Waltrip: I like what I'm seeing. I like Stewart's fire. I feel the same way about Harvick; he's one of those short-track racers from the same mold as Earnhardt. Certainly, apples don't roll far from the tree, so you got to figure Dale Jr. is going to be someone to contend with, and there's Matt Kenseth [29], Kurt Busch [23], and Casey Atwood 21]. There's some pretty good talent that's just ready to be heard from. And they create a little controversy. I don't care what you're doing, whether it's a movie or book, you gotta have some good guys for the bad guys to fight with. Not everyone can wear a white hat.

American Way: What would you like to see to improve safety?
Certainly, the head/neck restraint systems are the greatest thing to happen to our sport. It'll help save many drivers' lives. It took awhile, but NASCAR finally mandated their use.

The cars have gotten too small; they go too fast. They depend mostly on aerodynamic factors, which make them harder to control in traffic. They have a real small, round roof - like an egg - that makes for great aero numbers, but it squeezes the space all around the driver, where he operates. So they need to widen the cars back out to give drivers some more protection. When a race starts with 43 cars, we can't control what happens. It's going to be entertaining, but drivers are a rare commodity; we just can't keep losing great drivers for excitement.

in 2001, jeff gordon logged six wins and 18 top-five finishes, earning him his fourth series championship and more than $6.5 million. on the importance of teamwork, he says: "there's just so much that goes into being champion. it's not like you're a pitcher with the ball solely in your hands. i look at a guy like michael jordan and there's no doubt about his greatness. … ask him if he'd rather be the greatest player or whether he'd rather be [on a winning team]. i guarantee he'd say he'd rather be winning. i just want to be part of the greatest team."