Originally created 06/20/03

Road course specialists race at Sonoma



SONOMA, Calif. -- They are hired guns, specialists brought in to drive in the only two road races on the Winston Cup schedule each season.

There will be a handful of them trying to qualify for Sunday's race, and it wouldn't be a shock if one of them won. Mostly, though, they are just thrilled to get the chance to race with NASCAR's biggest stars.

"I wait all year for the two Winston cup road races," said Boris Said, who will drive the MB2 Pontiac in place of injured Jerry Nadeau. "It's like a starving kid who has never seen an ice cream sundae. You slide a sundae in front of him and it's hard to eat it slow."

"I love to drive fast, and in the past, I've had a tendency to be a little too aggressive and sometimes that hurt me. But I am getting better each time I go out there in a Cup car."

Other road racing specialists who will be at the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, a hilly 1.949-mile road course in Northern California, include: Ron Fellows in place of injured Jeff Green in the Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s No. 1 Chevrolet; Scott Pruett in a fourth Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge entry; P.J. Jones replacing Larry Foyt in the A.J. Foyt Racing Dodge; and Johnny Miller in the Morgan-McClure Racing Pontiac for Mike Skinner, fired earlier this week.

"Someday, I would like people to point at me and say, 'That Winston Cup driver is also a pretty good road racer,"' remarked Said, the reigning SCCA Trans-Am Series champion. "My goal is to be a full-time Winston Cup driver and I am not giving up on that. The series has the best competition in the world."

Said has competed in seven Cup races - six of them on the two road courses- since 1999. His best Cup finish was eighth at the 2001 event at Watkins Glen. He also finished 11th here in 2001 in a Cup car, won a Craftsman Truck race here in 1998 and an American Le Mans Series event at Infineon in 2000.

"Infineon Raceway is a very demanding road course," he said. "There are no big straightaways to rest on and the surface makes it tough on tire wear. It's a grueling 112-lap race, but I love it."

Like Said and Pruett, Miller, the current Trans-Am points leader, will do double duty in Sonoma, competing in the Cup race and the Trans-Am event that follows Sunday.

"I have known the guys at Morgan-McClure for many years," he said. "They have been very helpful to me when I ran my own Trans-Am team. I have been really pushing on Larry (McClure) for several years, knowing I have the confidence to do well in one of these cars, especially at a road course."

Miller was ninth in his sole Trans-Am Series start at Infineon.

"I like the track. It's a very three-dimensional and technical track. The hills add a lot to it and it's also pretty fast," he said.

Fellows, a Canadian who has won 20 Trans-Am races and competed in Winston Cup, Busch and sports cars, once teamed with Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

"For me, this is unbelievable," he said. "I get goosebumps just thinking about racing with this team. I spoke with Dale about racing Winston Cup when we raced in Daytona. He was a hero to me, and to drive for his race team and to be teammates with Dale Jr. and Michael 1/8 Waltrip 3/8 is going to be amazing."

Pruett, a two-time Trans-Am champ, former CART Champ Car star and a full-time Winston Cup driver in 2000, drove a Ganassi car twice before, finishing 11th and sixth in the past two races at Watkins Glen.

Jones is the son of Parnelli Jones, the longtime open-wheel star and Indianapolis 500 winner. The former sports car star drove for Foyt last year at Watkins Glen, finishing fourth, the best result in the team's history.

They will all have the opportunity to qualify for the 43-car field on Friday.

"It's going to be real competitive," Pruett said. "Making the race won't be the easy part of the weekend. And racing won't be easy, either."