Rear View Mirror
December 31, 2002 | 12:01 A.M. EST
The Winston Cup season will be remembered as a changing of the guard with youthful drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and even 31-year-old champion Tony Stewart making their mark. With another influx of young talent set to come in full-time next season, led by Busch and Truck champion Greg Biffle and wunderkind Jamie McMurray, has Father Time caught up to the likes of Sterling Marlin, Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett?
The momentum shift in open wheel racing was monumental in 2002 as the Indy Racing League clearly became the choice for Indy car teams and drivers. When the migration finally ended, names like Andretti, Franchitti, Brack, Castroneves, de Ferran and Kanaan all wound up bolting CART for the IRL. But CART didn't rollover and die. New president Chris Pook rolled up his sleeves and, bolstered by tremendous attendance in Montreal, Toronto, Mexico City and Denver, put the series in a new direction with support from Bridgestone and Ford. While the IRL may now be the top Indy car circuit, CART has a chance to be an American-based version of Formula One.
Unfortunately being F-1 Lite might not be the best thing in terms of competition. Michael Schumacher and the Ferrari team made a mockery of the series last season with dominating performances and two staged finishes between the circuit's winningnest driver and teammate Rubens Barrichello. Despite modest attempts by officials to level the playing field, the Ferrari dynasty will continue in 2003.
John Force added to his legacy in NHRA drag racing with a 12th career Funny Car title while veteran Larry Dixon bested retiring legend Kenny Bernstein to win the Top Fuel title.
The legendary Steve Kinser racked up yet another World of Outlaws title while Dave Darland, Tracy Hines and J.J. Yeley all grabbed USAC titles. Unfortunately none will get a shot at an Indy car ride in 2003.
Joey Clanton edged Gary St. Amant to win the 2002 ASA title, the last under the guidance of the Robbins family, who sold the series to former Clanton team owner Steve Dale. Frank Kimmel was the Michael Schumacher of ARCA, rolling over the competition for another series crown.
So as we wave the checkered flag on 2002, we look forward with hopes and wishes for a safe and competitive 2003 season.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year to you all.