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Pole-sitter Newman not a rookie -- yet


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001

CONCORD, N.C. -- Many outside of NASCAR probably are wondering who Ryan Newman, the pole-sitter for Sunday's race, is. Insiders consider him potentially the next Winston Cup prodigy.

Newman, a 23-year-old South Bend, Ind., native, is so new, NASCAR doesn't even consider him a rookie. A member of Penske Racing, Newman is scheduled to drive fewer than the seven mandatory Winston Cup races needed to be considered a rookie.

Instead, team owner Roger Penske has him on an "ABC" schedule, which includes races in the ARCA, Busch Grand National and Winston Cup circuits. Newman will run a full Cup schedule next year, joining drivers Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield as part of a three-car team.

Newman, who has been working with NASCAR legend Buddy Baker, owns the Lowe's Motor Speedway track record, 28.911 seconds in an ARCA car, and was the fastest Winston Cup driver in a test session at the track this month.

"I really, really like this track, and I think with my background, I may drive it different than most drivers," Newman said. "I never imagined this."

Sunday will be Newman's third Winston Cup start. Last year he started 10th and finished 33rd at Phoenix, and this season at Las Vegas he started 35th and finished 33rd.

BUSCH BOYS: Qualifying for the Busch CarQuest 300 was rained out after 12 drivers ran laps Friday, meaning the starting grid was set according to the points standings.

Points leader Kevin Harvick will start on the pole Saturday, and Jeff Green, second in points, is on the outside.

The race will pit Matt Kenseth (10th starting position) against former rival Dale Earnhardt Jr. (33rd) in a Busch race for the first time since Earnhardt Jr. won series titles in 1998 and 1999. Earnhardt Jr. is filling in for injured Joe Nemechek.

"Hopefully we'll both be up front battling for the win at the end," Kenseth said. "It could be just like our old rivalry from a few years ago."

MOVE OF THE DAY: Dash series driver Tim Nichols' right rear tire earns this prize.

With three laps to go, Nichols slammed into the wall, dislocating the tire. As his No. 52 Pontiac spun and slid down the track, the tire hit the wall and redirected itself back toward the infield. About a quarter-mile away, Nichols' car turned sideways just in time for the tire to slam into the side, right between the 5 and the 2.

The tire then bounded about 20 feet in the air and glanced off Nichols' nose piece before rolling for another couple hundred feet down pit road, stopping by the pace car.

GONE: Kyle Petty and John Andretti packed up their haulers and moved out after failing to qualify. That leaves Buckshot Jones as the only Petty team member in Sunday's race.

It also marks the first time since July 1994 at Loudon, N.H., that Andretti's No. 43 car, formerly driven by Richard Petty, failed to make a race. Wally Dallenbach drove that year.

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