February 20, 2003
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Daytona was a disappointment for Ryan Newman after a wreck tore apart his car and sent it barrel-rolling through the grass. He went home from the biggest race of the year in last place in the standings.
No biggie, he thought. The real racing begins here this weekend.
"Daytona is just one race. It doesn't make or break the season," Newman said. That's the standard refrain from all Winston Cup teams except the Daytona 500 champion.
North Carolina Speedway opens to teams today, not a minute too soon for drivers and crewmen eager to get on with the season.
Instead of restrictor plates, teams will be concerned about tire management, downforce in the corners and a strong engine at the next three stops: Rockingham, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
"In the first four races, you can pretty much figure out where you're at. You're not really going to know where your car and team stacks up until after Atlanta," car owner Ray Evernham said.
INDY RACING LEAGUE: Jaques Lazier, out of racing almost a year after serious injuries, will return to Team Menard for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 in March at Homestead-Miami.