by Lynne Huntting
Rookie JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/#42 Dodge was fastest in Saturday morning NASCAR Nextel Cup practice at warm and sunny Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA. His time was 77.951/92.330 mph
Second was KEVIN HARVICK/#29 Chevrolet.
Third fastest was JEFF GORDON/#24 Chevrolet, who was on course for the first time this weekend. It took him seven laps to be fastest, before his time was eclipsed by Harvick and then Montoya. Gordon's time was 77.803/92.079 mph.
NASCAR issued Tech Stickers to both Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsport team-mate, JIMMIE JOHNSON/#48 Chevrolet Saturday morning and said they were eligible to participate in Saturday's track activities. They were banned Friday from any on-track activities after failing tech for illegal front fenders on their new Car of Tomorrow Chevrolets. Further penalties are expected Monday or Tuesday. They will start from the back of the pack for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 race. Johnson was sixteenth fastest in the 50-minute session.
Fourth and fifth fastest were TONY STEWART/#20 Chevrolet and RON FELLOWS/#96 Chevrolet, one of several road racing specialists in the race.
There were several red flags during the early morning session, for spins or stalls including the wild spin and great save of MARC GOOSSENS/#91 Toyota, and JEFF GREEN/#66 Chevrolet who stopped at pit entrance and BORIS SAID/#60 Ford stalled in Turn Eleven.
All 43 drivers for Sunday's race were on track.
Four Cup drivers are also competing in the Blue Lizard Sun Cream 200 NASCAR Grand National Division West Series race Saturday afternoon - Said, DAVID GILLILAND, P.J. JONES, and REGAN SMITH, West Qualifying immediately followed the Saturday Cup practice. Said was fastest in the first Friday practice, out of 40 entries, and skipped the second practice to concentrate on Cup Qualifying. He starts fourth Sunday in the Cup race.
The list of drivers flying back to Milwaukee after Cup Happy Hour early Saturday afternoon just got shorter. DAVE BLANEY/#22 Toyota is skipping the Busch Series race to concentrate on his Cup race. He starts nineteenth Sunday. His Busch ride will be handled by TODD BODINE, who is already in Milwaukee after finishing third Friday night in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Rookie DAVID RAGAN/#6 Ford is one of the several drivers flying back with JACK ROUSH in his jet - literally. Roush is piloting the plane to Milwaukee. Ragan thought another pilot might fly it back after the long day. Among the five or six passengers are CARL EDWARDS/#99 Ford, another Roush driver, who is currently leading the Busch Series standings. When not NASCAR racing or hanging out at the Roush-Fenway Racing shop, Ragan has his own shop where he works on his own Legends car. If it weren't for the conflicting Busch race this weekend, Ragan would have run the Legends race which is the support race for this Infineon NASCAR weekend.