Rockingham Handicaps

Editors Note: For the first four races of the season, until the points standings stabilize, I use last year’s final standings to determine the 20 drivers I handicap. NASCAR uses this same system as far as provisionals for the first four races as well.

Tony Stewart- In eight Winston Cup starts at the Rock Stewart has finished 12th or better in seven of those races. The lone exception was last fall’s event when Stewart finished 14th. Should be a contender Sunday.

Mark Martin – Martin is a two time Cup winner at Rockingham and owned this joint when he raced in the Busch series. One of those wins was Mark’s first career Cup triumph back in 1989 and the other was this race in 1999. Oddly enough Martin has finished 20th or worse in four of the six Cup races here since his last victory, though he did finish a strong second here last fall.

Kurt Busch- Busch struggled badly in his first three Cup starts here, but managed credible twelfth and third place finishes here last year. Good dark horse pick given decent odds.

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has four career victories at the Rock, including the season sweep here back in 1998 the season he won everything but a seat in the Senate. Gordon has missed a top ten finish only once in the last six Cup races run here.

Jimmie Johnson- Johnson had some remarkable finishes last year as a rookie, but couldn’t get a handle on the Rock. He finished 28th and 37th here last year, so for this weekend he’s an honorary Bodine.

Ryan Newman- Newman didn’t fare that much better than Johnson at the Rock last year with 14th and 23rd place finishes, but he did win the pole here last fall. Doctor’s reports say there’s no sign of neck strain after Newman’s terrifying tumble last Sunday. In fact they’re still trying to locate his neck.

Rusty Wallace- Wallace leads all active drivers with five career Rockingham winners. But his most recent victories were a decade ago (1993 for those who struggle with math) when he won both races. Rusty has four top 10 finishes in the last ten Cup races here.

Matt Kenseth- Kenseth was still a virtual unknown and was driving an unsponsored car back in the spring 1998 Rockingham Busch race when he shoved Tony Stewart aside coming out of the fourth turn on the final lap to win the event. DeWalt signed on with the team in short order, and the rest as they say is history. Kenseth also won this race last year. Look for him to be a contender.

Dale Jarrett- Jarrett finished 42nd and 12th here last year snapping a streak of ten consecutive top 10 finishes. Won the fall Rockingham race in 2000.

Ricky Rudd- Rudd won the fall Rockingham Cup race in 1996. He has twenty top 10 finishes in fifty Cup starts at the Rock.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior just hasn’t figured this joint out yet, at least not in a Cup car. His best finish here is 15th in six Cup starts.

Jeff Burton- Burton won the fall race here back in 1999. Has top 10 finishes in half his eighteen starts at the Rock.

Bill Elliott- Mr. Peabody crank up the way back machine to 1992. That year was Bill’s most recent of three Rockingham wins. Gather ye rosebuds whilst you may. Elliott’s last top ten finish here was 1998.

Michael Waltrip- Typically whoever wins the Daytona 500 lately fares poorly at Rockingham the next week. Waltrip doesn’t need a lot of help running badly here either. He’s finished 19th or worse in the last ten Cup races at the Rock and his best career finish here of fourth took place back in 1992. Are they making fun of me? You bet.

Ricky Craven- Craven has struggled here but did manage two top 10 finishes here last year. So has he turned the Tide?

Bobby Labonte- After the 2001 season he had, Labonte’s picture began turning up on milk cartons over the off season. But even during that dismal season Labonte did score a pair of top 10 finishes here last year. Labonte won this race back in 2000. Bobby brings a streak of four consecutive Rockingham top 10 finishes into this race.

Jeff Green- Green finished 17th and tenth here last year.

Sterling Marlin- Marlin’s best finish at the Rock is second place (twice) including this race last year. Marlin missed last fall’s race at the Rock with the neck injury.

Dave Blaney- Blaney has five Cup starts at the Rock with a best finish of 9th and an average finish around 21st.

Robby Gordon- Gordon has finished 24th or worse in five of his last Cup starts at the Rock. He’s best recalled here for wrecking late in the race, refusing to pit, oiling down the entire track and causing the race to end under caution. And he didn’t get his face on a box of Wheaties for that day’s work? Where’s the justice?

Others To Watch

Kyle Petty- Petty has three Winston Cup Rockingham wins. No, seriously.

Johnny Benson- Benson scored his first career win here last fall.

Kenny Wallace- Wallace tends to run well here and finished 10th in this race last year.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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