Sears Point Handicaps
June 19, 2003 | 12:55 A.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior actually won a road course race at Watkins Glen during a Busch event back in 1999 beating none other than Ron Fellows. His three career finishes at Sonoma are a 24th, 19th and 30th. That’s not so good. 35th at the Glen last year.
Jeff Gordon- Of the top points contenders Gordon has the best chance of making up ground. He’s won three races at Sears Point (1998-2000 consecutively) four races at Watkins Glen (1997-99 and 2000) Has it really been almost three years since Gordon won a road course race? Last year he finished 37th here and 22nd at the Glen. Ouch.
Bobby Labonte- Labonte is quietly becoming an acceptable road racer. He’s scored four top ten finishes at Sonoma with a best result of fourth (twice) and the same number of top 10s at Watkins Glen. 13th here last year.
Kurt Busch- Busch surprised a lot of people with a fourth place finish here, but then he had run well on road courses in a Craftsman truck. His other three Cup road course starts have been unremarkable to be kind.
Michael Waltrip- Waltrip has been running better on road courses lately than he did earlier in his career, but that ain’t saying much. His best Sonoma finish is seventh. He finished fifteen spots lower than that here last year. (Do the math.) MW did finish 9th at the Glen last year.
Jimmie Johnson- Johnson finished 35th here last year and sixteenth at the Glen. He probably shouldn’t have pissed off his mentor Jeff Gordon these last few weeks, huh?
Rusty Wallace- Wallace has won twice at Sonoma (most recently in 1996) and twice at the Glen (most recently in 1989) and twice at Riverside. But the time of his time has come and gone, I fear he’s been waiting too long. Seventeenth here last year.
Sterling Marlin- Marlin blew an engine and finished 43rd here last year. Marlin did flat out shock a lot of people with a second place finish here in 2000.
Mark Martin- Martin is a noted road racer but has had more success at Watkins Glen (three wins) than here. (Just one win back in 1997.) But Martin runs well here. In fourteen starts at Sears Point he’s missed the top 10 only twice and has top 5 finishes in half of his races here.
Kevin Harvick- Harvick finished fourteenth in both of last year’s road course events.
Tony Stewart- Stewart has emerged as one of the hottest road racers on the circuit. He finished second here last year and won this event in 2001. Also won at Watkins Glen last year. That’s three wins in just eight starts on road courses in a Cup car and six finishes inside the top 10 in those eight races. Could be considered a favorite.
Ricky Craven- Craven has taken to road course racing like a trout takes to a trombone. Best finish here is 16th.
Jeff Burton- Burton has quietly been working his way into respectability on the road courses with four top 10 finishes in the last six road course races including a second at Watkins Glen.
Terry Labonte- There was a time Terry Labonte was considered one of the best road course racers in the sport. There was also a time lime green leisure suits were considered the height of fashion. Labonte’s best finish here was second but his third place finish here last year was his first top 10 since 1996. Then again the 5 team is on a roll right now so an upset win isn’t completely out of the question. Just unlikely.
Robby Gordon- Gordon is a very talented road course racer and this is one of his two best chances at winning a race this year. Gordon finished eleventh here last year and third at the Glen. Finished second here in 2001 and should have won at the Glen but a TV telemetry box exploded and set the car on fire.
Ryan Newman- Newman finished a remarkable ninth here last year and an even more phenomenal second at the Glen. And he’s been on fire lately though he’d probably prefer not to have that happen again this week.
Joe Nemechek- A mule will win the Kentucky Derby before Nemechek wins a road course race.
Elliott Sadler- Sadler surprised a lot of people and finished sixth here last year.
Bill Elliott- Old timers may recall Bill Elliott won his first career Winston Cup race on the old Riverside road course. But unless that foot is fully healed he’s going to struggle this week. Elliott did finish eighth here last year, one of his four top 10 finishes in his thirteen races here.
Others To Watch-
Ricky Rudd- Rudd has won here twice including last year. He also sat on the pole at Watkins Glen last year. Rudd has won twice at the Glen.
Steve Park- Park won at Watkins Glen in 2000.
The Ringers- Several teams are putting road course specialists in their cars just for this weekend. There’s always a chance one of these Fellows could score a win.