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Winston Cup: Five to watch

By Compiled by KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000


Five Winston Cup drivers to watch in today's Southern 500:

DRIVER: Ward Burton.

CAR: No. 22 Pontiac.

STARTING POSITION: 3rd.

BEST SOUTHERN 500 FINISH: 2nd (1999).

LAST YEAR: 2nd. DARLINGTON IN MARCH: 1st.

POINTS POSITION: 9th.

COMMENT: Won spring race at Darlington, giving Pontiac its first victory there since Joe Weatherly in 1963. Has finished eighth or better in the past three races at the track.

DRIVER: Jeff Gordon.

CAR: No. 24 Chevrolet.

STARTING POSITION: 10th.

BEST SOUTHERN 500 FINISH: 1st (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998).

LAST YEAR: 13th. DARLINGTON IN MARCH: 8th.

POINTS POSITION: 10th.

COMMENT: Is the magic really gone? We'll see today. Gordon, a four-time Southern 500 victor, has won five of the past 10 races at Darlington and finished eighth or better in four of the other five.

DRIVER: Dale Jarrett.

CAR: No. 88 Ford.

STARTING POSITION: 9th.

BEST SOUTHERN 500 FINISH: 3rd (1997, 1998).

LAST YEAR: 16th. DARLINGTON IN MARCH: 2nd.

POINTS POSITION: 2nd.

COMMENT: Has been waiting for Bobby Labonte to falter. Jarrett's history at Darlington (six finishes of fourth or better, including two wins, in past seven races) suggests today might be that day.

DRIVER: Bobby Labonte.

CAR: No. 18 Pontiac.

STARTING POSITION: 37th.

BEST SOUTHERN 500 FINISH: 6th (1996).

LAST YEAR: 14th. DARLINGTON IN MARCH: 18th.

POINTS POSITION: 1st.

COMMENT: Destroyed his primary car in a wreck Friday and is in a back-up today. A major misstep in a race he's never finished better than sixth in would tighten the already-close points race.

DRIVER: Jeremy Mayfield.

CAR: No. 12 Ford.

STARTING POSITION: 1st.

BEST SOUTHERN 500 FINISH: 3rd (1999).

LAST YEAR: 3rd. DARLINGTON IN MARCH: 34th.

POINTS POSITION: 22nd.

COMMENT: He's not running for points, just wins, and he's eager to prove to Roger Penske that he, and not just teammate Rusty Wallace, can win. Was in position to win at Darlington in 1998 and 1999.

* * *

FIVE NOT TO FORGET ABOUT: Jeff Burton (swept both races last year), Dale Earnhardt (a five-time winner at Darlington), Mark Martin (fourth last year), Tony Stewart (fourth in March), Rusty Wallace (two straight wins in series).

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