Defending Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen winner Tony Stewart let the continuing rumours surrounding a possible future deal with Chip Ganassi Racing sail cleanly over the top of his head as he set about earning a second consecutive triumph at the scenic 2.45-mile road course in New York.

Stewart set a best time of 72.050secs under cloudy skies in his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet run by Joe Gibbs Racing and although the current Winston Cup rumour mill has the 2002 NASCAR Champion leaving Gibbs for Ganassi possibly as soon as the end of next season, he seemed happy enough with his current situation on Saturday morning.

Second fastest was another perennial road course challenger Mark Martin, who, like Stewart, consolidated a top five Bud Pole qualifying effort yesterday with good speed in race-trim practice.

Almost three tenths of a second slower than Martin's #6 Jack Roush owned Pfizer/Viagra Ford with third fastest time was DEI's Ron Fellows, making some major improvements on his qualifying effort to put the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet into the mix for Sunday's 90-lap race.

Fourth fastest was Bud Pole winner Jeff Gordon while Bobby Labonte rounded out the top five. Rookie Greg Biffle served notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with as well on Sunday as he set sixth fastest time while RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon occupied positions seven and eight on the timesheets.

Current points leader Matt Kenseth was ninth fastest, Boris Said tenth, Scott Pruett a much happier eleventh and Dale Earnhardt Jr twelfth.

There were improved performances from NWC debutant Paul Menard and Morgan McClure's PJ Jones, who set 17th and 18th fastest times respectively while Christian Fittipaldi also found more of a comfort zone with the #44 New York Yankees Dodge as he set 21st fastest time.

However at the tail end of the order Ward Burton's recent tumultuous relationship with team owner Bill Davis, that resulted in Davis offering to terminate Burton's contract before this weekend's event got underway, couldn't have been helped with 38th fastest time while former Watkins Glen winner Steve Park was also in the doldrums after going only 39th fastest. Dale Jarrett (40th), Kenny Wallace (41st), Tony Raines (42nd) and Ricky Craven (43rd) propped up the 43 car field, all four wishing for this weekend to end as quickly as possible and for a return to normality next week.