DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A look at the teams competing in
NASCAR's Winston Cup series this season:
A.J. Foyt Racing:
No. 14 Dodge, LARRY FOYT -- A.J. Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis
500 winner, overhauled his NASCAR team and put his 25-year-old son
behind the wheel. ... Larry Foyt spent past two seasons in Busch
Series, posting just two top-10 finishes in that time. ... He'll
compete for rookie of the year, but is a longshot for that title.
No. 74 Chevrolet, TONY RAINES -- A former Busch Series rookie of
the year, the 38-year-old Raines plans to run a full Winston Cup
schedule and compete for top rookie. ... Has no primary sponsor.
... Also plans to run 10 Busch Series races.
No. 49 Dodge, KEN SCHRADER -- First season together. ... Schrader
finished 30th in the points last season in a car fielded by MB2
Motorsports. ... Was hired at the end of the year by Beth Ann
Morgenthau, the only female car owner in Winston Cup. ... BAM
started last season with Shawna Robinson as driver, and used five
others while running only 17 races.
No. 54 Ford, TODD BODINE -- Bodine ran 24 races last season for
Travis Carter. ... Finished 38th in the points. ... Sam Belnavis,
the first black owner in NASCAR to attempt to run a full schedule,
bought a majority interest in Carter's team last month, bringing
sponsor Army National Guard to the financially troubled operation.
... Belnavis will run the business side; Carter, a former crew
chief, will run the competition.
Bill Davis Racing:
No. 22 Dodge, WARD BURTON -- Burton won season-opening Daytona
500 last year, but everything went downhill from there, with nine
DNFs. ... Longtime crew chief Tommy Baldwin split with the team
midway through the year. ... Finished 25th in the points. ...
Expected to turn it around this year under new crew chief Frank
Stoddard and at least match his two wins last season.
Car No. 23 Dodge, KENNY WALLACE -- Wallace replaced Hut Stricklin
in the car last year, running 11 races. ... Had two finishes of
13th or better in the last three races. ... Not expected to be as
strong as Burton's team, but has potential to put together solid
Brett Bodine Racing:
No. 11 Ford, BRETT BODINE -- One of few owner-drivers still left
on the circuit. ... Bodine finished 36th in the final point
standings. ... It's unclear how much sponsorship money he has, so a
partial schedule of just 20-25 races might be in the horizon.
Chip Ganassi Racing:
No. 40 Dodge, STERLING MARLIN -- Marlin's career took off when
Ganassi bought the team two years ago. ... Could have won Daytona
500, but was penalized for climbing out of his car under a red-flag
and pulling on his fender. ... Won two races last season and led
the point standings for 25 consecutive weeks before being forced
out of the car with a neck injury. ... Missed final seven races and
ended up 18th in the points. ... Now fully healed, should be a
championship contender again this season.
No. 41 Dodge, CASEY MEARS -- A 24-year-old rookie with just one
year of stock car experience in the Busch Series last season. ...
Has a rich racing heritage -- his uncle is a four-time Indianapolis
500 winner and his father is a former off-road racing star -- and is
driving for one of the strongest organizations in Winston Cup. ...
Could run up front at times this season, but could also have a long
No. 42 Dodge, JAMIE McMURRAY -- Another Ganassi rookie, the
26-year-old McMurray is ahead of teammate Mears in experience with
six Cup races under his belt from last year as Marlin's injury
replacement. ... Set a NASCAR record by winning in his second
career start and has shown enormous potential. ... Should contend
for rookie of the year and might win a race or two.
Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI):
No. 1 Chevrolet, STEVE PARK -- Missed the first four races of
last year while recovering from a head injury suffered late in the
2001 season. ... Struggled through a long stretch to get back to
the level he was at before the injury and was plagued by rumors his
contract would not be renewed. ... Put together decent runs near
end of year, finished 33rd in the standings and got a one-year deal
to stay with DEI though 2003. ... In a make-or-break season this
year with DEI.
No. 8 Chevrolet, DALE EARNHARDT JR. -- Won both races at
Talladega, but finished a disappointing 11th in the points after
being picked as a preseason championship contender. ... DEI didn't
have a single driver finish in Top 10 in standings, and as the heir
to the company, is expected to challenge for the title every
season. ... Signed a five-year deal with DEI last month and should
be the leader of the three-car team.
No. 15 Chevrolet, MICHAEL WALTRIP -- Won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona
in July, just the second win of his Winston Cup career. ... The
other was the 2001 Daytona 500, his first race with DEI, when boss
and friend Dale Earnhardt was killed in a wreck. ... Finished 14th
in the points, but was most consistent DEI driver all season. ...
Signed contract extension last year, and stability should make this
a strong team.
No. 9 Dodge, BILL ELLIOTT -- Won consecutive races in July and
August, including the Brickyard 400 to give him wins in all of
NASCAR's biggest events. ... Finished 13th in points after
struggling with consistency and mechanical failures at end of year.
... The strength of former crew chief Ray Evernham's operation
should be one of the best Dodge teams this year and shooting to
finish in the Top 10 in points.
No. 19 Dodge, JEREMY MAYFIELD -- Finished 26th in his first
season with Evernham. ... Struggled to find chemistry even after
midseason crew chief change. ... Crew was again shuffled in
offseason, giving entire operation hope the team can be as strong
as Elliott's this season.
Haas CNC Racing:
No. 0 Pontiac, JACK SPRAGUE -- Sprague, a three-time NASCAR
Trucks Series champion is making the move to Winston Cup. ... At
38, he'll compete for rookie of the year. ... Could make it an
interesting battle with Raines, another veteran running for rookie,
and the M&M Boys from Ganassi.
No. 5 Chevrolet, TERRY LABONTE -- Two-time Winston Cup champion,
finished 24th in the points last season. ... Hasn't won a race
since 1999, but with consistency, could climb in the standings. ...
Making his 25th start in the Daytona 500 this year.
No. 24 Chevrolet, JEFF GORDON -- Coming off a year of personal
turmoil and professional struggle, four-time Winston Cup champion
finished fourth in points. ... Won three races, but didn't reach
victory lane until August. ... Always a contender for the title, is
one of the few cars with a legitimate chance to win each week.
No. 25 Chevrolet, JOE NEMECHEK -- A midseason replacement for
Jerry Nadeau. ... Started to click with team at end of year and
finished second in two of the final four races of the season. ...
Could be a consistent team this year and finally be as strong as a
Hendrick car is supposed to be.
No. 48 Chevrolet, JIMMIE JOHNSON -- Won three races. ... Became
first Winston Cup rookie to lead points standings before finishing
fifth at end of season. ... Lost to Ryan Newman in a close battle
for rookie of the year. ... Could be a title contender or could
suffer through a sophomore slump.
No. 77 Ford, DAVE BLANEY -- One of the few single-car teams,
Blaney put together strong runs at times last year but finished
19th in points. ... Was thought to be a candidate to drive for
Ganassi, but is still at Jasper with new crew chief Robert Barker
and new key personnel.
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR):
No. 18 Chevrolet, BOBBY LABONTE -- Was 2000 Winston Cup champion.
... Had a disappointing year and finished 16th in standings. ...
Had one victory, at Martinsville in April, for his first-ever short
track win. ... Longtime crew chief Jimmy Makar has moved up to team
manager and Michael ``Fatback'' McSwain takes over as team tries to
return to top form. ... Switched to Chevrolet this season from
No. 20 Chevrolet, TONY STEWART -- Defending Winston Cup champion.
... Stewart could be a runaway winner this year if he eliminates
off-track problems and on-track mishaps. ... Had six DNFs last
season, including the season-opening Daytona 500, when his engine
blew on the second lap. ... Known equally for his talent as well as
his temper, has undergone anger management classes and cut back his
extracurricular racing schedule in hopes for stress-free season.
... Switched to Chevrolet this season from Pontiac.
No. 01 Pontiac, JERRY NADEAU -- Gone from last year are the car
number (36) and the driver (Schrader) as Nadeau signs on for his
first season. ... Filled in for teammate Johnny Benson last season
when Benson was out with injury. ... In a car sponsored by the U.S.
Army, has a demanding role as spokesman and visited troops in
Afghanistan over the winter.
No. 10 Pontiac, JOHNNY BENSON -- Won first race of his career in
November at Rockingham and showed sings at the end of the year of
being able to run near the front each week. ... Missed five races
with injuries and finished 29th in standings. ... The top Pontiac
team after the Gibbs defection.
No. 4 Pontiac, MIKE SKINNER -- Skinner back for second season
with Virginia-based single-car team. ... Finished 31st in points
last season with just one Top 10 finish. ... Was among the fastest
cars at Daytona testing, so could be strong on superspeedways this
season. ... Changed from Chevrolet to Pontiac this year.
Penske Racing South:
No. 2 Dodge, RUSTY WALLACE -- Failed to win a race last year,
breaking his streak of 16 consecutive years with at least one
victory. ... Could have won at Bristol, but was bumped out of the
lead by Gordon with one lap to go. ... Finished second to Elliott
at the Brickyard, had 17 Top 10 runs and ended up seventh in
points. ... Switching from Ford to Dodge this year while looking to
break winless drought and match results of younger teammate.
No. 12 Dodge, RYAN NEWMAN -- The top rookie last season. ...
Newman won at New Hampshire as well as The Winston, finished in the
Top 10 22 times, had a rookie record six poles and finished sixth
in final standings. ... Expected to be one of the top Dodge teams
this year, Newman could also contend for the Winston Cup title.
No. 43 Dodge, JOHN ANDRETTI -- Finished 28th in the standings
last year with just one Top 10 finish. ... Went back and forth most
of the year over a contract extension, finally agreeing to a new
deal in December. ... Could run in Indianapolis 500 this year,
which Petty wouldn't allow him to do last year.
No. 45 Dodge, KYLE PETTY -- Was most improved of the Petty
organization last year, although the family owned business still
lags behind most of the top teams. ... Was 22nd in final standings,
is not yet ready to give up racing to run the company full time.
... Is also trying to field a third car for CART star Christian
Fittipaldi, but doesn't have sponsorship yet to commit to any
PPI Motorsports (PPI):
No. 32 Pontiac, RICKY CRAVEN -- One of the best single-car teams.
... Considered expanding to two cars in 2003, but stuck with Craven
in its only entry. ... Moved from Ford to Pontiac and should get
substantial factory support, enough to contend for wins and improve
on 15th place finish.
No. 37 Dodge, DERRIKE COPE -- The 1990 Daytona 500 winner. ...
Cope is trying to run a full schedule with Friendly's as sponsor.
... Ran in just seven races last year, spending much of the season
as a broadcaster. ... Was seriously injured in September in a Busch
Series race at Richmond.
Richard Childress Racing (RCR):
No. 29 Chevrolet, KEVIN HARVICK -- Went through a sophomore slump
last season and missed the spring race at Martinsville when NASCAR
parked him for rough driving. ... Successfully defended his win at
Chicago, had eight Top 10 finishes, and ended up 21st in the
standings. ... The strength of RCR should be clicking with crew he
was given midway through the year in RCR shake-up.
No. 30 Chevrolet, JEFF GREEN -- The most consistent of the three
RCR cars last season. ... Finished 17th in the points. ... Had four
top-five finishes. ... Has new crew chief in Mike Beam.
No. 31 Chevrolet, ROBBY GORDON -- Finished 20th in the points and
had five top-five finishes. ... Had a few clashes with competitors
during the season. ... Showed on-track progress and benefited
greatly when he got Harvick's crew in the midseason shake-up.
Robert Yates Racing (RYR):
No. 38 Ford, ELLIOTT SADLER -- Sadler replaces Ricky Rudd and the
car number changes from 28 to 38 with a new sponsor in M&M's. ...
Sadler, one of the more colorful characters in NASCAR, has just one
career victory and will have to show production with one of the top
teams in racing. ... Finished 23rd in points last year with the
No. 88 Ford, DALE JARRETT -- The 1999 Winston Cup champion. ...
Jarrett gets a new crew chief this year in Brad Parrott, who takes
over for brother, Todd, who moved to team manager. ... Finished
ninth in the points last year with two victories and 18 Top 10s.
... One of the strongest teams every week.
No. 6 Ford, MARK MARTIN -- Finished second in the points for
fourth time in career. ... Won Coca-Cola 600 and had 22 Top 10
finishes. ... Lost championship by 38 points, and was docked 25
before the season-finale for an illegal part two weeks before. ...
Owner Jack Roush appealed, but lost, and the process took attention
away from Martin's superb season. ... Should be strong again this
year, but not likely to be strongest Roush car.
No. 16 Ford, GREG BIFFLE -- Biffle gave Roush his first NASCAR
championship last season by winning the Busch Series title. ...
Most logical pick to win rookie of the year this season, but quiet
demeanor and wealth of talent at Roush Racing gets him lost in the
No. 17 Ford, MATT KENSETH -- Won a series-high five races last
year, but inconsistency and mechanical failures cost him. ...
Finished eighth in the points. ... Expected to contend for the
championship this year.
No. 97 Ford, KURT BUSCH -- The hottest driver at the end of the
year by winning three of the final five races and four overall. ...
A brash young driver, he proved how aggressive he is by clashing
with veteran Jimmy Spencer and at least three trips to the NASCAR
hauler for disciplinary reasons. ... Could challenge for the title
this season, as well as battle Kenseth for top honors at Roush.
No. 99, JEFF BURTON -- The only Roush driver who didn't win a
race last season. ... Finished 12th in the standings in a year he
was expected to compete for the title. ... Crew chief Frank
Stoddard is gone, replaced by Paul Andrews and is expected to
bounce back and run for wins this year.
No. 7 Dodge, JIMMY SPENCER -- Everything is new, with Ray
Evernham out as partial owner and Jimmy Spencer replacing Casey
Atwood as the driver. ... Spencer finished 27th last year while
driving for Ganassi, never recovering from missing the
season-opening Daytona 500. ... Was abruptly fired in November and
caught on with car owner Jim Smith at Ultra. ... Tommy Baldwin is
Wood Brothers Racing:
No. 21 Ford, RICKY RUDD -- One of the oldest teams in NASCAR, the
Wood Brothers of Virginia are hoping Rudd can bring the team back
to the prominence. ... Rudd, coming off a bizarre year of off-track
distractions with Yates, finished 10th in standings and won one
race. ... A change of scenery will do him good. ... No. 21 should
be back among the leaders at end of year.