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

Race Capsule

North Carolina Speedway
  • What:

    Race 2 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    North Carolina Speedway, Rockingham, NC

  • When:

    February 23, 2003 12:30 pm EST

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    1.017 miles

  • Race Length:

    400.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Mark Martin Finished second in the Winston Cup championship last year, following a disappointing 2001 which knocked him out of the top 10 for the first time since 1989; won just one race and was consistent throughout the year; had 22 top-10 finishes, with three runner-up efforts and just three DNFs in 36 starts; lost the title to Tony Stewart by just 38 points for his fourth career runner-up honors; owns 33 career Winston Cup wins and 41 poles; winner of this race in 1999; has 18 top-10s in 33 career starts at Rockingham.
Scored victories at Las Vegas and Darlington Raceway in 2002 and held the series points lead for 25 weeks; a late-season accident at Kansas Speedway ended his hopes of a first championship; was sidelined the final seven events of the season; otherwise, recorded 14 top-10 finishes and six top 10 qualifying starts, with poles at Pocono in June and Darlington in September; was runner-up in the Subway 400 last February to Matt Kenseth.
Bill Elliott The veteran driver started his career at North Carolina Speedway in the 1976 Carolina 500 (started 34th -- finished 33rd); started his 28th season with an unimpressive 32nd place at Daytona; won two consecutive races in 2002 at the Pennsylvania 500 (from the pole) and the Brickyard 400; recorded six top five finishes and seven more in the first 10; winner at Rockingham in 1992.
Leads all active drivers with five victories at Rockingham, including back-to-back wins in the fall of 1998 and spring of 1989; he and Richard Petty are the only two drivers to win three consecutive races at Rockingham; Wallace did it by winning this event in 1993 and 1994 as well as the fall race in 1993; has 20 top-10s in 38 career starts at Rockingham.
North Carolina Speedway has been the track where he enjoyed a good measure of success; finished 10th or better, including one victory in the fall of 2000, in 13 of the last 16 races; 11 times had finishes in the top five, with a streak of six second-place results; 2002 was a second straight sub-par season for him, with seven finishes of 30th or worse and two lower than 40th; the ninth-place finish in the standings, down from fifth, was his lowest since 1995; winner of two races in 2002, including a come-from-behind effort at Michigan in August where he overcame a spin off Turn 4 with just 11 laps remaining to record his 30th career checkered flag; coming off 10th-place finish at Daytona.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. A favorite to win the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. led the field for 22 laps until rain stopped the race on lap 63; easily among the top three runners (except for pit stops) until a forced unscheduled pit stop on lap 89 to replace a dead battery due to a faulty alternator; finished a lap down in 36th after winning the Budweiser Shootout, one of the Twin 125 qualifying races and the Busch series Koolerz 300 during Speedweeks leading to the Daytona 500; his top finish at North Carolina Speedway in six races was 15th in he fall of 2001.
Matt Kenseth Defending champion of the Subway 400, one of his series-leading five victories in 2002; 11 finishes of 30th and lower proved costly in the title run, down to eighth place in the standings, some 368 points behind champion Tony Stewart; made his presence felt on the Winston Cup circuit in 2000 when he captured the Rookie of the Year award, won the Coca-Cola 600 and recorded 11 top-10 finishes.
Ryan Newman The 2002 Rookie of the Year was involved in a crash on lap 57 at the Daytona 500 when his car hit the wall coming out of Turn 4; his rear axle ripped apart his Dodge Intrepid, the car went airborne and made backwards half flip onto the roof and two more flips before landing upside-down; he was able to climb unhurt from under the wreckage; his season last year was nothing short of excellent; finished sixth in the series points standings, winning six poles and 14 top-five finishes in 36 starts; also claimed his first series checkered flag at the New Hampshire 300; Penske Racing's switch to Dodge and promise of more engineering and technical support, there should be substantial better results this year; completed degree program in vehicle structure engineering at Purdue University.
Michael Waltrip Won the 45th Daytona 500 as rain stopped the race after 109 of the 200 scheduled laps; won the race for the second time in the last three years as he took the lead for the final time on lap 106; had a good stretch in midseason 2002 after struggling in the early part; win at the Pepsi 400 was his second career victory to follow his 2001 Daytona 500; finished 14th in the points standings, 10 positions higher than his finish in 2001; in 18 seasons, his best points finish was 12th twice; won two poles, the first at Dover in 1991.
Jeff Gordon The four-time NASCAR champion has enjoyed a measure of success at Rockingham with seven top-five finishes, includinglast year's fall event, and four victories; finished seventh in the Subway 400; also started from pole twice; won the February event in 1998, 1997 and 1995; won three races last year and three poles, along with 13 top fives and 20 top 10s; his 10 races of results of 20th or lower were the downfall to a fourth place finish in the championship standings.
Kevin Harvick The 2002 season did not bring him the same accolades as his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning effort; a win at Chicago was one of eight top-10 finishes, but six DNFs, including two in the season's first four races, pretty much took him out of contention and an eventual 21st-place finish in the standings; in November, he won his first Craftsman Truck series race at Phoenix; in 2001 he placed ninth in the points after taking over the car owned by Richard Childress Racing following the death of Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500; started 2003 on a positive note with a fourth-place finish in the Daytona 500.
Kurt Busch The 24-year-old Las Vegas native picked up where he left off last season; worked his way up to second place in the Daytona 500 shortly before the race was called after 109 laps; had a solid year in 2002 when he recorded his first four career Winston Cup wins en route to a career-best third-place finish in the points standings; first win came at Bristol in the spring, followed by fall victories at Martinsville, Atlanta and Homestead; finished 12th in the Subway 400 and improved to third in the November 3 race at the track.
Has compiled an enviable record at 1-mile North Carolina Speedway in his 52 starts; even his first race there was an accomplishment as he placed 11th in March 1975; statistics include one victory, three poles and 12 top-five finishes; "It's a fun race track to drive.," he said. "The best-handling car will win the race. It is not a brute horsepower race track where horsepower outweighs handling." Wood Brothers Racing, owners of the Motorcraft Taurus, also have a good record at "The Rock," with six wins, four poles and 18 top-fives in 73 races entered; "You don't race the competitors until about the last 50 laps remaining in the race," added Rudd, who finished 15th at the Daytona 500.
Has posted three of his eight career Winston Cup victories at Rockingham; finished in the top 10 in 12 of 42 starts at the track; Petty is tied with Martin, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough with the most pole positions at Rockingham with five.
Tony Stewart Recorded his career best finish of seventh at the rain-shortened Daytona 500; after the pit stop on lap 34, he emerged in the lead for the next six laps - the first time he had ever paced the field at the Daytona 500; won the 2002 Winston Cup championship despite a tumultuous season; in August, Stewart shoved a photographer at Indy for which he was fined $10,000 by NASCAR and $50,000 by main sponsor Home Depot; in September, a fan accused him of showing her after the Sharpie 500 at Bristol, an allegation that was unfounded; later in September, he was cited in a story published in the Concord Monitor under a headline "EMT says Stewart punched him" after an incident during the New England 300 on July 21; Stewart also collided with Getty Images photographer Rusty Jarrett on the final weekend of the season in Miami; following a meeting with Stewart and NASCAR, Jarrett accepted an apology; finished fourth the last three spring races at Rockingham, his top results in eight races; owns 15 career Winston Cup victories.
Jimmie Johnson Led laps 96 and 99-105 at the Daytona 500 before relinquishing the lead to eventual winner Michael Waltrip on lap 106; the race was stopped three laps later due to rain; Johnson finished third, with Kurt Busch in second; his rookie season in car owned by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon was one of the better ones in recent memory; winner of three races, including a sweep at Dover Downs; his 21 top-10 finishes tied him with 2002 champion Tony Stewart for second in the series and he led the standings following the race in Kansas in late September; two results outside the top 30 in the final six races of the season took him out of contention, but he did manage to finish fifth in the standings; also finished second to Ryan Newman in the Rookie of the Year balloting; finished 28th in the Subway 400 last year.