Ryan Newman meets the press after being named the
Raybestos Rookie Of The Year for 2002.
Photo: Pete McCole
Taking his place among such
drivers as Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart,Ryan
Newman joined an elite group as he was officially crowned
the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year
Tuesday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Newman, driver of the #12 ALLTEL
Ford out of the stable of Roger Penske, had a record-setting
year, with his six poles and 22 top-10’s besting all
previous rookies. Newman also notched 14 top-5’s as well as
one victory last September at Louden. Newman also became
only the second rookie to win The Winston All-Star race.
“It’s an honor to be Raybestos
Rookie of the Year,” Newman said, “There’s nothing else I’d
rather be, rookie-wise, than Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.
It was a great year with the finishes we had, the
performances we had - on and off the race track.
I think everything went really
well this year, hopefully we can have another great season
Newman faced a season-long
battle with fellow rookie Jimmie Johnson in a close battle
for the rookie title. The two drivers also found themselves
in serious contention for the Winston Cup title in the last
quarter of the season, becoming the first Rookie of the Year
contenders to win back-to-back races, with Johnson winning a
Dover the week before Newman’s triumph at Louden. Johnson
finished the year with three victories.
“The competition between me and
Jimmie was good, and next year, with Greg Biffle and Jamie
McMurray coming in, that’s going to be another tough rookie
battle.” Newman said, “Hopefully they won’t beat our
records, but it’s something that’s good for NASCAR in the
Although he finished seven
points behind Johnson in the championship points standings,
he managed to finish 23 points ahead of Johnson for the
rookie title, which only takes into account the 17 best
finishes a driver has, as well as bonus points for poles,
where they finish in a race in relation to other rookies in
the field, and top 10 finishes.
As with all rookie seasons,
Newman’s season was a learning experience, both good and
Newman won six poles this year, more than any other
driver, and a rookie record.
Photo: Pete McCole
“The biggest thing I learned was
experience – on and off the track,” said Newman. “Dealing
with people, fans, knowing what to expect and how to
managing the time to do it all. Learning patience,
understanding the race cars, the race tacks, running 500
mile races, learning what to expect at the events.
A couldn’t say one thing really
surprised me. I realized after the start of the year that we
had great potential to do well all year. Our performance on
the road courses really surprised me. Having 14 top-5’s and
only one win is a little disappointing, but hopefully it’
something need to look at next year and try to improve on.”
Johnson and Newman both
benefited from driving championship-caliber teams with
top-of-the-line equipment – Newman with Penske Racing South
and Johnson with Hendrick Motorsports, giving Newman the
benefit of sharing information with teammate Rusty Wallace.
“Anytime to can compare
information, team-wise, you can create a better package.”
Newman said, “We planned our testing schedule so we can make
the best possibilities for gaining experience.”
Having run in the top 20 in the
Winston Cup points standings for much of the season, Newman
is confident the ALLTEL team can make a run for the
championship in 2003.
“I think we’re plenty capable of
winning a championship,” said Newman. “I feel being the
rookie of the year is a team award, it’s not just a driver
award. We could have done things a lot better, but a
championship is something we are certainly capable of.”
Newman’s stats speak for
Newman won six poles this
season, more than any other driver, and established a new
record for a Raybestos® Rookie in Winston Cup racing. The
previous mark was Davey Allison's record of five in
1987. Newman started in the top-10 25 times this
season. Ten of the 31 pole awards in 2002 were won by a
Raybestos® Rookie. Newman was the highest qualifying
Raybestos® Rookie in 10 of the last 12 races where time
trials were held (Brickyard 400 through Ford 400). Newman
has been highest qualifying Raybestos® Rookie 19 times in
Newman's 22nd top-10 establishes
a new record for top-10 finishes in a single season by a
Raybestos® Rookie. The previous record was Tony Stewart's
record of 21 set in 1999.
His 22 top-10 finishes tied him
with Mark Martin for most top-10 finishes this
season. Newman officially won Raybestos® Rookie of the Year
by 23 points (344-321) over Jimmie Johnson.
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