ROBBY GORDON/#7 Menards/Energizer Chevrolet was the fastest driver Saturday morning for the first of two practice sessions at Infineon Raceway. Gordon turned a 77.472/92.472 mph lap. Early fastest was TONY STEWART/#20 Home Depot Chevrolet, but Gordon led most of the 45-minute session. The weather was in the mid seventies with a nice breeze - no where near the scorcher predicted earlier.
Stewart moved back up to second overall by the end of the session. JIMMY JOHNSON/#48 Lowe's Chevrolet, CLINT BOWYER/#07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, and JEFF GORDON/#24 Dupont Chevrolet rounded out the top five - all Chevys.
The session was incident-free.
KURT BUSCH/#2 Miller Lite Dodge was sixth fastest, the top Dodge. Previously I had said Busch was one of the top ten on GQ's Most Hated Athletes list. Actually he was third, behind BARRY BONDS and TERRELL OWENS. Kurt didn't think he belonged in the same category with the two stick-and-ball athletes, and blamed his former association with Roush Racing. "I think my old team did some good talking to get me that (third most-hated) position. It's been great to try to rebuild my image with a new team and try to change some people's perceptions."
The 'Ringers' were led by BORIS SAID/#60 Sobe-No Fear Ford in ninth. RON FELLOWS/#32 Tide Chevrolet was thirteenth and P.J. JONES/#4 AERO Chevrolet was twenty-first.
DAVE GILLILAND/#72 Dutch Quality Stone Dodge was last of the 41 cars. His father, BUTCH GILLILAND/Ford holds the West Series Qualifying Track record of 39.957/90.760 mph, set on 7 October 1995 on the old 2.52-mile NASCAR course configuration.
All but two of the 43-car field were on track. TOM HUBERT/#27 Ford sat out the session as he was in the upcoming NASCAR Grand National Division Auto Zone West Series race, starting eleventh in a field of 35 cars. Hubert's Cup car earlier had been erroneously identified as a Chevrolet.
The #40 Coors Light Dodge driven by SCOTT PRUETT was in the garage. Pruett and Team Owner CHIP GANASSI flew back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Friday night for Saturday afternoon's Rolex Series EMCO Gears Classic Race with Grand American Road Racing Association. Pruett must have taken some of the fine Northern California wine country weather with him. The terrible Thursday storms have subsided and it should be dry for the race. Pruett and co-driver LUIS DIAZ will start at the back of the Daytona Prototype field in #1 CompUSA Lexus Riley after failing post-qualifying Scrutineering. There are 27 DP's and the three fastest will be at the back for the same DSQ. There are separate starts for the DP and the GT class, of which there are 18 to make up a 45-car field.
NASCAR Nextel Cup driver, BRIAN VICKERS is on pole for the West Series race in #17 GMAC Chevrolet, with a qualifying lap of 78.836/90.872 mph. ERIC HOLMES/#35 Bollegraaf Ford, who is third in the standings, qualified second. Rookie BRIAN ICKLER/#20 NAPA Chevrolet was third. Fourth and fifth were STAN SILVA/#65 A&S Metals Chevrolet and Rookie JAMES BRUNCATI/#22 Sunrise Ford.
Other Cup drivers in the field are TOM HUBERT/#10 Sunsweet Growers Dodge in tenth, BORIS SAID/#57 Pacific States Ford in thirteenth; and KEN SCHRADER/#99 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet is sixteenth. Schrader runs West whenever it is a companion race or on a free day, and currently is twenty-third in the standings, with two starts. He started third and won the season's first race at Phoenix in January, a stand alone race.
There are two drivers in the race who come from vintage racing in the Historic Stock Car Series - 54-year old GARLAND SELF/#81 Selco Ford, running his third professional race; and 53-year old KEN EPSMAN/#25 Racer's Blend Coffee Critic Ford, running his first-ever professional race. He's never even done a racing pit stop.
The Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 race will be telecast live on HDNet and on SPEED (enhanced replay - a SPEED euphemism) on 6 July 2006 at 2:30 pm PT.