Monday, February 16, 2004

Wimmer one rookie who hardly fades away

3rd is best finish by a newcomer

The Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A rookie with a revoked driver's license was the lone bright spot for a new class touted to be one of the best in recent years.

Scott Wimmer led five laps at the Daytona 500 Sunday before Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. teamed up to pass him, leaving the newcomer to finish third in the Great American Race.

It was the best rookie showing ever in NASCAR's premier race.

Kasey Kahne, Scott Riggs, Johnny Sauter and Brian Vickers were involved in crashes. Brendan Gaughan was penalized for speeding on pit road and finished 19th.

Wimmer had a shot to become the first rookie to win the Daytona 500.

"It's a big momentum boost," said Wimmer, whose license was revoked after he was charged with drunken driving following an accident last month in High Point, N.C.

"I've been through a lot lately, and I've kind of been down on myself," he said. "I'm lucky I have great people behind me. We've still got a long road ahead, but we're going to get it fixed up and hopefully nobody makes the same mistake I did."

Although NASCAR still might penalize Wimmer pending a March 10 hearing, team owner Bill Davis gave him a second chance and kept him behind the wheel of the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge for the season opener.

The decision paid off.

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