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A SIX-PACK TO GO
Lars Anderson
February 16, 2004
Half a dozen high-powered Young Guns have come of age and will battle for the title
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February 16, 2004

A Six-pack To Go

Half a dozen high-powered Young Guns have come of age and will battle for the title

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THIS YEAR'S SCHEDULE

It's a long, grueling road to September--then things really heat up

DATE

EVENT

PLACE

TV

FEB. 7*

BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT

Daytona International Speedway

TNT/7:30 p.m.

FEB. 15

DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

NBC/Noon

FEB. 22

SUBWAY 400

North Carolina Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

MARCH 7

UAW-DAIMLERCHRYSLER 400

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

FOX/2:30 p.m.

MARCH 14

GOLDEN CORRAL 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

MARCH 21

CAROLINA DODGE DEALERS 400

Darlington Raceway

FOX/1 p.m.

MARCH 28

FOOD CITY 500

Bristol Motor Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

APRIL 4

SAMSUNG/RADIOSHACK 500

Texas Motor Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

APRIL 18

ADVANCE AUTO PARTS 500

Martinsville Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

APRIL 25

AARON'S 499

Talladega Superspeedway

FOX/1 p.m.

MAY 2

AUTO CLUB 500

California Speedway

FOX/3 p.m.

MAY 15

PONTIAC PERFORMANCE 400

Richmond International Raceway

FX/7 p.m.

MAY 22*

NEXTEL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE

Lowe's Motor Speedway

FX/7 p.m.

MAY 30

COCA-COLA 600

Lowe's Motor Speedway

FOX/5 p.m.

JUNE 6

MBNA AMERICA 400

Dover International Speedway

FX/1 p.m.

JUNE 13

POCON0 500

Pocono Raceway

FOX/1 p.m.

JUNE 20

MICHIGAN 400

Michigan International Speedway

FOX/1 p.m.

JUNE 27

DODGE/SAVE MART 350

Infineon Raceway

FOX/4 p.m.

JULY 3

PEPSI 400

Daytona International Speedway

FOX/7 p.m.

JULY 11

TR0PICANA400

Chicagoland Speedway

NBC/2:30 p.m.

JULY 25

NEW ENGLAND 300

N.H. International Speedway

TNT/1:30 p.m.

AUG 1

PENNSYLVANIA 500

Pocono Raceway

TNT/1 p.m.

AUG. 8

BRICKYARD 400

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NBC/2 p.m.

AUG. 15

SIRIUSATTHEGLEN

Watkins Glen International

TNT/1:30 p.m.

AUG. 22

MICHIGAN 400

Michigan International Speedway

TNT/1:30 p.m.

AUG. 28

SHARPIE 500

Bristol Motor Speedway

TNT/7 p.m.

SEPT. 5

POP SECRET 500

California Speedway

NBC/7 p.m.

SEPT. 11

CHEVY MONTE CARLO 400

Richmond International Raceway

TNT/7 p.m.

SEPT. 19?

SYLVANIA 300

N.H. International Speedway

TNT/12:30 p.m.

SEPT. 26

MBNA AMERICA 400

Dover International Speedway

TNT/12:30 p.m.

OCT. 3

EA SPORTS 500

Talladega Superspeedway

NBC/1:30p.m.

OCT. 10

BANQUET 400

Kansas Speedway

NBC/1:30 p.m.

OCT. 16

UAW-GM QUALITY 500

Lowe's Motor Speedway

NBC/7 p.m.

OCT. 24

SUBWAY 500

Martinsville Speedway

NBC/12:30 p.m.

OCT. 31

BASS PRO SHOPS MBNA 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

NBC/Noon

NOV. 7

CHECKER AUTO PARTS 500

Phoenix International Raceway

NBC/3 p.m.

NOV. 14

MOUNTAIN DEW SOUTHERN 500

Darlington Raceway

NBC/1 p.m.

NOV. 21

FORD 400

Homestead-Miami Speedway

NBC/12:30 p.m.

*Nonpoints race ?Start of the Chase for the Champonship

The director yells that the cameras are ready to roll and the stars are needed on the set, and suddenly here they come, the six young men who hold the future of NASCAR in their hands. Stepping out of their individual motor homes, they meet and stride shoulder-to-shoulder through the frosty winter morning at Concord (N.C.) Motorsports Park, each gliding along with the cool of a mountain lion. Except for a film crew of 100, the track is empty. But as on race day, when 120,000 fans gather in the grandstands, every set of eyes locks onto the six young men.

"There they are," a crew member yells. "The Young Guns are in the house!"

It's mid-December and the six Nextel Cup drivers—Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman—are about to shoot a commercial for Gillette. In front of pit lane they sit on a semicircle of racing tires. Their breath white puffs, they talk like kids back in school after Christmas break. This is the first time that NASCAR's Young Guns, as they've been tagged by countless headline writers, have been together since the 2003 season ended, and what do they chat about? The O.C? MTV? Boozy nights with their buddies?

"Getting old sucks," says Newman, 26.

"I can't do hard workouts anymore," adds Kenseth, 31. "If I do, I won't be able to get out of bed the next morning."

"Dudes," says Earnhardt Jr., who is all of 29.

"I'm starting to get random pains."

Young Guns? These guys? Time to reveal a secret: The Guns have grown up.

The numbers are staggering. Last year Busch, Earnhardt, Harvick, Johnson, Kenseth and Newman won 19 of the 36 Cup races (52.7%). They took 16 poles (44.4%) and had 75 top five finishes. In the points standings they finished first (Kenseth), second ( Johnson), third ( Earnhardt), fifth (Harvick), sixth ( Newman), and 11th ( Busch). Even veterans-most of whom would rather swig motor oil than say something nice about a fresh-faced driver—admit that the torch has been passed to this six-pack of NASCAR tall boys.

"There's never been a youth movement like this in the history of NASCAR," says Darrell Waltrip, a three-time Cup champion who's now the lead commentator on Fox's racing telecasts. "In the past we've had one or two young guns trickle in and make an impact, but never anything like this."

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