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Marathon day in store for Stewart


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001

CONCORD, N.C. -- To those who argue that Tony Stewart hurts his chances in the Coca-Cola 600 by also racing at Indianapolis, all he has to do is point at the results.

When Stewart raced in both events in 1999, he placed fourth at Lowe's Motor Speedway, tying his best Winston Cup finish at the track.

Last year when Stewart passed on the Indy 500, he placed 14th in the Coca-Cola 600.

Along with his fourth place in '99, Stewart placed fourth in the fall race at the track last season. His other finish at the track was 19th in the fall race in '99.

Stewart qualified 12th for today's race.

"We did some things right and we did some things wrong the first time," Stewart said of his 1999 effort at the double. "We have tried to correct the wrong things."

The drain of driving 1,100 miles in two cities is daunting to Stewart's NASCAR rivals.

His initial attempt in 1999 earned him an ice bath and gallon of Gatorade in the infield care center.

"It's got to be tough to go 500 miles, get in a plane and fly to Charlotte to drive 600 miles," said defending Coca-Cola 600 champion Matt Kenseth. "It's more the traveling in between than anything else I think."

Kyle Petty is a major benefactor of Stewart's double dip. Stewart, along with his NASCAR sponsor Home Depot, owner Joe Gibbs, and Chip Ganassi Racing, for which he will drive in Indianapolis, will each donate $100 to Petty's Victory Junction Camp for each lap Stewart completes. That makes for a possible donation of $240,000.

Coca-Cola 600: Five others to watch

Johnny Benson

CAR: No. 10 Pontiac.

STARTS: Eighth.

LAST YEAR: 16th.

POINTS: 1,480 (fourth).

COMMENT: Benson qualified as the fastest Pontiac in the 43-car field and has been the most successful Pontiac on the Winston Cup circuit this season. He has yet to win but the fact that Benson is fourth in points is a testament to his consistency. Lowe's is a speedway that demands consistency. That could help him.

* * *

Bill Elliott

CAR: No. 9 Dodge.

STARTS: Fourth.

LAST YEAR: 43rd.

POINTS: 1,188 (14th).

COMMENT: Elliott seems to have come to Charlotte Motor Speedway with something to prove. His Dodge has been one of the fastest cars on the track all weekend and Elliott seems intent on picking up his second 600 victory, not to mention Dodge's first this season.

* * *

Jeff Gordon

CAR: No. 24 Chevrolet.

STARTS: Second.

LAST YEAR: 10th.

POINTS: 1,545 (second).

COMMENT: Gordon won The Winston, NASCAR's version of an all-star race, on this track eight days ago. And that was after a first-lap wreck sent him to the back of the pack for the restart. That seems to make him the favorite even when you consider that only four drivers have won The Winston and then the 600 the next week. Gordon is one, pulling it off in 1997.

* * *

Dale Jarrett

CAR: No. 88 Ford.

STARTS: 37th.


POINTS: 1,559 (first).

COMMENT: The only reason Jarrett is starting this far back is because of a qualifying lap wreck before he could post a lap time. Fortunately for Jarrett the race is 600 miles long and he will have plenty of time to get his car up front. Barring any accidents, it's likely that's where Jarrett's going to be.

* * *

Ryan Newman

CAR: No. 02 Ford.

STARTS: First.

POINTS: 64 (50th).

COMMENT: It would be easy to chalk Newman's pole up as a fluke and the discard the young driver come race day, but Newman dominated the Winston Open here last weekend, running against many of the same drivers he will face Sunday, only to blow his engine late in the race. Newman, who is in his third Winston Cup race, was 10th fastest during practice Thursday and he holds the Lowe's Motor Speedway overall record, circling in 28.911 seconds in an ARCA car.

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