Johnson, Gordon Back On Track

Saturday, June 23rd 2007, 2:23 pm
By: News On 6

SONOMA, California (AP) _ Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon wasted no time returning to the track after NASCAR inspectors approved their cars.

Johnson, the reigning Nextel Cup champion, and Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and four-time series champion, were the first cars on the Infineon Raceway road course for practice on Saturday.

The two had an unexpected day off on Friday after their cars failed to pass inspection. NASCAR deemed the front fenders on the No. 24 and No. 48 Chevrolets illegal and banned the two drivers from the day's practice and qualifying.

NASCAR did, however, allow the teams to alter the fenders and send the cars back through inspection. Both teams did that on Friday, but waited until Saturday for official approval.

``Everything is fine,'' said Doug Duchardt, vice president of development for Hendrick. ``We're way behind, but we'll just go out there and prepare today the way we would on any Saturday and hope for the best.''

Johnson and Gordon will start 41st and 42nd in the 43-car lineup for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Gordon, a five-time winner and the defending champion at Sonoma, said it's going to be tough to try to drive to the front on the treacherous road circuit that winds through the hills of Northern California wine country.

Making it even more difficult is the fact that this is the road racing debut of NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow, a virtually unknown quantity on this kind of track.

``We're really put into a bind here and we're going to do our best, that's all I can say,'' said Gordon, the series points leader. ``You know we're going to do all we can to make the car as fast as it can be and to try to come up through that field the best way, smoothest way possible while trying to stay out of trouble and trying to play the right pit strategy.

Crew chiefs Chad Knaus (Johnson) and Steve Letarte (Gordon) could face further penalties from NASCAR after officials return home on Monday.