Young guns centerstage at Winston

Ryan Newman, 24, led a brigade of young drivers across the finish line at the annual running of the NASCAR all-star race, The Winston.
   With the top five finishers in The Winston all being under the age of 30 and comments made earlier in the week by veteran Ricky Rudd about preferential treatment by the television media of the younger drivers, both second place Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth weighed in with their opinions on the subject.
   "My crew chief figured the last 10 laps would not have the expected racers in it that everyone thought there would be," Earnhardt remarked. "As you saw it was me, Matt, Kurt (Busch) Newman, Jimmie Johnson -- all the young guns they talk about.
   "It was an interesting little group. As we were coming out of three and four for the green flag, I was looking at the guys I was around and I was like, 'Man, Rusty and (Dale) Jarrett and all them guys, they're not here. It was so amazing that it was just our little fraternity up there having a good time."
   Added Kenseth: "I don't think it really matters about your age. Obviously, younger people are getting opportunities to race in Winston Cup in good equipment. There's not much sub-par equipment. I think it's the difference from the older days, kind of like Ricky Rudd says, when he started he had to start in sub-par equipment.
   "It's a lot about the cars. If we all would've been in bad cars, we would've been running in the back. I think everybody over here is a good driver, it's a lot about the cars and the equipment they're in."
   * Jeremy Mayfield beat a closing Ken Schrader to win the Winston Open and become the 26th driver to qualify for the All-Star event. Mayfield led all 30 laps of the Open with Schrader, a former winner of the 1988 fall 500-miler at Charlotte, advancing from sixth to second in the sprint race.
   "The car ran good, an awesome car," said Mayfield. "The guys made some changes on it this morning. It wasn't that good in last night's practice. We were concerned about it. I just couldn't believe how it started off. We did the same thing in 1998 and good things happened the rest of the season. Hopefully, we'll do the same things tonight.
   "I think we're real close to winning an official race. We finished fifth at Richmond. We've had a lot of good runs going and different things happened. To come here and win the pole and lead all the race, it's pretty awesome."
   The driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge picked up $54,326 in earnings for the Open win.
   *Rookie Ryan Newman, who nearly won the Open last year before losing his engine in the final laps, took the final transfer spot into The Winston. Newman passed leader Jeff Green on lap one and pedaled to a margin of victory in the 16-lap No Bull Sprint of 3.42 seconds over runner-up Kyle Petty. Schrader, who lost track position by pit stops before the race, took third place honors.
   "We got the car fixed there in that pit stop (before the race) and congratulations to the guys," said Newman. "That pit stop was what won us the race just like pit stops win you the pole for The Winston. Just an awesome job, awesome opportunity for me to start in The Winston." Of course, Newman went on to capture the $750,000 grand prize for winning the annual all-star event.
   * Short track ace Jeff Fultz, one of the hot shoes of the NASCAR All-Pro Series, showed that the superspeedways were no problem Saturday afternoon winning the preliminary Easy Care 100 for the ARCA Re-Max Series. Fultz passed defending ARCA champ Frank Kimmel on lap 58 and pedaled away to the win. Damon Lusk finished third. The race was marred when female driver Tina Gordon's car came off the banking in turn four and was hit in the driver's side by the oncoming car of John Borneman. Gordon suffered a broken leg in the accident and a broken little toe on her right foot.
   "I've seen Frank race since I was real young," said Fultz, 30, whose full time job is as fabricator on Dave Blaney's Winston Cup team. "I raced him at Louisville Motor Speedway and he's as tough as they come. I got a better run on the restart and didn't spin the tires. It was one heck of a race. I had a real time trying not to overdrive the car. We've won at every level we've competed on."
   Notables in the pits for this race included the crew if Evernham Motorsports, helping with pit stops for coach Jerry Glanville. Despite the extra manpower, the former NFL head coach could only manage an 18th place finish. Also of note was Tim Weiss, now the crew chief for the No. 77 car of Chad Blount. Weiss owned a Busch Series team based out of Johnson City in the early 1990's.