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Drivers to watch

4/14/2004

Check out a short list of favorites for Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway:

Kurt Busch:
Is atop the points standings for the second time in
his career after finishing sixth in the Samsung/RadioShack 500
two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway; has three straight top-10
finishes and five in seven starts this season; is 19 points ahead
of 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth; was 10th at Martinsville in
the spring 2002 and led 111 laps en route to victory in the Old
Dominion 500 that October; but has been 28th or worse in his other
five starts here.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Has been among the top 10 in the standings for
40 straight weeks; has been among the top 5 in his last four starts
at Martinsville; has led 41 or more laps in three of his last four
times at Martinsville and was fourth here last October 19; is featured
in the April 12 issue of People Magazine in a section called "The Time
of May Life," mentioning his Daytona 500 victory in February; was
fourth two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway for his fifth top-10
showing of the year.

Jeff Gordon:
Returns to the top 10 in the standings as he climbed up
three spots to ninth following a third-place finish at Texas two weeks
ago; last season became the first driver since Rusty Wallace in 1994
to sweep both races at Martinsville; won both times from the pole,
becoming the first driver to do so since Fred Lorenzen in 1964; led
313 of 500 laps in last October's race; has 16 top-10 finishes in
22 career starts at Martinsville; four of his 64 career victories have
come here.

Kevin Harvick:
Has only one top-10 finish in five career starts at
Martinsville, but was discovered by team owner Richard Childress while
driving in the NASCAR Crastsman truck series; "I made a few moves that
(Childress) thought were pretty gutsy - mostly I was beating up on
another driver. I wasn't shooting for it, but it turned his head in my
direction. For that, Martinsville will always be special. I didn't
know it for a while, but my life completely changed for the better at
that race." his best finish at Martinsville came last October, when he
was seventh; had consecutive top-10 finishes before placing 13th at
Texas to drop one spot to eighth in the standings.

Jimmie Johnson:
Has been sixth in the standings after each of the last
three races; has finished among the top 10 in three of four career
starts at Martinsville; last October he recorded his best short-track
result here as he was second, one second behind Hendrick Motorsports
teammate Gordon; "The tracks are so flat that you can't be very
aggressive in the car," Johnson said about Martinsville. "There's
limited grip and it well below where I wanted it to be. Once I realized
to slow down and drive it within its means, I've been successful and had
fast laps and good finishes."

Kasey Kahne:
The top rookie on the Nextel circuit moved up four spots in
the standings to seventh after he was just edged out by Elliott Sadler
two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speeedway; it was his third runner-up finish
of the season; has been in the top 10 in three of the last four races, with
an accident causing him to place 40th at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 28;
has two poles this season and his average start of 7.43 is third among
Nextel drivers; tested at Martinsville with Evernham Motorsports teammate
Jeremy Mayfield in March.

Matt Kenseth:
Falls from the stop spot in the standings after finishing
16th at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago; is 19 points behind Busch and
has been among the top 10 in the standings ffor 42 consecutive weeks,
dating to last season; has two top-10 finishes in eight career starts at
Martinsville, with both coming in the spring event.

Elliott Sadler:
Held off charging Kasey Kahne two weeks ago to record his
second career victory in the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway;
the victory vaulted him four spots in the standings fifth, just four points
behind Tony Stewart; his only other victory came at Bristol in 2001, when he
drove for Wood Brothers Racing; "I feel like a tremendous weight has been
lifted off my shoulders now that we got that first win under our belts,"
Sadler said. "You might see a whole new Elliot Sadler behind the wheel."
the Emporia, Virginia native has been among the top 20 in only two of his
10 starts at Martinsville.

Tony Stewart:
Is one of four drivers who have been ranked among the top
10 each week this season; won the spring 2000 race here, when he had a
track-record qualifying time of 19.855 seconds at 95.371 mph; In the six
races at Martinsville since, Stewart has four top-10 finishes; has led at
Martinsville in each of his last four appearances.

Rusty Wallace:
Owned this track between 1994 and 1996 when he won five
of seven races; also comes off two strong performances as he was second
in the Food City 500 and fifth two weeks ago at Texas; moved up six spots
in the standings to 11th, just nine points behind Ryan Newman; had been
among the top 10 in the standings in 10 straight years until finishing
14th in 2003; has gone a career-high 105 races without a victory.