Feature Story

10 Stories To Watch In 2003

1. Tony Stewart
No driver will be under a bigger microscope in 2003 than Tony Stewart. He'll have to handle the increased attention as a result of winning the 2002 Winston Cup title, along with 42 other competitors every week. With a switch to Chevrolet, look for Stewart to run well at Daytona. But his temperment will be tested throughout the season.

2. The Rookie Class
Rookies come into Winston Cup races with teams capable of winning races. The rookie crop for 2003 includes Jamie McMurray (who already scored a victory in 2002), the 2002 Busch Series champion Greg Biffle, two-time Truck Series champion Jack Sprague, and Casey Mears. The rookie crown will likely come down to a two-horse race between McMurray and Biffle-- with each likely making a visit to victory lane.

3. Roush Racing
Mark Martin came within 34 points of winning the 2002 Winston Cup title. Matt Kenseth led the circuit with five victories. But no driver ended the year on a hotter streak than Kurt Busch who goes in as one of the favorites to capture the 2003 Winston Cup title. The big question surrounding Roush Racing is whether Jeff Burton can return to victory lane after a winless 2002 season.

4. Jeff Gordon
With his divorce proceedings continuing into 2003, he'll once again have to deal with the off-track distraction while remaining focused on the quest for his fifth title. His toughest adversary in 2003 might be the person staring at him in the mirror.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr
Is this the year he finally breaks through to contend for the Winston Cup title? Or will he just be the restrictor plate star attraction, but a mid-pack driver everywhere else?

6. Robert Yates Racing
Both of Yates' teams had off-season shake-ups. Brad Parrott takes over as crew chief on the #88 Ford with Dale Jarrett, and Elliott Sadler takes over for Ricky Rudd. There's a generational gap between Jarrett and Sadler but it will give Sadler the chance to learn from one of the sport's most endearing figures.

7. Penske Racing switches to Dodge
Both Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace finished in the top-10 in the points standings in 2002. Can they improve upon things in 2003 with a switch from Ford to Dodge?

8. Sterling Marlin
Marlin had a consistent 2002 season leading the points up until he crashed at Richmond in September. Three races later his season ended after a hard crash at Kansas. Should he bounce back strong in 2003, he'll be among the favorites to claim the series championship.

9. The Lawsuit
A shareholder of Speedway Motorsports has filed suit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation citing collusion in the awarding of race dates. The goal of course is a second race at Texas Motor Speedway. But the case might force NASCAR to open its books-- something that hasn't occurred since the organization was founded in 1948.

10. Richard Childress Racing
For the first half of 2002, the three-car Winston Cup operation struggled. After crew changes were made, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Green, and Robby Gordon all improved on a week-to-week basis. After a strong 2001 season, Harvick slumped both on the track and in the mental department in 2002. He'll have something to prove in 2003. With a new Chevrolet body style developed by RCR and Hendrick Motorsports, he should be a weekly contender. Also look for Jeff Green to finally score a breakthrough victory.

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