BUSCH: Loudon: Coy Gibbs - NASCAR spotlight

Gibbs has advantage over Raybestos rookie contenders DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 15, 2003) Heading into Saturday's New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Coy Gibbs (No. 18 MBNA Chevrolet) has a 45-point lead over Regan Smith in...

Gibbs has advantage over Raybestos rookie contenders

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 15, 2003) Heading into Saturday's New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Coy Gibbs (No. 18 MBNA Chevrolet) has a 45-point lead over Regan Smith in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle.

Gibbs also has another distinct advantage, he's the only Raybestos rookie contender with any seat time at the 1.058-mile track. Between 2000-'02, Gibbs raced there three times with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, finishing 16th, 14th and sixth. Some of Gibbs' challengers in the Raybestos rookie contest - Joey Clanton (No. 27 TrimSpa Pontiac), Damon Lusk (No. 6 Sta-Rite Pumps Dodge) and Jason White (No. 0 Eagle Jet Inc. Chevrolet) will be taking their first competitive laps around the track this weekend.

Gibbs says his experience at NHIS might present an advantage against his fellow rookies, but warned that the track is harder to drive than it appears.

"That's a tough place," said Gibbs. "It's one of those places that you have to go to three or four times to figure it out. I think you can trick yourself into thinking that it's an easy place to get around, but it's not. The track really has some characteristics that you don't see by just looking at it."

This year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award comes with a $10,000 bonus to the winner at the end of the season, along with $1,000 payouts to the highest-finishing eligible rookie at each race. In this last category, David Stremme, who shares driving duties in the No. 1 Yellow Freight Dodge with NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray, has collected the most extra cash - he's been the highest-finishing rookie in seven of the eight events he's competed in this season.

The 2003 rookie class has a lot to live up to, following the performances of some of last year's rookie drivers at NHIS. In 2002, Shane Hmiel (No. 48 Gould's Pumps Chevrolet) won his first career Bud Pole and finished fourth while Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle Nesquik Ford) finished seventh. Hmiel and Riggs both led laps at NHIS in 2002.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Coy Gibbs , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Shane Hmiel , Jason White , Damon Lusk , Regan Smith , David Stremme