Rockingham II: Raybestos Rookie preview

NEWS AND NOTES FROM THE RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE CONTENDERS Raybestos® Rookie Contender Ryan Newman took Raybestos® Rookie of the Race honors in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a tenth place finish. Newman's 21 top-10 finishes are the...

NEWS AND NOTES FROM THE RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE CONTENDERS

Raybestos® Rookie Contender Ryan Newman took Raybestos® Rookie of the Race honors in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a tenth place finish. Newman's 21 top-10 finishes are the most of any driver this season and tie him with Tony Stewart (1999) for most top-10s by a Raybestos® Rookie in a single season. The NAPA 500 was Newman's second consecutive tenth place finish at Atlanta. He has recorded nine consecutive top-15 finishes dating back to the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in September. Newman collected Raybestos® Rookie of the Race honors for the 17th time this season.

Newman was unable to stretch his lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Raybestos® Rookie standings. He maintains a 20 point advantage (338-318) over Johnson entering the Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway.

Newman used his good run at Atlanta to climb up to fifth in Winston Cup points, 203 behind leader Tony Stewart. Fellow Raybestos® Rookie Jimmie Johnson is third in the points chase, 53 ahead of Newman.

Newman was the only Raybestos® Rookie to lead a lap at Atlanta. He led once for one lap. For the season, Newman has led 34 times in 19 races for 816.88 miles (671 laps) in 33 races.

Johnson had a tough race at Atlanta. He spun out twice during the rain shortened event and was credited with a 22nd place finish. Johnson dropped from second to third in the Winston Cup standings, 150 behind leader Tony Stewart and just four points behind second place Mark Martin.

Newman joined Johnson and Bill Elliott as the third driver to win four poles this season. Each started in the top-10 22 times in 2002, more than any other driver.

Raybestos® Rookie Newman and Jimmie Johnson have both finished in the top-10 in 11 of the 33 races in 2002.

Newman and Johnson became the third pair of Raybestos® Rookies to win in their rookie season. They joined Morgan Shepherd (Martinsville), Ron Bouchard (Talladega) in 1981 and Matt Kenseth (Charlotte), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Texas and Richmond) in 2000.

Entering the Pop Secret 400 at Rockingham, Newman has been the highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie in seven of the last nine races where time trials were held (Brickyard 400 through NAPA 500). Newman has been highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie 17 times in 2002.

Johnson has led more miles this season than any other Raybestos® Rookie entering the NAPA 500 at Atlanta. In 33 starts, Johnson has led 28 times in 12 races for 1,087.75 miles (810 laps).

Johnson has led the most laps in three races this season: Coca-Cola 600, MBNA Platinum 400, and MBNA All-American Heroes 400.

Newman was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race at Rockingham in February, collecting a 14th place finish on the lead lap. Johnson was the highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie, taking the 11th starting position. Both drivers were running at the finish of the race and neither led a lap in the race.

Casey Atwood was the Raybestos® Rookie of the Race in the 2001 Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway. Atwood finished 20th and was running at the finish of the event. He was also the highest qualifying rookie, taking the third starting position.

Kurt Busch was the only Raybestos® Rookie that led a lap last October at Rockingham. Busch led twice for 45 laps and was one of just six drivers to lead the race. He was credited with a 39th place finish after retiring with engine problems.

The rest of the class was running at the finish of the race: Kevin Harvick (27th), Jason Leffler (30th), and Ron Hornaday (31st).

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), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta, 2001) and Ryan Newman (New Hampshire 2002) and Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte and both 2002 Dover races).

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.

RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE CONTENDER POINT STANDINGS <pre> DRIVER POINTS Ryan Newman 338 Jimmie Johnson 318

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