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DRIVERS TO WATCH

TONY STEWART

CAR: No. 20 Pontiac.

STARTING POSITION: 22nd.

BEST HOMESTEAD FINISH: First (1999, 2000).

NOTES: He has won both Winston Cup races at Homestead. The new tire being used this year will make today's race a different proposition, but Stewart is finishing 2001 with a flourish. His sights are set on passing Ricky Rudd for second in standings.

BILL ELLIOTT

CAR: No. 9 Dodge.

STARTING POSITION: First.

BEST HOMESTEAD FINISH: 22nd (2000).

NOTES: Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup champion, is having his best season in years, but is disappointed to be 16th in points and not among the record 17 drivers who have won. Dodge has plenty of downforce here;maybe that will translate to Elliott's first win since 1994.

RUSTY WALLACE

CAR: No. 2 Ford.

STARTING POSITION: Sixth.

BEST HOMESTEAD FINISH: 12th (1999).

NOTES: Wallace had the strongest car two weeks ago at Phoenix, but a blown tire cost him a chance at victory. Homestead, though half a mile longer, calls for a similar setup. Starting in the top 10, Wallace is ready to pick up where he left off in the desert.

RICKY RUDD

CAR: No. 28 Ford.

STARTING POSITION: Fourth.

BEST HOMESTEAD FINISH: Sixth (2000).

NOTES: Though not mathematically eliminated, Rudd has given up hope of catching points leader Jeff Gordon in the championship. His motivation is to fend off the hard-charging pack of drivers _ Stewart, Sterling Marlin, Dale Jarrett and Wallace _ who covet second place.

JEFF GORDON

CAR: No. 24 Chevrolet.

STARTING POSITION: 11th.

BEST HOMESTEAD FINISH: Seventh (2000).

NOTES: Gordon can clinch his fourth championship by picking up 44 points on Rudd today or by finishing at least 28th in the three remaining races. After last week's embarrassing 25th at Rockingham, he is determined not to limp to the title.

_ Compiled by

Joanne Korth.

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