JEFF GORDON/#24 Dupont Chevrolet showed Friday that has a more than good chance of winning his fifth NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Infineon raceway when he was fastest in 90 degree F weather, with a time of 76.575/93.555 mph. He turned the lap on his sixth of six laps at the 1.99-mile elevated road course in the Northern California wine country.

One of the so-called 'Road Race Ringers,' BORIS SAID/#60 Sobe-No Fear Ford was fourth fastest, behind KURT BUSCH/#2 Miller Lite Dodge and ROBBY GORDON/#7 Menards/Energizer Chevrolet. GREG BIFFLE/#16 National Guard Ford was fifth. Another Ringer, RON FELLOWS/#32 Tide Chevrolet was sixth.

Seventh through tenth were BRIAN VICKERS/#25 GMAC Chevrolet, KEN SCHRADER/#21 Little Debbie Ford, who is also racing in the NASCAR Grant National West Series race here this weekend; JAMIE McMURRAY/#26 Crown Royal Ford; and RYAN NEWMAN/#12 Altel Dodge.

Points leader JIMMY JOHNSON/#48 Lowes Chevrolet was twelfth and 2005 Champion, TONY STEWART/#20 Home Depot Chevrolet was seventeenth after briefly leading at the beginning of the session.

Friday's weather was slightly cooler than Thursday's triple-digit heat. Warm weather racing will be a concern for the drivers as well as crew chiefs, working on setups.

NASCAR racing has coined unique words or phrases to describe its drivers and their activities. Among them are "Double Duty" for drivers running more than one race at a given weekend; Buschwhackers to describe the Nextel Cup drivers who race in the Busch Series, often taking points away from the Busch regulars; and Ringers, used to describe a road racer running the Nextel Cup road course racers. This weekend there are several Ringers running the Dodge/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Infineon Raceway, the first of two road courses on the Cup schedule.

There are eight drivers this weekend who are considered 'road course ringers' and all have to qualify for the Nextel Cup race based on their time as they do not have the luxury of racing for a team which is in the top 35 Owner Points and guaranteed a starting position. As

They are RON FELLOWS/#32 Tide Chevrolet;DAVE GILLILAND/#72 Dutch Quality Stone Dodge; TOM HUBERT/#27 Chevrolet; P.J. JONES/#4 AERO Exhaust Chevrolet; JOHNNY MILLER/#34 Oak Gloves Chevrolet; SCOTT PRUETT/#40 Coors Light Dodge; BORIS SAID/#60 Sobe-No Fear Ford; and BRIAN SIMO/#61 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet.

Fellows is fresh from his run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans which he ran last weekend. His factory Corvette was a Magnet for Misery - everything that could happen to it did, but it finished. In the seven years the two factory American Le Mans Corvettes have been running the traditional French sports car endurance race, they have both finished every year. Fellow's teammate was JOHNNY O'CONNELL, who is also racing this weekend, in the factory Cadillac in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT race. He was third overall in a field of 29 entries.

Fellows has always done well in NASCAR, especially at Watkins Glen where he has won in the Truck and Busch Series and two runner-up finishes in Cup. The elusive Cup is on his mind, and to say he is determined to win at Infineon is an understatement.

Fellows is replacing TRAVIS KVAPIL this weekend, and Kvapil is on loan to BARNEY VISSER's team, #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet.

Hubert and Miller may not be as well known as some of the other ringers, but don't discount their experience. Hubert has been racing NASCAR in Busch and Craftsman Trucks for a long time, including one or two road courses every year for the past ten years. Hubert has run well at Infineon in the past.

Jones is replacing SCOTT WIMMER this weekend. Jones has run Cup in the past and has much experience at Infineon Raceway. He is a past IMSA sports car champion, as well as successful off-road racer.

Miller is a Trans-Am Series veteran, as are Said and Simo. He is racing with Front Row Motorsports owned by BOB JENKINS. Miller raced with Jenkins at last year's Glen race and ran as high as fourth before suffering carburetor problems. This will be Miller's fourth Cup start. He was second in the 2003 Trans-Am Championship and he's now a development driver for tire manufacturers and Rolex Series cars in the Grand American Road Racing Series.

Pruett, who raced the 2000 Winston Cup season with Ganassi, is replacing DAVID STREMME this weekend, and Stremme in turn is racing for REED SORENSON at the Milwaukee Busch Series race this weekend. Sorenson is in contention for Cup Rookie, and is the only rookie to have led a lap this season.

Hubert, Jones, Pruett, and Simo are all from California and Said has lived most of his racing career in Carlsbad where he works for No Fear, founded by Simo and his identical twin brother, MARK SIMO.

What can you say about Boris Said, the 2002 Trans-Am Champion and two-time Rolex Champion at the 24 Hours of Daytona...or what can't you say about him? He has been knocking on NASCAR's door since his early days in the Craftsman Truck Series running with the Irvan-Simo team. Said has a pole in each of the three top tier series-two earned at Infineon-Trucks and Cup. He has also been running selected Busch Series races and has 25 Cup races on his resume, with one pole at Infineon in 2003.

Said is now racing with his own team, newly formed with MARK SIMO and crew chief FRANKIE STODDARD. It is based in Concord NC at Roush Park, and has at least three more races planned for this season - Daytona next weekend, the Brickyard 400, and the road race at Watkins Glen.

BRIAN SIMO was Trans-am runner-up in 1998, 1999 and champion in 2000. He finished tenth last year, after starting twenty-second, racing for Richard Childress Racing.

Not really a 'ringer' is TERRY LABONTE, who is running one of his selected races with the Hall of Fame team, replacing TONY RAINES this weekend. Labonte, who is skilled on road courses with two victories at the now dozed-over Riverside International Raceway, won't need to qualify as he is eligible for the Past Champion's Provisional.

In the NASCAR Grand National Division, Auto Zone West Series race this weekend is an interesting Rookie - KEN EPSMAN of Santa Clara CA. He is driving a one-off race for TONY ODDO Sr in No.25 racer's Blend Coffee Critic Ford. Epsman, at 53, was the oldest driver at the Rookie Meeting. Oddo's T.O.E. Performance team has run two other West races this season, with ERIC HUMPHRIES. Part of the team is TONY ODDO Jr, who is a longtime NASCAR engine builder for years. Senior worked with RICHARD PETTY and BILL ELLIOTT.

This is his first professional NASCAR race FOR Epsman, but he is no stranger to stock cars. Epsman owns a stable of historic cars, including SAM POSEY's Green Slime 1970 Challenger, a 1978 Ford Thunderbird raced by Bill Elliott, a 1976 Dekon Monza IMSA car, and some Trans-Am cars. Epsman has mixed it up with the best of them, including Trans-Am Champion, GEORGE FOLLMER. Epsman has raced more than 70 races at Infineon Raceway and is a regular on the historic circuits, as well as the power behind the throne in the West Coast Historic Trans-Am Group

In the first practice for the Blue Lizard Suncream 200 race on Saturday afternoon, Epsman finished twentieth.

Pruett will be one of several drivers doing a double of some kind. He will be commuting in Ganassi's plane with Ganassi, TONY GLOVER, and "the guys" between Infineon Raceway in the Northern California wine country to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which has been nicknamed Mud Ohio this weekend because of the torrential rains. The winds have been so fierce that many tents and awnings have blown over. The races have not been postponed or canceled. Pruett will skip Saturday NASCAR activities and no one will drive his car in his absence.

Pruett, who is racing for CHIP GANASSI in both races, will be running in the Grand American Road Racing Rolex Series Daytona Prototype, which he shares with LUIS DIAZ. They are currently leading the DP Points. Diaz qualified the car on the front row, behind teenager, COLIN BRAUN/#76 Krohn Racing Riley Ford Daytona Prototype. Pruett was fastest in both Thursday test sessions. He is a two-time Trans-Am champion.

Nextel Cup is Friday afternoon, following West Series Qualifying.


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