Briefs: Stewart Hot Ruttman Happy Labonte Batting Clean-Up

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Tony Stewart was a little late getting started in the chase for the Winston Cup championship,

But with 12 different winners in the first 13 races, no one is sprinting away from the field. So, Stewart isn't worried.

"We're not out of it, by any means," said Stewart, who won Sunday in Dover, Del., to move into ninth place in the points race. "I don't think you can ever count yourself out with so many races to go, because you never know what is going to happen."

Stewart, who set new rookie standards with three victories and a fourth-place finish in the points race last year, was among the favorites to take the championship in 2000. But his victory in the MBNA Platinum 400 was his first this season.

Pursuing the championship is not just about winning races, Stewart insists, using his 1995 USAC season to illustrates his point.

"I pretty much treat it the way I did the Triple Crown in ྛ," he said. "We didn't win a race and still won the championship. We won it on the last night. The two guys in front of us had to have problems and they both had problems."

Ruttman's Anniversary: Joe Ruttman is back in Texas, where last year he began a partnership that has grown into one of the most successful in NASCAR's truck series.

Ruttman, who joined Bobby Hamilton's team for the Pronto Auto Parts 400 last June, has a victory, four poles and seven top-five finishes in 26 races since then.

"What has happened over the last year is truly incredible," said Ruttman, who will race Friday night in Fort Worth. "I'm having more fun now with this group of guys than I've ever had."

Ruttman, coming off a third-place finish last week in Monroe, Wash., is eighth in the standings. He won the Chevy Trucks 150 in March in Avondale, Ariz.

Fast Learner: Kevin Harvick, the leading rookie in the NASCAR Busch series, knows what he wants to do Saturday night in South Boston, Va.

"Start up front and finish up front," said Harvick, who last Saturday achieved the first of those objectives. "I have confidence in the car."

Driving a Chevrolet for Richard Childress, Harvick won the pole in Dover, Del., and dominated the first half of the MBNA Platinum 200, leading for 96 laps. Harvick finished sixth, and leads Ron Hornaday 165-164 in the rookie points race.

Batting Bobby: Bobby Labonte's No. 18 Pontiac will feature a red paint scheme promoting baseball's All-Star game during the Pepsi 400 on July 1 at Daytona International Speedway.

"We all grow up either playing or watching baseball -- it's about as American as you can get," the Winston Cup points leader said. "I think it says a lot about how big NASCAR has become."

Action Performance will market die-cast replicas, clothing and other merchandise with All-Star game-Interstate Batteries themes.

The All-Star game is July 11 in Atlanta.

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