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Drivers to watch

3/31/2004

Check out a short list of favorites for Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

Kurt Busch:
Continued his dominance at Bristol Motor Speedway
as he won his third straight race there by holding off Rusty
Wallace after a red flag with just two laps to go; ignored the
suggestion of his crew chief to pit tires and notched his fourth
win in the last five races at Bristol; the victory vaulted him
two spots in the standings to second, just 21 points in back of
Rousch Racing teammate Matt Kenseth; has two top-10 finishes in
three career starts at Texas.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Recorded his first Winston Cup victory at
Texas in his 12th career start in 2000; was headed for another
win here last year, but was passed by Ryan Newman with 10 laps
to go and settled for second place; "When I'm old and gray, I'm
going to bore my grandkids with race stories from my driving days
and I'm sure Texas will wind up in many of the stories," Earnhardt
Jr. said. "I think our record shows we've been one of the teams to
deal with there every year." he has led at least one lap in each of
his four races at Texas, where he has three top-10 finishes; has two
victories and four top-10 finishes this year and is third in the
standings, 41 points behind Kenseth.

Jeff Gordon:
The four-time Winston Cup champion has never won at
Texas Motor Speedway; started second and finished ninth at Bristol,
was 18th after a restart with 62 laps remaining; moved up one spot
in the standings to 12th, just six points from 10th; his best run
at Texas was a second-place finish in 2002; last year was just edged
by Earnhardt Jr. and finished third here.

Kevin Harvick:
Was third at Bristol to gain four spots in the
standings to seventh; finished seventh in his first start at Texas in
2001, but has been out of the top 10 here the last two years; tested
at Texas a week ago; "We tried a lot of new combinations and most of
it worked out the way we wanted," Harvick said of testing here. "We
struggled with the bumps in (turns) one and two at the beginning and
that spilled over to the bumps in three and four. Once we fixed the
bumps in one and two, the ones in three and four pretty much fixed
themselves."

Jimmie Johnson:
Had consecutive top-5 finishes, including a victory
at Darlington Raceway, before placing 16th at Bristol; has consecutive
top-10 finishes at Texas; "Well we go from the short track of Bristol
to the fast track of Texas Motor Speedway this week. I am very much
looking forward to going to Texas," Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus
said. "We've run exceptionally well there. I like that race track.
It's very fast and very conducive to the Lowe's team. I think we've
got a shot at qualifying in the top five and definitely have a car
capable of winning the race."

Matt Kenseth:
Showing the consistency he displayed in 2003, when
he was the Winston Cup champion as he has five top-10 finishes in
six races; after finishing fifth at Bristol, he was bumped and spun
by Jamie McMuray on the cool-down lap; recorded his second career
victory at Texas in 2001, when he had to start at the back of the
43-car field after changing an engine; started 17th and finished
sixth here last year for one of his 25 top-10 showings.

Jamie McMurray:
Was fined $10,000 and placed on probation until
August 31 for spinning Kenseth's Ford on the cool-down lap at
Bristol; his action came after Kenseth tapped McMurray near the
end of the race; is 14th in the standings, just 43 points from
10th; "Texas is always fun for me because my family comes in for
the race since it's one of the closer places we visit to my
hometown of Joplin, Missouri," McMurray said. "Bristol is
behind us. I know a lot of people keep asking about all that
happened last Sunday in Bristol, but that's short track racing
and is why they pack fans into that place."

Ryan Newman:
Did not pit for tires on his final stop here last
year, but passed Earnhardt Jr. with 10 laps to go and drove away
for his second career victory; had seven more wins in 2003, but
is seeking his first triumph this year; has three poles in six
races this year; has three straight top-10 finishes and moved up
four spots in the standings to fifth after he was seventh at
Bristol; "Going into Texas, I look forward to going back as the
defending winner, but that doesn't mean a whole lot when it
comes to different teams and another opportunity to win the
race," Newman said. "I just look forward to that as well as
the IROC race."

Tony Stewart:
Leads all drivers in bonus points with 35 and
is fourth in the standings, 94 points behind Kenseth; is one
of just four drivers to be in the top 10 in the standings each
week this season; in five career starts at Texas, Stewart has
three top-10 finishes.