The field for The Winston

The field for The Winston Following is a look at the 23 drivers who have qualified for the 19th running of The Winston: Johnny Benson -- No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac Qualification: Won 2002 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina ...

The field for The Winston
Following is a look at the 23 drivers who have qualified for the 19th running of The Winston:

Johnny Benson -- No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac

Qualification: Won 2002 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway
Previous appearances: One
Best finish: 9th in 2001

Outlook: Benson is struggling so far this season. He is 28th in NASCAR Winston Cup Series points with no top-10 finishes and three DNFs. ... In series races at Lowe's Motor Speedway he has two top-10 finishes.

Ward Burton -- No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge

Qualification: Won 2002 Daytona 500
Previous appearances: Seven
Best finish: 6th in 2001

Outlook: Burton is in The Winston for the fifth consecutive season. He is 25th in series points, with one top-10 finish this season. ... Burton finished second in the 1998 fall event at LMS.

Kurt Busch -- No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford

Qualification: Won 2002 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: One
Best finish: 4th in 2002

Outlook: Busch is third in the NASCAR Top 10, with two victories already this season. ... An intangible -- the last two Coca-Cola 600s at LMS have been won by Busch's Roush Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin.

Ricky Craven -- No. 32 Tide Pontiac

Qualification: Won 2003 Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway
Previous appearances: Two
Best finish: 8th in 1997

Outlook: This is perhaps Craven's best chance to contend for The Winston's title. Craven made his first start in The Winston in 1997, after he won The Winston Open driving for Hendrick Motorsports. ... Craven is 11th in series points, with his victory at Darlington being one of three top-five runs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway
Previous appearances: Three
Best finish: 1st in 2000

Outlook: Earnhardt became the first rookie winner of The Winston in 2002. He finished second last year, but was praised for his late-race sportsmanship when he allowed eventual winner Ryan Newman to gather his car after nearly losing control. ... Earnhardt is amid his most consistent season since coming to NASCAR Winston Cup in 2002. He is second in the NASCAR Top 10, with one victory and six top-five finishes.

Bill Elliott -- No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge

Qualification: Won 2002 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway
Previous appearances: 17
Best finish: 1st in 1986

Outlook: In Elliott's 17 starts in The Winston, he has 13 top-10 finishes. That includes four consecutive fourth-place finishes from 1988-91. ... Elliott has two series victories at LMS, both in the track's fall event.

Jeff Gordon -- No. 24 DuPont Automotive Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: Nine
Best finish: 1st in 1995, '97 and 2001

Outlook: Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt are the only three-time winners of The Winston. This will be Gordon's 10th consecutive appearance in the race. ... The four-time series champion is fourth in the NASCAR Top 10.

Kevin Harvick -- No.29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
Previous appearances: Two
Best finish: 8th in 2002

Outlook: Looking for a dark horse? Harvick had top-10 finishes in both Lowe's races in 2001, including a second in the Coca-Cola 600. ... Also, he's eighth in the NASCAR Top 10 after 11 races.

Dale Jarrett -- No. 88 UPS Ford

Qualification: Won 2002 Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway
Previous appearances: 11
Best finish: 2nd in 2000 and '01

Outlook: Jarrett needs something to jump-start a disappointing season. Despite one victory, he's 23rd in series points. ... Jarrett has three victories at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson -- No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Napa Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway
Previous appearances: One
Best finish: 5th in 2002

Outlook: Had an excellent shot to win The Winston last year until a pit stop went south, as the No. 48 slid through the assigned pit box. ... Johnson is sixth in the NASCAR Top 10.

Matt Kenseth -- No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford

Qualification: Won 2002 Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway
Previous appearances: Two
Best finish: 3rd in 2002

Outlook: Kenseth has led the NASCAR Top 10 for the last eight races. That's one reason to consider him one of the favorites for The Winston. Another reason is the fact that he got his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory at Lowe's Motor Speedway, in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600.

Bobby Labonte -- No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway
Previous appearances: Eight
Best finish: 2nd in 1997 and '98

Outlook: It's hard to figure just what to expect of Labonte this time around. Although this will be his eighth consecutive appearance in The Winston, he never has won the event. On the other hand, he's clearly amid a rebound season. With one victory so far this season, he's fifth in the NASCAR Top 10, starting to approach his form from his 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup championship campaign. ... Also consider that Labonte generally is quite comfortable on a 1.5-mile oval, which is LMS' layout. Labonte has two victories at LMS.

Terry Labonte -- No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet

Qualification: Past NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion (1984 and '96)
Previous appearances: 17
Best finish: 1st in 1988 and '99

Outlook: Labonte is tied with Bill Elliott for most appearances in The Winston. The two-time event winner -- and two-time series champion -- has six top-five and nine top-10 finishes in The Winston. ... As far as this regular season goes, Labonte is 18th in points. He has, however, had several strong runs and won the Bud Pole at Richmond. ... As far as Lowe's goes, Labonte has one victory and a lot of experience; he first raced there in 1978.

Sterling Marlin -- No. 40 Coors Light Dodge

Qualification: Won 2002 UAW/DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: 11
Best finish: 2nd in 1988, '94 and '95

Outlook: Along with his consecutive victories in the Daytona 500 in 1994-95, Marlin's performances at The Winston cemented his reputation as a driver who shines in his sport's biggest events. Marlin also won consecutive Winston Opens in 1988-89, to make The Winston's field. ... Marlin is 10th in the NASCAR Top 10, recent solid runs making up for a slow start in the points. ... The intangible in this case? Marlin's car, the No. 40, won the last series race at Lowe's, last October with Jamie McMurray driving.

Mark Martin -- No. 6 Viagra Ford

Qualification: Won 2002 Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: 13
Best finish: 1st in 1998

Outlook: Martin has slumped in The Winston, since his '98 victory; in his last four appearances he has finished no better than 13th. ... Martin comes in 12th in the series points. ... It can't hurt that Martin won last year's Coca-Cola 600 at LMS, a victory that vaulted him into series title contention.

Jamie McMurray -- No. 42 Havoline Dodge

Qualification: Won 2002 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: None
Best finish: n/a

Outlook: McMurray is the only driver in this year's field (not counting a potential Winston Open qualifier) making his debut in The Winston. McMurray qualified by winning in only his second NASCAR Winston Cup start, substituting for injured Sterling Marlin last fall. The race, of course, was held at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Joe Nemechek -- No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet

Qualification -- Won 2003 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway
Previous appearances: Three
Best finish: 10th in 1994

Outlook: Nemechek got his third series victory two weeks ago at Richmond. He comes in 14th in series points, and appears headed toward the best season of his NASCAR Winston Cup career.

Ryan Newman -- No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge

Qualification: Won 2002 New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway
Previous appearances: One
Best finish: 1st in 2002

Outlook: Newman held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year and joined Junior as the only rookies to win The Winston, and only the second "qualifier" (advancing from the Winston Open) to win the big race. ... This year Newman comes in 27th in series points, a relatively low standing attributable to four DNFs. On the other hand, Newman does have one victory this year and two poles.

Ricky Rudd -- No. 21 Motorcraft Ford

Qualification: Won 2002 Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
Previous appearances: 16
Best finish: 3rd in 1995

Outlook: The Winston, overall, has been a puzzle for Rudd. He has been in 16 of the event's 18 runnings, with only three top-five finishes. ... In his first season with the Wood Brothers operation, Rudd comes in 22nd in series points. ... Rudd's first race at LMS was Oct. 10, 1976; remarkably, he has never won at the track.

Elliott Sadler -- No. 38 M&M's Ford

Qualification: Yates Racing Team won 2002 Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
Previous appearances: Two
Best finish: 18th in 2001

Outlook: Sadler is in The Winston because the ride he took over was driven to victory by Rudd last year at Sonoma's road-course race. But that doesn't mean he should be discounted as a threat. ... Sadler is 16th in the points but has been in the NASCAR Top 10 for several weeks this season.

Tony Stewart -- No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Previous appearances: Four
Best finish: 2nd in 1999

Outlook: Stewart has taken to The Winston well. In his four consecutive appearances he has an average finish of 6.5. ... The reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion has five consecutive top-10 finishes in regular series races at Lowe's, with his lowest finish in that string a sixth place.

Rusty Wallace -- No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

Qualification: Past NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion (1989)
Previous appearances: 16
Best finish: 1st in 1989

Outlook: Wallace has a series-leading 16 consecutive appearances in The Winston, but since his 1989 victory has only two top-five finishes in the event. In his last six starts, Wallace has only one top five. ... He comes in ninth in the NASCAR Top 10.

Michael Waltrip -- No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet

Qualification: Won 2002 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway
Previous appearances: 10
Best finish: 1st in 1996

Outlook: Until last season's victory by Ryan Newman, Waltrip was the only driver to emerge from a "qualifier" (he finished fifth in The Winston Open to get the final transfer spot) to go on and win The Winston. What made Waltrip's 1986 victory so memorable was he had yet to win a NASCAR Winston Cup series race, at that time. ... Waltrip comes in sixth in the NASCAR Top 10. .. He now has three series victories, all coming at Daytona International Speedway, including the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500s.

Winston Open winner -- TBA

Outlook: Only the winner of this event advances to The Winston. Michael Waltrip and Ryan Newman have shown, though, that a qualifier can hit it big.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Jamie McMurray , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Yates Racing