Rockingham: Notes of Interest, schedule

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10... Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), who did not receive a vote in the NASCAR Preseason Top 10 media poll released last week, is the surprise No. 1 in the opening NASCAR Top 10 driver standings this week with...

* Charting the NASCAR Top 10... Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), who did not receive a vote in the NASCAR Preseason Top 10 media poll released last week, is the surprise No. 1 in the opening NASCAR Top 10 driver standings this week with 185 championship points. Waltrip was one of six drivers who did not crack the NASCAR Preseason Top 10, including three others who did not receive a media vote. The three were Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge) and Mike Wallace (No. 09 Miccosukee Resort Dodge), who now are Nos. 7-9, respectively, in the NASCAR Top 10 this week. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), who earned 27 voting points to rank 14th in the NASCAR Preseason Top 10, is ranked fourth this week and Dale Jarrett (No. 99 UPS Ford), who collected 109 voting points for 11th in the NASCAR Preseason Top 10, is ranked 10th. ... Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford), ranked fourth in the preseason poll, is second in the NASCAR Top 10, followed by Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), who was eighth in the preseason. Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra/Pfizer Ford), No. 5 in the preseason, is in the same slot in the opening week, and defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), second in the preseason poll, is sixth. ... Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), the NASCAR Preseason No. 1, is 12th in the opening week.

* TV timeout ... According to Nielsen Media Research, the Budweiser Shootout, which was televised in primetime Saturday, Feb. 8 on FOX, attracted 9.5 million viewers, a 77% increase from 2002 when the event was televised on Sunday afternoon (TNT). Among the key 18-34 demographic, there was a 119% increase from 2002. ... Last Thursday's Twin 125s on FX attracted 1,571,000 households. ... FOX reported this week that Nielsen figures show the rain-shortened Daytona 500 had 29.4 million viewers, the event's fifth-biggest audience ever. Despite televising approximately two-hours and 10 minutes of race coverage during a four-hour and 38-minute broadcast, the race had a 9.8/21 preliminary national household rating/share, and ties the 1987 race as the fourth highest-rated Daytona 500 ever. "Given the fact that we had just over two hours of live racing and never got the huge bump that is normal at the end of an uninterrupted race, to have this be among the most-watched Daytona 500s ever is remarkable, " said FOX Sports President Ed Goren. "Between this and the great ratings we had earlier in Speed Weeks, NASCAR continues to amaze."

* All-American sponsor ... The Home Depot has signed a multi-year agreement as title sponsor of the All-American Soap Box Derby, one of NASCAR's key youth initiatives. The Home Depot also will donate 200 sanctioned race-car kits to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to provide children more opportunity to compete in this year's races. The company will supply 20 race-car kits to local clubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Orlando and Charlotte.

* America's fastest Drive Thru ... The McDonald's Drive-Thru Pit Championship fueled by POWERade, which kicks off this season, offers the first season points championship for pit crews in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The participating pit crew whose car spends the least amount of aggregate time off the race track and completes the race will be named the weekly winner. Crews will be ranked following each race -- with 43 points to the best through one point to the last-place team. The team with the highest cumulative score at the conclusion of the season will take the crown and collect $200,000 in prize money. The top participating NASCAR Winston Cup pit crew each week will earn $20,000. Weekly winners in the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will earn $5,000 and $3,000, respectively and those series' champions will earn $25,000 and $15,000, respectively. More than $1 million in prize money will be distributed, making it the largest monetary contingency program in NASCAR history.

* Etc. ... Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) will be looking to make his 600th career NASCAR Winston Cup start this weekend. He is 14th on the NASCAR all-time starts list, two behind 13th-ranked James Hylton. John Andretti (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge) also will reach a milestone at the Subway 400 as he is set to make his 300th start. ... In the last five NASCAR Winston Cup races at North Carolina Speedway, the winner has come from 21st or deeper in the field. Last season, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford) won the Subway 400 from the 25th position and Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) won the Pop Secret 400 from 26th. ... The last driver to win the Subway 400 from the pole was Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in 1995. ... There have been eight different winners in the last eight races at North Carolina Speedway.


* Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) has three top-six efforts in his last four starts at North Carolina Speedway, including his first career victory in last season's November event. In 2001, he was sixth in the first race and third in the second.

* Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) has seven top-10 finishes in his last eight starts at North Carolina Speedway, including five among the top three. Included in that run is a victory at the February race in 2000.

* Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) has finished fourth in each of his three starts in the Subway 400 since 2000.


* "What you do at Rockingham is solely based on what you and your team can do with your race car, not what drafting line you're in or how the car behind you is going to affect your next move. Once we get away from Daytona everything kind of settles into a groove. I enjoy going to Rockingham. That's a track where you don't really worry about what everybody else's car is doing, you worry about what your car is doing. You're racing the race track. You're not racing everybody else." -- Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet).

* "The right thing was done and so what do you do? The rules state that once you're halfway through, it's considered an official race if it rains. We really couldn't stay down there. There are two sides to the coin. Some people would say that the race had to be finished because it's the Daytona 500 and it's a huge race. There's no doubt. But, every race on the schedule is huge. So, if you waited three days to run that race, then the same thing would have to happen at every race you run. Then that changes the rule book." -- Johnny Benson (No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac) on NASCAR's decision to call the Daytona 500 due to rain after 109 of the 200 scheduled laps were completed.


* Kyle Petty enjoyed an impressive run from 1990-92 at North Carolina Speedway, with three wins and five poles in a six-race span. Petty won the spring event in 1990 and '91 and the fall event in '92 for three of his eight career victories. His poles came in the spring of 1990 and sweeps in '91 and '92, giving him five of his eight career poles.

Subway 400 (Race 2 of 36 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series).
North Carolina Speedway, Rockingham, N.C.

Pre-race schedule (all times local):

Practice, 11:20 a.m.
Practice, 1:20 p.m.
Qualifying, 3:05 p.m.

Practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m.
Happy Hour, 11:10-11:55 a.m.

Race, 1 p.m.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , James Hylton , Mark Martin