It was cool (59 degrees F), breezy and partly cloudy for the first 90-minute NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session Friday noon at Infineon Raceway. Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race has drawn 46 entries for the 43-car grid.
MARCOS AMBROSE/No.47 Toyota was overall fastest with a final time of 1:16.375/93.800 mph. He went to the top immediately the session started and remained there for an hour 14 minutes, even though he had only turned 12 laps. Then KASEY KAHNE/No.9 Ford pipped the amiable Aussie, only to lose it back to Ambrose and be relegated to fourth, behind CLINT BOWYER/No.33 Chevrolet and RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 Chevrolet. Fifth was KEVIN HARVICK/No.29 Chevrolet.
MAX PAPIS/No.13 Toyota was the fastest of the Go or Go Home Guys on the final chart, in P13. Earlier on, BORIS SAID/No.26 Ford had been fastest in eighth place before landing in twenty-second position. Other one-off Road Racers in the GOGH category were JAN MAGNUSSEN/No. 09 Chevrolet-P26; BRIAN SIMO/No.36 Toyota in P37; and P.J. JONES/No.07 Toyota-P38. MATTIAS EKSTROM/No.83 Toyota is running for Red Bull Racing, subbing for BRIAN VICKERS, who is out for the season. Ekstrom, a European touring car road racer who quickly got up to speed at a recent test at Virginia International Raceway, was fortieth fastest; but the Swede has sufficient owner points to make the grid.
JEFF BURTON/No.31 Chevrolet was asked why don’t the Road Racing Ringers win on road courses, and what percentage chance do they actually have? “The percentages have gone down as the years have gone by for many reasons. The first reason is that we’ve gotten better. The normal Cup drivers have improved their road course racing skills over the years. When we started doing it, it was a big void between what a guy like a road course guy could come in and do versus what they can do now. The other issue is, even if you are driving for a great team, it’s hard. You aren’t in sync with the team. You almost have to go through all the bad calls, the bad decisions, the mistakes…all those things to get better as a team. It’s just hard to get all those things synced up with a one-time driver. Typically they are not in the best equipment. Typically they are in equipment that isn’t as good, even though they might be driving for a car owner that has had success, that success hasn’t been built around that driver and that team hasn’t been built around that crew chief. This thing is about teamwork. It’s not just about the drive and having all the pieces of the puzzle working together are part of the deal. You lose two seconds on pit road, all of that stuff starts adding up.”
JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet possibly had some fuel contamination during the first practice. RAMSEY POSTEN, NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications, said the situation was isolated to the one car at this point. NASCAR is running fuel samples. The TV talking heads said it was possible that there had been some ethanol inadvertently mixed in at the Sunoco gas pumps. It’s all conjecture at this point so NASCAR isn’t going into details. Gordon was seventh fastest in the session.
All 46 cars were on track.