Early Surprises on the Tour
by Adam Sewell
March 7, 2002

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Martin is 3rd in WC Points, and Kenseth holds Roush's first win of the season.
Photo: Ford/Wieck

Just three races into the 2002 Winston Cup season, there have already been several surprises from some unfamiliar faces. Of course there have been exciting moments from the drivers you'd expect ... Tony Stewart's Speedweeks domination, just forget about that blown engine. And forget about the bump-and-run, Sterling Marlin gave us the first glimpse of the new tug-and-run; and of course, who could forget the ending of the Daytona 500, one of the strangest races in decades. I'm talking about the drivers making some noise that didn't get the chance to step up to the microphone that often in 2001. 

One of the biggest surprises has been the improvement of the Roush Racing stable. Jack Roush must be smiling, especially since all four of his cars are in the top 10 in points, two of them in the top 5, and one win. Last year was not exactly the best of times for Roush Racing. Mark Martin failed to finish in the top 10 in points for the first time since joining Roush, and of course, the only luck the team seemed to get was bad luck. But some off-season moves like Mark Martin and Kurt Busch swapping crew chiefs seems to have set the Roush bunch back on track. 

If you want a really big surprise, look who's second in points, just 75 out of the lead, the rookie, Ryan Newman. If he keeps this up, the other three rookie candidates could have trouble catching him for the Rookie of the Year award at season's end. Roger Penske must be grinning from ear-to-ear also, both of his cars are in the top 10 in points as well. 

Elliott is teamed with Mayfield in 2002 and so far the magic is working.

To continue with the car owner trend, Ray Evernham seems to making some gains with his organization. Bill Elliott seems to be building on the momentum from his win at Homestead in November. He finds himself sixth in points, 105 out of the lead, with three fairly consistent runs under his belt. Jeremy Mayfield finished second at Las Vegas this past week, one of his strongest runs in a while, though it's kind of hard to have a good run when you don't have a ride for the later half of the 2001 season. If the #9 and #19 can just start the race as well as they seem to run at the finish, they could find themselves as weekly contenders for a win. 

Hopefully, these teams can keep their momentum going. If they do, we could see a great battle later on in the season.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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