SONOMA, Calif. - Stock cars were never meant to road race.
The 3,500-pound Winston Cup machines lumber up the hills and lurch around the turns on Infineon Raceway's 1.949-mile, 11-turn circuit, one of two road courses on the 36-race schedule. But that doesn't mean a few drivers can't adapt.
Jeff Gordon has a record seven road course victories, including three at Infineon, while Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd each have six wins. Boris Said, one of four specialists hired this weekend, will start from the pole, just ahead of road racing talents Robby Gordon and Ron Fellows.
Based on his record in Sonoma, Jeff Gordon should be the favorite. In 10 career starts at the track, he has six top fives and seven top 10s and has led the most laps five times. His road racing expertise offers him a chance to get a leg up on the other drivers in the points chase.
Series leader Matt Kenseth, runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch have no wins and five top 10s in a combined 18 races at Infineon. Kenseth and Earnhardt have no top 15s in a combined six races here.
"Matt's weakness, if you can call it that, is the superspeedways and the road courses," said Gordon, in third place, 223 points behind Kenseth and 38 behind Earnhardt. "Junior's seems to be the road courses.
"For us, we look at this as an opportunity. We know this is a race we can win. We've been strong here in the past and I believe we have made some gains since last year."
For all those potential winners there will be a simple challenge.
"The challenge for everybody is to go fast and stay on the racetrack," Rudd said. "It sounds kind of simple, but staying on the track is easy to do if you're going slow.
"Going fast and staying on the racetrack is not always easy to do the entire race. That's probably the key, along with making sure you don't abuse your brakes so that you have them the entire race."
FEATHERLITE 200: Kevin Harvick, who starts sixth today, ran away from Said to win the Southwest series event at Sonoma. Harvick took the lead on the first lap and relinquished it only during pit stops.
O'REILLY 200: Ted Musgrave raced close to the lead, then shoved past Jon Wood with 14 laps remaining to win the Craftsman Truck series event at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn.
Lapped traffic allowed defending winner Travis Kvapil to close on Musgrave in the final two laps, but he fell short at the checkered flag.
Musgrave averaged a race record 86.087 mph. The victory was his second this season and 12th on the circuit. The win was a record-tying 28th for Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith, matching the mark of Roush Racing - Wood's team owner.
Finishing third was Dennis Setzer, who was forced to start at the rear of the 36-truck field because of a prerace engine change. Wood wound up fourth, one position ahead of his Roush teammate, rookie Carl Edwards.
G.I. JOE'S 200: Paul Tracy won his second pole of the CART season with a lap of 120.565 mph on a rainy track at Portland International Raceway in Oregon.
It was his fifth front-row start of the season, first pole since last month at Brands Hatch in England, and 15th overall.
He edged out provisional pole-sitter and points leader Michel Jourdain Jr. to take the top spot.