It was a hard fought, closely contested race for rookie of the year in 2002. Jimmie Johnson won three times and had twenty top-10 finishes. Johnson wound up fifth in championship points, but he will not be the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Those...
It was a hard fought, closely contested race for rookie of the year in 2002. Jimmie Johnson won three times and had twenty top-10 finishes. Johnson wound up fifth in championship points, but he will not be the Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
Those honors have been bestowed upon 24-year old Indiana native Ryan Newman. Although Newman finished one place below Johnson in the overall standings, his one points race win (Newman also won the Winston all star event) and 22 top-10 finishes garnered him higher in rookie points than Johnson.
Johnson remained humbled by one of the best ever first year performances in NASCAR history, "All in all, it has been an incredible year. I've got to thank everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for all the hard work and dedication of making it exist."
Newman, however, already has his eyes focused on a bigger prize for next year, the 2003 Winston cup championship.
"I thought about it for this year," Newman said, "and there's no reason why we shouldn't think about it next year, either."
Hendrick #48 Chevrolet co-owner, Jeff Gordon, was disappointed in the news that his protégé had not won the coveted rookie honors.
"Ryan (Newman) sure did come on strong the second half of the year, but as far as I am concerned throughout the whole year, Jimmie has been the man. I'm proud to have him on board at Hendrick Motorsports and to have him as a teammate."
As Newman and Johnson battled each other on track, they forged a lifelong kinship off-track; leaning on each other for support, and figuring out ways to navigate the waters of new found fame together.
Newman sums up their tumultuous rookie season with the same shy-mannered approach he's become noted for, "Jimmie and I have both had a great year and I guess we ended it on a pretty good note."