Originally created 12/01/99

Tony Stewart top driver in fourth quarter



NEW YORK -- Tony Stewart, who had the best rookie season in Winston Cup history, took fourth-quarter honors in the Driver of the Year balloting.

In 1999, the 28-year-old Stewart became the first rookie in the history of NASCAR's top division to win three races in a season. He won all of them in the fourth quarter.

A panel of national motorsports media gave Stewart 12 of 15 first-place votes and 120 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who clinched his second straight Busch Series championship during the fourth quarter of the season, was second in the voting with 37 points.

The panelists vote for six drivers each quarter, with points awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis. A final secret ballot at season's end determined the Driver of the Year. That announcement is scheduled Wednesday.

Dale Jarrett, the Winston Cup champion, got two first-place votes and finished the final quarter third with 36 points, followed by CART champion Juan Montoya, another rookie and the second-quarter winner, with 31.

Rounding out the top six were Winston Cup's Bobby Labonte, Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, with 18 points, and NHRA Funny Car champion and former Driver of the Year John Force, with 16.

Also among the top vote-getters were IRL champion Greg Ray, Trans-Am star Brian Simo, NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, a three-time Driver of the Year, and Dale Earnhardt, another former Driver of the Year.

CART star Greg Moore, killed in a crash during the season-ending race in Fontana, Calif., was named on most of the ballots.

Others receiving mention were Sammy Swindell and Mark Kinser of the World of Outlaws, CART's Adrian Fernandez and Dario Franchitti, NHRA Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. and Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, and NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Jack Sprague.