USAR: Winchester CS: Rookie of the Year challengers ready

Myrtle Beach, SC -- While every veteran will be eying the $250,000 check for winning the Hooters ProCup Championship, the 2003 USAR rookie class will also be looking to pad their wallet with a $10,000 payout for winning the Miller Lite Rookie of...

Myrtle Beach, SC -- While every veteran will be eying the $250,000 check for winning the Hooters ProCup Championship, the 2003 USAR rookie class will also be looking to pad their wallet with a $10,000 payout for winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award. Joel Kauffman finished the highest of any rookie during the regular season, but he will have to back that up in the Championship Series to take the money.

2003 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Contenders

Top Seed -- 2003 Regular Season

Joel Kauffman (#6 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-7
Best five finishes avg.-3.5
Best finish of season-3rd
Championship points-120

Outlook -- Kauffman has to be the favorite to win the ROTY title. If he matches his regular-season performance, the 17-year driver will be tough to beat. However, if he stumbles, the title is up for grabs.

2003 Regular Season Contenders

Danny O'Quinn, Jr. (#7 seed in the Southern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-7
Best five finishes avg.-5.6
Best finish of season-5th
Championship points-116

Outlook -- On paper, O'Quinn should give Kauffman a strong run for ROTY honors. The two met earlier this season at Lonesome Pine Raceway and Kauffman finished seventh while O'Quinn finished eighth. If Kauffman stumbles, look for O'Quinn to step over him and put his name at the top of the paper.

Scott Baker (#9 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-2
Best five finishes avg.-5.4
Best finish of season-2nd
Championship points-108

Outlook -- Baker can't be overlooked in the five-race shootout. He narrowly missed picking up his first win of the season earlier in the year at Winchester. Baker has moved from 13th to ninth in points in the last four races. If he backs up his earlier run at Winchester in the first Championship Series event, he will be in the thick of the battle.

Keith Roggen (#13 seed in the Southern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-0
Best five finishes avg.-12.6
Best finish of season-11th
Championship points-95

Outlook -- Roggen made gains early in the season, but the former DASH competitor experienced growing pains at Peach State and USA International Speedway to end it. Roggen dropped from 10th to 13th in points with the consecutive DNF's in his final races of 2003. He is averaging a 15.3 finish for the season. He skipped Hickory to get ready for Winchester and that may help his performance, but he will need to get his first top-10 finish to threaten for the title.

Pete Wormcastle (#14 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-0
Best five finishes avg.-12.2
Best finish of season-9th
Championship points-92

Outlook -- Wormcastle may not be at the top of the rookie class, but he's not at the bottom either. He's run mid-pack all season and completed 80% of the laps. Wormcaslte may need the some bad luck by his fellow rookies to take top honors, however.

Benny Gordon (#14 seed in the Southern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-3
Best five finishes avg.-6.0
Best finish of season-2nd
Championship points-92

Outlook -- Gordon only ran eight events in 2003, and he'd like to forget three of them. After averaging a 6th-place finish in the opening five races, Gordon averaged a 16th-place finishes in his final three races of 2003. The good news for Gordon is that there are only five races left. If he can match his early-season output, he'll be tough.

Gerald Davis (#15 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-2
Best five finishes avg.-6.6
Best finish of season-5th
Championship points-90

Outlook -- Davis has quietly worked his way into the mix as the season ended, finishing sixth at Cayuga Speedway and Motordrome Speedway to close out the year. After spending much of his career on dirt, Davis is starting to get a feel for the pavement that can lead to the ROTY title.

Robbie Thompson (#19 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-0
Best five finishes avg.-12.2
Best finish of season-7th
Championship points-82

Outlook -- Thompson's best finish of the season came at Winchester. If he can leave Indiana with a top-10, he may have a shot.

Todd Peck (#20 seed in the Northern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-0
Best five finishes avg.-20.2
Best finish of season-15th
Championship points-80

Outlook -- Peck had three DNF's in row this season and that hurt his position in the points. He rebounded with a 24th-place finish in the season finale at Motordrome, but he'll need to be closer to the front in the final-five races to grab the $10,000 check.

2003 Regular Season

David Stover (#22 seed in the Southern Division)
Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Awards-1
Best five finishes avg.-14.4
Best finish of season-11th
Championship points-78

Outlook -- Stover will start the Championship Series 42 points behind Kauffman, but he's coming off his best finish of the season. Stover finished 11th at Peach State and he'll need more of the same to challenge in the rookie race.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Joel Kauffman , Danny O'Quinn , Todd Peck