Bristol II: Raybestos Rookie preview

Jimmie Johnson was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race in the Pepsi 400 presented by Farmer Jack at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson finished seventh, his 14th top-10 finish of the season, and took highest finishing rookie honors for the...

Jimmie Johnson was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race in the Pepsi 400 presented by Farmer Jack at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson finished seventh, his 14th top-10 finish of the season, and took highest finishing rookie honors for the 12th time in 2002. Johnson took highest finishing Raybestos® Rookie of the Race honors for the first time since he finished fourth in the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Johnson used his strong run at Michigan to take the lead in the Raybestos® Rookie point standings over Ryan Newman. Johnson holds a two point advantage over Newman (295-293) entering the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Newman was the only Raybestos® Rookie to lead a lap in the Pepsi 400. He led the race twice for 15 laps and was the only freshman driver to lead a lap in both Winston Cup races at Michigan this season. Entering Saturday night's race at Bristol, Newman has led 407.09 miles this season (21 times in 12 races for 264 laps).

Newman ran in the top-five for much of the race at Michigan before he was hampered with engine problems. He was credited with 31st in the final finishing order completing all 200 laps of the race.

Newman's streak of five consecutive top-five finishes ended at Michigan.

For the fifth consecutive Winston Cup race, Newman was the highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie. Newman started ninth at Michigan, his 15th top-10 start in 2002 which ties him with Bill Elliott for most top-10 starts this season. He has now been highest qualifying rookie 13 times in 2002.

Johnson is third in Winston Cup points entering the race at Bristol, 60 behind leader Sterling Marlin and 17 behind second place Mark Martin. He holds a 24 point advantage over fourth place Tony Stewart and 90 on fifth place Jeff Gordon.

Johnson has led the most laps in two races this season: the Coca-Cola 600 and the MBNA Platinum 400. Newman has led the most laps in one race this season, the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Entering the Michigan race both Raybestos® Rookies have led laps in the same event five times.

Johnson has led more miles this season than any other Raybestos® Rookie entering Saturday's race at Bristol. He has led 19 times in eight races for 794.78 miles (556 laps).

2001 Raybestos® Rookie of the Year Kevin Harvick was the rookie of the race at the 2001 Sharpie 500. Harvick finished second, .487 second behind race winner Tony Stewart. Harvick was the only Raybestos® Rookie to finish in the top-10 and the only first year driver to complete all 500 laps of the event. In his first Winston Cup start at Bristol, Harvick led 137 laps in the 2001 spring race but finished 24th.

Six Raybestos® Rookies started the Sharpie 500 and five were running at the finish of the event: Harvick, Casey Atwood (17th), Kurt Busch (25th), Ron Hornaday (29th) and Jason Leffler (30th). Andy Houston (40th) was sidelined by an accident after 127 laps.

Hornaday was the highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie at Bristol, taking the third starting position. He and Harvick (who started eighth) were the only first year drivers to start in the top-25.

No Raybestos® Rookie led a lap in last year's night race at Bristol.

A Raybestos® Rookie has posted multiple victories five times in NASCAR Winston Cup history: Davey Allison (two wins in 1987), Tony Stewart (three wins in 1999), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two wins in 2000), Kevin Harvick (two wins in 2001, and Jimmie Johnson (two wins in 2002).

A Raybestos® Rookie Contender has now won at least one race in each of the last four seasons dating back to Tony Stewart's win at Richmond in September, 1999. Other freshman drivers to win: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Richmond, 2000), Matt Kenseth (Charlotte, 2000), and Kevin Harvick (Atlanta, 2001).

When Johnson and Newman won poles at Talladega and California in consecutive races, it was the first time since 1965 that a rookie won the pole position in back to back events. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Dick Hutcherson when he took the top starting spot at Myrtle Beach and Valdosta.

By winning the pole for the Daytona 500, Johnson joined Loy Allen (1994) and Mike Skinner (1997) as the only drivers in their rookie season to win the pole for the Daytona 500. He is also among an elite group of modern era (since 1972) drivers who have won poles early in their careers. Johnson won his first Winston Cup pole position in just his fourth career start. Ryan Newman and Mark Martin both won a pole in their third career start, while Johnny Benson won his first career pole in his fourth start.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Atwood , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jimmie Johnson , Dick Hutcherson , Mark Martin , Davey Allison