Saturday morning’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Infineon Raceway was busy and I don’t mean that in a good way.
MARCOS AMBROSE/Mo.47 JTG Daughtery Racing Toyota was fastest in the first session, at 77.457/92.490 mph, but blew an engine and will have to start at the back of the Sunday Toyota/Save Mart 350 race due to engine change. He had qualified third. In the final practice, Aussie Ambrose was thirty-first fastest.
Ambrose said “We came from dead last last year at Watkins Glen and finished third, so it can be done. But we’ll have to make some gambles on fuel mileage now to get up there.”
DAVID GILLILAND/No.71 TRG Chevrolet had a pit road accident with JOHN ANDRETTI/No.34 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet, with Gilliland coming out the loser. It was on their first out lap. Andretti had stopped to let cars go by, and Gilliland hit him. Gilliland owned up to the accident being “100 per cent my fault. I was exiting pit road and looked down for a brief moment to turn on my fan switches and I hit him.” Andretti’s car suffered body damage which can be repaired. Gilliland said “I smashed a couple of grapes on the Adobe Winery car this morning, so tomorrow we will try and make some wine.” In the meantime, the team will have to prepare the backup car for Sunday’s race. He qualified thirty-second, but will start at the back of the pack.
Famous last words. Friday, team owner KEVIN BUCKLER had said there was local sponsorship (Ultimate Limousine Service and Buckler’s other business, Adobe Winery), for the race car this weekend, “but we’re underfunded. David has to drive carefully so he won’t have to run the backup car”. TRG has but the one road race car. The back up car is a short-track car.
Neither Andretti nor Gilliland were out in the final practice.
JOE NEMECHEK/No.87 Nemco Motorsports Toyota qualified thirty-first, but he won’t be racing. Local lad, SCOTT SPEED of Manteca CA will be racing the car. Speed failed to qualify his No.82 Red Bull Racing Toyota Friday. He was thirty-ninth fastest. As soon as the team saw his time wouldn’t make the field, the wheels were set in motion to make a deal. After qualifying, the Red Bull team all stayed, and the details were finalized Friday night.
The specifics of the financial arrangement were not disclosed. This is the second time this year Speed hasn’t qualified and has run Nemechek’s car. The last time was Darlington. Speed was twenty-second in both practice sessions.
JAY FRY, GM of Red Bull Racing, and Nemechek have a long history.
If I have it correct, the way it works is that Speed will be racing an unbranded blue car sporting #87. There will be none of Speed’s Red Bull sponsorship on the car. However, it will be a complete Red Bull effort – using Speed’s hauler, crew including over the wall gang, engineers, spotters, etc. Speed will wear his Red Bull suit, livery, etc. Nemechek’s cars are 2008 Red Bull Racing cars. Speed will use Nemechek’s pit stall and start the race from the back.
Red Bull has a large presence at the Infineon race, with hospitality and lots of guests. Speed’s hometown is in Northern California and he has thirty friends and fiance AMANDA with him at the track. Speed will be getting married soon – on an off-race weekend.
The weather was warm, sunny and breezy.
Another local driver, A.J. ALLMENDINGER of Los Gatos CA, was fastest in the second practice session, running his No.44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge at 77.428/92.525 mph.
MAX PAPIS/No.13 Germain Racing Toyota was the top Rookie in both sessions, tenth in the first and twelfth in the final practice.
Sunday’s Sprint Cup race will be televised live on TNT at 2 PM local time/5 PM EDT.