Darlington II: Raybestos Rookie preview

Jimmie Johnson was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Johnson finished 34th after being involved in an accident and spending time in the garage area making repairs to his car. He has now been highest...

Jimmie Johnson was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Johnson finished 34th after being involved in an accident and spending time in the garage area making repairs to his car. He has now been highest finishing Raybestos® Rookie 13 times during the 2002 season.

Johnson's 34th place finish to take top Raybestos® Rookie honors was the worst for a highest finishing rookie since Martinsville in April when Johnson finished 35th.

Johnson added one point to his lead in the Raybestos® Rookie point standings over Ryan Newman. Johnson holds a three point advantage over Newman (297-293) entering the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

For the second consecutive year, no Raybestos® Rookie led a lap in the night race at Bristol.

Like Johnson, Newman was involved in an accident in the Sharpie 500 and had to spend time in the garage area while his crew made repairs to his car. Newman returned to the race and finished 36th. He was running at the finish of the event.

For the sixth consecutive Winston Cup race, Newman was the highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie. Newman started 14th at Bristol and has been highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie 14 times in 2002.

Johnson is fifth in Winston Cup points entering the race at Darlington, 145 behind leader Sterling Marlin and six behind fourth place Tony Stewart. He holds a 17 point advantage over sixth place Rusty Wallace and 123 over seventh place Ricky Rudd.

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 Sunday's race at Darlington. He has led 19 times in eight races for 794.78 miles (556 laps).

Newman and Johnson both qualified in the top-five in March at Darlington. Newman started third while Johnson took the fifth starting position. Both finished on the lead lap in the race, Newman taking fifth while Johnson placed sixth. Neither driver led a lap.

Ryan Newman won the pole for the 2001 South Carolina 200 at Darlington Raceway. He set a track record with a lap of 29.036 seconds, 169.246 mph and finished fourth in the event.

2001 Raybestos® Rookie of the Year Kevin Harvick was the rookie of the race in last year's Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Harvick placed eighth and was the only first year driver to finish in the top-10. He was also the only Raybestos® Rookie to finish on the lead lap.

Kurt Busch took highest qualifying rookie honors in style at Darlington, winning his first career pole position. Busch became the second Raybestos® Rookie in the 51 year history of the speedway to win a pole position at Darlington. In 1987, Davey Allison won the pole for the Southern 500.

Busch had a strong run in the race. He led twice for 83 laps and was the only Raybestos® Rookie to lead a lap at Darlington Raceway during the 2001 season. Busch finished 39th after encountering mechanical problems during the race but was running at the finish of the event.

Harvick also had a good qualifying run at Darlington, taking the fifth starting position in time trials

Five Raybestos® Rookies started the race at Darlington and four were running at the finish of the race: Harvick, Casey Atwood (25th), Ron Hornaday (37th), and Kurt Busch. Jason Leffler was credited with 43rd after overheating problems forced him to park his car early in the event.

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. , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Atwood , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jimmie Johnson , Dick Hutcherson , Mark Martin , Davey Allison