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Coca Cola 600: Drivers to watch

Times Staff Writer
Published May 30, 2004

JIMMIE JOHNSON

STARTING POSITION: First

CAR: No. 48 Chevy

BEST 600 FINISH: First (2003)

NOTES: The defending race champion hasn't lost a step, grabbing the pole and a track record. His boss, Rick Hendrick, has the most wins in track history, nine. Johnson came from 37th on the grid to lead 34 of the final 35 laps in last year's race.

RYAN NEWMAN

STARTING POSITION: Second

CAR: No. 12 Dodge

BEST 600 FINISH: Fifth (2003)

NOTES: He always has qualified well here in the 600-miler but had bad luck in the race until last year. He was second in the fall race last year at Lowe's Motor Speedway and has risen steadily in points this year after a rough start.

JEFF GORDON

STARTING POSITION: Third

CAR: No. 24 Chevy

BEST 600 FINISH: First (1994, 1997, 1998)

NOTES: Ho-hum, another year of fighting for a points title and running up front pretty much every week. After a couple of down seasons (at least by his standards) Gordon has picked up his game again, and the Hendrick factor applies to him, too.

TONY STEWART

STARTING POSITION: Sixth

CAR: No. 20 Chevy

BEST 600 FINISH: Third (2001)

NOTES: Stewart won the fall race last year for his first win at LMS. He was fourth two weeks ago at Richmond and third at last week's all-star race here, and won't have the distraction of an Indy-Charlotte double, as he was tempted to try last week.

MATT KENSETH

STARTING POSITION: 37th

CAR: No. 17 Ford

BEST 600 FINISH: First (2000)

NOTES: The defending series champion has a lot of cars to pass, but he has more time than any other race to do it. Besides, he always races far better than he qualifies; this year he has no starts in the top 10 but has finished there in eight of 11 races.

- Compiled by Jim Tomlin.

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