veterans to give a little bit of help to the rookies.
"If you've got rookies racing with you, you want guys to have good race cars, at least cars that stay on the race track," he said. "They want you to be good out there so if they have to go outside around you, you don't take them into the fence. That's all through this garage area. I don't think you'll find anybody that won't talk to you."
Stanton Barrett -- drivers of the No. 84 Heritage Consumer Products Chevrolet -- says that respect from the veterans is more important to him than advice.
"I think everybody's goal and my goal is somewhere down the line to be considered not quite a rookie, although we'll be rookies all year long, but to be able to run competitive and try to learn as much as we can. That's a big struggle and a big job for us all to do against this caliber of drivers."
Fellow rookie Mike Harmon agrees with Barrett.
"We're coming in here walking lightly wanting to gain the respect of the drivers so they'll run with us and be comfortable with us," said the driver of the No. 90 Donlavey Racing Ford. "We're just taking a conservative approach and earning everybody's respect. I feel like that's the best thing to do at this point."
Source: NASCAR Online