The 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season dawned with promise as NBC television broadcast the Daytona 500 for the first time, and a new crop of rookie drivers -- including Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman -- captured headlines. Excitement continued throughout the season as the points race remained the tightest seen in several years.
Review the 2002 season's highlights, including an assortment of pictures, with this 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup chronology.
February 17, 2002: Daytona 500
Ward Burton leads only the final five laps and scores an upset win in the Daytona 500. Sterling Marlin is penalized by NASCAR when he pulls a fender off his right front tire during a late red flag. NASCAR rules prohibit work from being done to a car during a red-flag situation.
March 17, 2002: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
Sterling Marlin wheels his Dodge to victory in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway. Steve Park, returning after a six-month layoff due to injury, crashes while leading early. Tony Stewart is shaken up while leading in the late stages when he is involved in a multi-car collision.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., pushes his #8 Chevrolet across the finish line two car lengths ahead of #20 Tony Stewart to win Talladega's EA Sports 500. Earnhardt, Jr. won his third-straight race on the steeply banked 2.66-mile tri-oval as Stewart claimed the lead in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup points standings. See more pictures of NASCAR.
March 24, 2002
Sophomore Kurt Busch rattles his way past Jimmy Spencer in the final 30 miles and sprints to his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory at Bristol. Busch and Spencer battle ferociously in the closing laps.
April 28, 2002: California 500
Rookie Jimmie Johnson surges into the lead with 13 laps remaining and outruns Kurt Busch to win the California 500. Johnson's first NASCAR Winston Cup victory comes in his 13th career start.
May 26, 2002: Coca-Cola 600
Mark Martin slices his way through lapped traffic and holds off teammate Matt Kenseth in a stirring finish to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Martin's victory ends a 25-month famine in NASCAR Winston Cup competition.
Tony Stewart gave team owner Joe Gibbs his second NASCAR Winston Cup title in the three years with a come-from-behind victory in the championship chase of 2002. The season got off to a rocky start for the versatile Stewart, who finished last in the Feb. 17 Daytona 500. He clawed his way into contention by late summer and moved to the lead in early October. Stewart won three races during the year and beat runner-up Mark Martin by 38 points.
June 23, 2002
Jerry Nadeau's rear-gearing failure in the final three laps opens the door for Ricky Rudd to win the 224-mile race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The win is Rudd's first on a road course since 1990.
August 4, 2002: Brickyard 400
Bill Elliott runs down Rusty Wallace in the final 12 laps and scores a popular win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Elliott finishes 1.2 seconds ahead of Wallace to nail down his 43rd career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
August 24, 2002: Sharpie 500
Jeff Gordon nudges his way past Rusty Wallace with three laps to go and ends a 31-race losing streak with a triumph in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol. Fifteen caution flags dot the crash-marred contest.
Kevin Harvick ended a disappointing start to the 2002 season with a resounding victory in the July 14 Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Harvick, the '01 rookie sensation, had been shut out of victory lane the first half of the '02 campaign, and was parked by NASCAR officials for one race for rough driving. Harvick overcame a spinout at Chicago, grabbed the lead with 25 laps remaining, and outran Jeff Gordon for his third career win.
September 15, 2002
Freshman driver Ryan Newman holds off a late-race gallop by Kurt Busch to win the rain-shortened event at New Hampshire International Speedway. Newman leads the final 41 laps and is only a car length ahead of Busch when rain curtails the event after 207 of the scheduled 300 laps have been run.
October 13, 2002: UAW-GM Quality 500
Jamie McMurray, making his second start since replacing the injured Sterling Marlin, leads the final 31 laps and authors a stunning upset in Charlotte's UAW-GM Quality 500. McMurray becomes the quickest winner in NASCAR Cup Series history since Johnny Rutherford won in his first start at Daytona in 1963.
November 3, 2002
Johnny Benson, Jr., posts his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory in his 227th start by staving off Mark Martin's late surge at Rockingham. Benson leads the final 28 laps and gives the Read Morton-owned team its first NASCAR Winston Cup win.
Ward Burton, who took the lead for the first time with five laps remaining in the 2002 Daytona 500, wheeled his #22 Dodge to a narrow victory over Elliott Sadler. Burton snaked his way through nine caution flags and a pair of big accidents to put himself in position to win NASCAR's crown-jewel event. Burton held the lead after Sterling Marlin's red-flag miscue and gave Dodge its first win in The Great American Race since 1974.
November 17, 2002
Kurt Busch wins his fourth race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Tony Stewart coasts to an 18th-place finish to put the lid on his championship campaign. Stewart beats runner-up Mark Martin by 38 points to capture the NASCAR Winston Cup title.
See how the other drivers fared this season with our 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup standings.
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