Veterans Vs. Youth At Rockingham
November 2, 2002 | 10:40 A.M. EST
Never mind. The rivalry between the “young guns” and “veterans” of NASCAR is quickly coming to a close as the battle for the Winston Cup championship rolls into “The Rock” for the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400.
This on-going battle has intensified during the later half of the 2002 NASCAR season, and for one championship contender this weekend’s race at “The Rock” is a crucial piece in the puzzle that could steer him toward the title.
“At Rockingham you need a good handling race car,” said rookie Jimmie Johnson, who currently sits third in the point standings. “You need to have patience, not force issues or overdrive the car or you’ll just get yourself in trouble. If we can stay out of trouble and have a good run this weekend, we can gain valuable points in the overall championship standings.”
Johnson, and fellow rookie Ryan Newman, have both won races this season and are in the top-four in championship point standings heading into Rockingham this weekend. Newman grabbed his fifth pole of the season in qualifying on Friday and will start Sunday's race from the coveted top spot.
But do these young superstars have what it takes to win at the historic 1.017-mile oval?
Six different drivers have visited victory lane at Rockingham for the first time in the last six races. Matt Kenseth is the most recent “new” winner who has driven to victory at North Carolina Speedway along with veterans Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Joe Nemechek and fellow “young gun” Steve Park.
Is experience the key to victory at “The Rock” or will youth prevail at the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400? Johnson is quick to give his prediction.
“I never had much success at Rockingham in the Busch Series,” said Johnson. “But the guys have done a great job all season and I’ve been able to have success at tracks that I struggled on in the Busch Series. I’m confident that we’ll have a solid run this weekend.”