NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Wednesday, Jul 20, 2005 5:27 pm, EDT

Race Capsule

Daytona International Speedway
  • What:

    Race 1 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

  • When:

    February 16, 2003 1:00 pm EST

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    2.5 miles

  • Race Length:

    500.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Michael Waltrip Captured his second Daytona 500 in the last three years; but this one came when the event was halted after 109 laps and more than two hours of rain delays; also won the EA Sports 500 at Talladega in September as DEI once again was dominant in restrictor-plate races; was in the top 10 in points for a long stretch before fading to a 15th finish; this will be his 19th season on the circuit, with best points finish a 12th twice.
In 21 years on the Winston Cup circuit, the veteran has started 763 races, 28 from the pole, recorded 23 victories, and earned over $28 million; but his 2000 season ended on a sour note with a fistfight with a Robert Yates Racing crew member; the one victory came at Sonoma, California in June and he finished 10th in points; in his previous two years with Yates, he finished in the top five; in 28 years in NASCAR, he drove for some prominent owners including Richard Childress, Bud Moore, Rick Hendrick and Yates; yet to win at Daytona in his career although he did finish fourth in 2001; outside of auto racing, he enjoys flying, boating and water sports.
Kevin Harvick A good performance in last year's big race here, finishing fourth after starting 31st; only win and pole came in the same race and it was a prestigious one, at the Brickyard 400; also was runner-up in six of his 11 top-five finishes of the year; earned just under $5 million and was fifth in the final points standings.
A disappointing season by his standards in 2003; the only top-five of the year also was his only victory, which came in the race after the Daytona 500 at North Carolina Speedway in the Subway 400; placed 20th or lower in 22 races; had only seven top-10s in all and earned just over $4 million; won the Daytona 500 from the pole in 1999, the year of his championship; also made it to victory lane in 1993 and 1996; last season rounded out the first 10 finishers.
Bobby Labonte The 2000 NASCAR champion had two victories last year, including the Ford 400 final event in Miami; will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing for the 10th straight year; the first win came in the fourth race of the year at the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500; had total of 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s; also scored four pole-positions for a career total of 26; the 41st finish in the Daytona 500 was lowest of season; placed eighth in the points standings.
Two-time winner of the Daytona 500 in 1994 and 1995, finished just 17th last year; saves some of his best performances for superspeedways at Talladega and Daytona; had a poor season but finished somewhat strong with a pair of top-10s; no finishes in the top five; owns 10 career wins and 12 poles; earned $3.9 million lst season.
Bill Elliott The Winston Cup veteran proved he still has what it takes to win; recorded two wins last year and captured four pole positions; both wins came successively at the Pennsylvania 500 (from pole) and the Brickyard 400; had six finishes in the top five and seven more in the top 10; won the Daytona 500 in 1985 and 1987, the later he set the qualifying record mark of 210.364 miles per hour; finished 11th in the 500 last season after starting 29th.
Mark Martin Although a Daytona Beach resident, he has yet to win the Daytona 500; last season he finished a good fifth from a 26th starting position; best result was third in 1995 and another a fifth in 2000; earned over $4 million last year, but no wins and no poles to his credit; top finish was second in the Pocono 500 in June; was 17th in the points standings.
Jimmie Johnson The month of May last year basically belonged to him as he captured successive wins at Lowe's Motor Speedway in The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600; was partly aided by rain, which halted the race after 276 of the scheduled 400 laps; had three victories the rest of the way; in 2002, became just the third rookie in series history to win the Daytona 500 pole, joining Loy Allen and Mike Skinner; finished third last year.
Ward Burton The defending champion of the Daytona 500 had a roller-coaster 2002 season; had nine finishes of 30th or worse before winning again at New Hampshire; following that victory, he again finished 30th or worse seven times before a 25th-place finish in the standings, his worst since 24th in 1997; owns five career Winston Cup wins and has won at least one race in each of the past three seasons; earned over $17 million in his Winston Cup career; outside of racing, he is involved with wildlife and environmental conservation.
Matt Kenseth Just one victory recorded last year, but was a model of consistency all season long and produced his first NASCAR championship; won at Las Vegas, finished fourth the following week at Atlanta and took over the series points standings lead for the balance of the season - 33 consecutive races; clinched the title in the penultimate race at Rockingham; posted a series-leading 25 top-10 finishes and had only two DNFs; one of the non-finishes came in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway due to engine problems early.
Jeff Gordon The four-time NASCAR champion was in the chase for the title last year until the later phase of the season when he lost some ground and eventually finished fourth in the points (237 points behind champion Matt Kenseth); one of two drivers with three wins last year, picked up his fourth career win at Martinsville Speedway in April; after some tough events, had a tremendous stretch in the last nine races when he finished fifth five times, had two victories and a seventh; won the Daytona 500 in 1997 and 1999 and also won the Pepsi 400 at the track twice; was 12th in the 500 last February.
Kurt Busch The 25-year-old Las Vegas native was edged out last season in one of the most exciting finishes in NASCAR history since the electronic scoring was introduced in 1993; Ricky Craven prevailed in a side-by-side two-lap finish at Darlington Raceway in March by .002 second; he won four races by the end of the year, which was second behind Ryan Newman's eight; had solid run in the Daytona 500 with a second-place finish to Michael Waltrip.
The 1995 Busch Series champion will compete in his eighth Winston Cup season this year; although he captured his first career Winston Cup win at the Pop Secret 400 last November, his season featured just two other top-five finishes and seven top 10s; missed six events with injuries sustained in crashes in the early part of the season; started the season with a 10th-place finish in the Daytona 500 after starting with a provisional in 38th.
Ryan Newman By way of his wins (8) and poles (11), the title could have been his, but some incosistency and bad results early in the season proved costly and he ended up just sixth in the final points race; from the Coca-Cola 600 on, had some spectacular results; finishing lower than 20th in only five of 25 races; was the first to drop out of the Daytona 500 due to an accident; was 2002 Rookie of the Year; completed degree program in vehicle structure engineering at Purdue University.
Ken Schrader Another driver who tends to put out good efforts on superspeedways; at Daytona International Speedway, he posted 13 top-10 finishes in the last 19 races; accomplished just about everything at Daytona except a victory in the big race; was a pole-sitter three consecutive years between 1988 and 1990; finished second in 1989 and third in 1996 as best results.
This will be his 41st start at Daytona; has six top-fives and 16 top-10s at the 2 1/2 mile track; all six of his top fives have come in the last 12 starts with a career-best finish of third in the 2001 Daytona 500; also was second in the 2002 Pepsi 400 at Daytona; best finish last year was third in the Auto Club 500, one of just two top-fives; considered the master of short tracks, although he has demonstrated skills on all type of tracks.
Jeff Burton Winless and without a pole the past two years on the circuit; had only three top-five finishes in 2003 although managed to place 12th in the final points standings; best result was second in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 5; The Daytona 500 was not a bad run either with an 11th place after starting ninth; in 2002 here, started 33rd and finished 12th.
Tony Stewart Not quite the year he expected in defense of his 2002 title; had a rough ride until the final nine races of the season; that should benefit him this year, with the new points system as he has historically been one of the best drivers over the final 10 races; at one point in the early stages last year, finished 40-41-41 in three straight races; won two races and finished no lower than ninth in the last nine events; in the end, was seventh in the points; took home over $5.2 million; has 17 career wins and nine poles on the cirucit; also won the IRL title in 1997.