by Lynne Huntting
BOBBY LABONTE/#43 Dodge was the fastest NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Friday afternoon in the first practice for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 race at 77.539/92.392 mph. His final flyer lap was lucky thirteen.
ROBBY GORDON/#7 Ford was second, followed by KURT BUSCH/#2 Dodge, TONY STEWART/#20 Chevrolet and JAMIE McMURRAY/#26 Ford.
Fifty cars were on course, of the 52 entries. Notably absent from the session were JEFF GORDON/#24 Chevrolet and JIMMIE JOHNSON/#48 Chevrolet. They are parked Friday for failing inspection. The situation is big in NASCAR and everyone is abuzz.
RON FELLOWS/#96 Chevrolet was the fastest of the 15 Go or Go Home drivers. He is one of the several so-called road-racing specialists who make appearances once or twice a year for NASCAR's road course races. The affable Canadian was sixth fastest at 77.647/92.264. Fellows is replacing TONY RAINES, the regular driver, who is twenty-seventh in the points. Hall of Fame team owner BILL SAUNDERS is also in that point position. Fellows will also run the Watkins Glen road course later this summer.
Additionally, Fellows will race #33 Chevrolet for KEVIN HARVICK in the Montreal Busch Series road course race in August. Canadian Fellows has won on that track in the Canadian Players Series.
Another GOGH driver, BUTCH LEITZINGER/#23, was twenty-sixth fastest Friday, replacing JEREMY MAYFIELD for the weekend. Mayfield has failed to qualify in ten of the fifteen races so far this season. Mayfield is forty-sixth in the points, and owner BILL DAVIS is sixty-sixth. Leitzinger, a sports car endurance racer, has NASCAR experience in Cup, Busch and Busch North. His last Cup race was in the late nineties at Watkins Glen. Leitzinger has never raced a stock car at Infineon Raceway, but he has recent experience in the American Le Mans Series prototype cars, a series in which he competes full time. He also is a 'test pilot' for Bugatti in his spare time.
TERRY LABONTE is replacing MICHAEL WALTRIP in #55 Toyota for the weekend, and ran thirty-third fastest. He is one of two drivers this weekend who could make the field based on Past Champion provisional, the other being BILL ELLIOTT/#21 Ford, who was eleventh fastest in the Wood Brothers car. Regular driver KEN SCHRADER is in Milwaukee racing someone else's NASCAR Craftsman Truck. Labonte would get the nod if needed because his Cup championship was more recent than Elliott's.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/#42 dodge was the fastest Rookie, in thirteenth position.
The weather was warm and breezy.