August 20, 2003 | 8:40 A.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior finished third in this race last year (and fourth at Bristol last spring) but finished sixteenth in Thunder Valley this spring.
Jeff Gordon- Gordon won this race from the pole last year to snap a long winless drought. The victory was one of five Gordon has scored here and he’s finished inside the top 5 in ten of his 21 starts at Bristol.
Jimmie Johnson- In three career Cup starts at Bristol Johnson has scored a pair of top 10 finishes but no top fives. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Kevin Harvick- Harvick has top 10 finishes in four out of five Cup starts at Bristol. His best result was second in the night race of 2001 after Ricky Rudd tried learning this boy some manners. Is it Jeff Gordon’s turn to play tutor this week?
Michael Waltrip- In 34 cup starts at Bristol Waltrip has scored just one top 5 finish here. (Fifth in the spring race of 1994.) 25th here this spring.
Bobby Labonte- Labonte isn’t quite as hopeless as Waltrip. His best finish is third (the spring race this year) and he also only has one other top 5 finish but it’s in only twenty starts. But he does have four consecutive top 10 finishes at Bristol coming into this weekend.
Kurt Busch- Busch struggled here as a rookie but in his last three Bristol races Busch has won twice and finished fourth in the third race.
Ryan Newman- Newman ran very well at most tracks as a rookie last year but not here. He finished outside the top 35 in both races last year. He improved slightly with a 22nd place result here this spring. Newman has an engineer’s mentality and it takes a caveman mentality to win at Bristol.
Robby Gordon- Gordon has finished mid-pack in his three Bristol starts with RCR.
Tony Stewart- Stewart finished second in this race in 2000 then won this race in 2001. Hasn’t had a top 10 finish here since.
Rusty Wallace- Wallace leads all active drivers at Bristol with nine wins. He’s also scored a remarkable 27 top ten finishes in 29 races here. Wallace almost won this race last year before Jeff Gordon knocked him out of the way. In the last ten Bristol Cup races Wallace has won three times and scored a total of eight top 10s. This might be his best chance to snap the winless drought before Martinsville later this fall.
Jeff Burton- Burton’s best finish here was a second place in this race back in 1998. But he hasn’t scored a top 10 finish at Bristol in the last five races run here.
Terry Labonte- Labonte is probably best remembered at Bristol for having his “cage rattled” by the Intimidator in the now famous (infamous?) 1999 night race. He’d probably prefer you remember he’s won here twice though you have to set the Way Back Machine for 1995 to see the most recent of those wins. His last top 10 at Bristol was in this race back in 2001.
Mark Martin- Martin has won twice at Bristol (the night races of 1993 and 1998) and usually ran pretty well at Bristol. Though Martin hasn’t scored a top 10 finish in the last five races here prior to that he’d finished inside the top 10 in twelve of the previous thirteen Bristol Cup races with nine of those finishes having been top 5s. Will the real Mark Martin please stand up?
Bill Elliott- Elliott is best known for his success on superspeedways so it may surprise some newer fans to learn he won the Bristol spring race in 1988 on his way to that year’s championship. His last top 10 finish here occurred way back in the spring race of 1997. You have to like Elliott’s chances a lot better next week at Darlington
Sterling Marlin- Marlin is a native Vol but hasn’t given his home state fans much to cheer about at Bristol with just two top 5 finishes in 37 starts here. Did manage a sixth place finish here this spring. His career best second place finish at Bristol occurred way back in 1991 while Marlin was driving for Junior Johnson.
Ricky Craven- Craven has just one career top ten at Bristol a ninth place result here back in 1996. Has been a “something-teener” here as of late.
Elliott Sadler- Let the record books reflect Sadler’s only Winston Cup career win to date was the spring race here in 2001. Dadgummit, he hasn’t had a top 10 finish here since.
Ward Burton- In eighteen starts at Bristol Ward Burton has just one top five finish and a total of five top 10s. Gets style points for throwing his booties at Junior last year. NASCAR may mandate the team install a metal detector in the window opening of the 22 car to make sure Ward isn’t toting a gun after his post-wreck comments in that race.
Greg Biffle- Biffle managed a credible fifth place finish here in his first Winston Cup start in Thunder Valley this spring.