Kansas: Rookie of the Year going down to the wire

Raybestos Rookie of the Year race going down to the wire DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2003) -- One of the most intriguing Raybestos Rookie of the Year competitions in recent years has been whittled down to a two-man show with seven races ...

Raybestos Rookie of the Year race going down to the wire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2003) -- One of the most intriguing Raybestos Rookie of the Year competitions in recent years has been whittled down to a two-man show with seven races remaining in the NASCAR Winston Cup season.

Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline Dodge) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford), graduates of the NASCAR Busch Series, have carried their rivalry into NASCAR's premier series and risen to the top of an imposing 2003 rookie class.

Going into Sunday's Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway, McMurray and Biffle are 1-2 in the rookie point standings. Several variables will combine with their race finishes down the stretch, to determine the year's top rookie.

A rundown of those variables:

A rookie gets to count only his best 17 finishes, for the purpose of rookie standings.

Ten bonus points are awarded to the rookie of the year candidate with the highest finish in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings. The second-highest finish in the standings gets nine, third-highest gets eight points, etc.

Bonus points also are awarded at each event for finishing in the top 10, with first place worth 10 points, second place worth nine, etc.

A 10-to-1 bonus-point breakdown goes to "segment leaders." (There are three segments: The first 10 races of the season, the second 10 and the last 16.) The rookie with the most NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship points for each segment gets 10 points. The rookie with the second-highest series championship points gets nine, etc.

Finally, a maximum of 30 additional points can be awarded by a special NASCAR panel that takes into account a rookie's conduct with officials; conduct and awareness on the track; and personal appearance and relationship with the media.

Of course, for all drivers involved in any sort of championship chase, the aim is to win or come close -- and let the points, be they bonus or otherwise, fall where they may.

Coming into Kansas, McMurray leads the rookie standings with 260 points. Biffle is second with 239. Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge) and Tony Raines (No. 74 BACE Motorsports Chevrolet) are tied for third with 186 apiece. Jack Sprague, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion currently without a ride, remains fourth with 158 points and Larry Foyt (No. 14 Harrah's Dodge), son of open-wheel legend A.J. Foyt, is fifth with 134.

At Talladega, McMurray took top rookie honors for the 15th time this year. He has been the highest-finishing rookie in the last six races. The Talladega race marked the fifth consecutive event where McMurray added to his lead in the rookie standings.

McMurray is running this weekend in both the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Winston Cup events. He considers Kansas Speedway his "home" track, as he's from nearby Joplin, Mo.

"A lot of family will be there and obviously a lot of friends, people that I grew up with so we hope to put on a good show for them," McMurray said. "We'll have a shot to win Kansas. We're taking a car that has run extremely well this season and I like Kansas. It's my hometown and we're running the Busch car too this weekend, so we're really looking forward to going there."

Biffle isn't a hometown guy, but he certainly has looked comfortable in his previous two Kansas Speedway appearances, both coming in the NASCAR Busch Series. He finished third in 2001 and fourth last season en route to the NASCAR Busch Series championship.

"Kansas has only been around for two years, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks," said Biffle, who, like McMurray, will pull double-duty this weekend.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Casey Mears , Larry Foyt , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Jamie McMurray