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Hired guns, NASCAR Winston Cup regulars eyeing road-course shootout at Sears Point. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2002)-- When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series comes to a road course, the hired guns appear, attempting to upstage the drivers who ...

Hired guns, NASCAR Winston Cup regulars eyeing road-course shootout at Sears Point.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2002)-- When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series comes to a road course, the hired guns appear, attempting to upstage the drivers who compete week in and week out on oval tracks.

Tony Stewart is ready for the challenge. Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac, is the defending champion in Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Sears Pears Point Raceway, a 10-turn, 2-mile circuit in Sonoma, Calif. In his typical fashion, Stewart comes into the weekend with a shout-out to the accomplished road-racing specialists making cameo appearances.

"You definitely know they're there [at our road-course races]," Stewart said."But if they really want to impress me they can come to Richmond or Bristol and show me what they can do there. To come in and cherry-pick an event is one thing, but let's see what they can do at another NASCAR event."

That's basic, laying-down-the-gauntlet talk. Here's a rundown of road-racing specialists ready to pick it up and run with it.

Ø Ron Fellows: Will drive the No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet owned by Joe Nemechek. Fellows is one of America's great sports car road racers; last weekend he scored a second consecutive GTS-class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also has had plenty of success in NASCAR crossover. He has seven NASCAR Winston Cup starts in his career, with his best finish a runner-up in 1999 at Watkins Glen. He has won three times (1998, 2000,' 01) in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division-- in only five starts, all at Watkins Glen. He also has won two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races (1997,' 99) at Watkins Glen.

Ø Boris Said: Is entered in a Ford owned by Mark Harrah. Said, another sports car veteran, has five NASCAR Winston Cup starts to his credit, with one top-10 finish. Said also had the pole for the 1998 NASCAR Busch Series event at Watkins Glen; last year he finished fourth in the NASCAR Busch race at The Glen. Said won the 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Sears Point. He also leads the Trans Am Series points standings.

Ø Jim Inglebright: Here's a surprise entry, at first glance a dark horse. A closer look, though, reveals potential. Inglebright has won the last two Sears Point races in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competition; he'll go for three in a row Saturday, in a companion event to the NASCAR Winston Cup action. On Friday, he'll try to qualify for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 in a Chevrolet owned by he and his wife, Valerie.

Here, however, is a reality check: road-course expertise, though, historically hasn't transferred to a great deal of success for outsiders, Mark Donahue's 1973 victory at Riverside International Raceway notwithstanding. Which indicates that NASCAR Winston Cup drivers have adapted pretty well through the years, to right-hand turns.

"The road courses (at Sears Point and Watkins Glen) pay the same amount of points to win that the ovals do," Stewart said." You've got to prepare in the same way and you've got to prepare with the same intensity. We want to win both of those races just like we want to win everywhere else we go. It's important that you do concentrate on the road courses and not take the attitude that they're not as important as the rest of the races because there are only two of them.

"I like it. I've always said it from day one - it's nice to have something that is a little bit of a change from our normal daily grind, so to me, it's a lot of fun to go out and run a couple road courses a year."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Boris Said , Ron Fellows , Jim Inglebright