New drivers, new teams dot the landscape in NASCAR?s two national series.

The old stick-and-ball-sport adage that you can?t tell the players without a program certainly applies to NASCAR, coming into the 2004 season. Change is visible in NASCAR?s two national series on a variety of fronts, including the various lineups of drivers and teams.

The 2004 lineups are intriguing on paper and should be invigorating to watch when the two national series open their respective seasons next month at Daytona International Speedway. (NASCAR Busch Series on Feb. 14; the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ? the Daytona 500 -- on Feb. 15).

The changing face of NASCAR is perhaps most evident, simply, when you examine the faces behind the visors. Here is a preview of the faces to watch, going into 2004, a year shaping up as one of ?NASCAR as you?ve never seen it.?


NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Testing:

Session 1
Day 1: Wednesday, January 6
- Report
- Speeds
Day 2: Thursday, January 7
- Report
- Speeds
Day 3: Friday, January 8
- Report
- Speeds

Session 2
Day 1: Tuesday, January 13
- Speeds

NASCAR Busch Series Testing:
Teams are scheduled to test January 17-18 and January 20-21.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series: A host of new young guns
In NASCAR?s premier series, there is a new title sponsor. But along with Nextel Communications, a group of six new drivers have come calling ? all graduates from the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ? in quest of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title.

* Brian Vickers (No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet): One of the most-heralded rookies to come onto the scene in years, hand-picked by team owner Rick Hendrick and his son, Ricky Hendrick. Vickers, who replaces Joe Nemechek, validated the Hendricks? belief in his skill last season by winning the NASCAR Busch Series championship. Vickers warmed up for 2004 by running five races in 2003.

* Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet): Riggs was in the running for last season?s NASCAR Busch Series title, until the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and finished sixth in points. He replaces Johnny Benson in the No. 10.

* Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge): Kahne replaces a legend in the No. 9 ? future Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who is cutting back to a limited schedule this season for team owner Ray Evernham, and plans to mentor Kahne. He finished seventh in last year?s extraordinary NASCAR Busch Series title chase. Prior to coming to NASCAR, he was considered a future open-wheel star, having won the 2000 USAC Midget championship. Kahne got his first NASCAR victory in the 2003 season NASCAR Busch Series finale at Homestead.

* Johnny Sauter (No. 30 AOL Chevrolet): Sauter is the latest driver to be tabbed by car owner Richard Childress for the No. 30, after teaming with

Kevin Harvick ? in the No. 21 PayDay Chevrolet ? to bring Childress the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series car owners? championship. Sauter finished eighth in the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series standings. The No. 30 AOL car has never won a race. Sauter looks to change that.

* Scott Wimmer (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge): Wimmer replaced Ward Burton in Bill Davis Racing?s No. 22 with four races remaining in the 2003 season. He comes off two fine seasons in the NASCAR Busch Series, finishing third in the 2002 standings and ninth in 2003.

* Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Kodak Dodge): Kodak has switched its long-running sponsorship from the No. 4. The No. 77 is fielded by the new Penske-Jasper organization, and car owner Doug Bawel. The gregarious Gaughan, replacing Dave Blaney in the No. 77, is a camera-ready individual. Gaughan finished fourth in the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck standings, his title hopes dashed by a late-race accident in the season finale at Homestead. Gaughan had a series-leading six victories last season. The No. 77 has yet to win a race. Gaughan?s optimism is such that many people feel that shutout will soon end, with the new partnership with Penske.

NASCAR Busch Series: Double-duty a growing trend
Where to begin with changes for the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series campaign? Start with Kyle Busch, a touted rookie with a ride that many would covet, the car that Vickers drove to last season?s title, the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports entry, with new sponsorship ? Vickers took the GMAC backing with him ? from Lowe?s Home Improvement Warehouse.

Sauter moves from Richard Childress Racing ? sort of ? to Brewco Motorsports, where he?ll chase the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series championship in the No. 27 Kleenex/Scott Brand Products Chevrolet. Sauter is one of several NASCAR Busch Series drivers planning double-duty, via also running fulltime in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Kahne will return in the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge and Greg Biffle, the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion, also returns to the series, driving the No. 60 Charter Communications Ford while also driving in NASCAR?s premier series.

Biffle?s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team comes into the 2004 season with new sponsorship from Subway and the National Guard.

Several new sponsors have come to the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series. Robert Pressley rejoins the circuit with backing on his ST Motorsports Chevrolet from Clorox. The United States Navy steps up from a part-time role with FitzBradshaw Racing and driver Casey Atwood, to back the effort over the course of a full season. Another branch of the United States military, the Coast Guard, will fly its colors on Justin Labonte?s Dodge. Fruit of the Loom joins NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular Robby Gordon for a majority of the schedule, and DuraFlame will fund the Rusty Wallace-owned Dodge of up-and-comer Billy Parker.

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