Scott Pruett makes no apologies. He's a road-racing specialist trying to steal a victory from the Nextel Cup regulars.
"Will there be some people who complain," he said before practice Friday. "Yeah, because people complain about everything. The guys that you really care about and respect, I think, wouldn't complain one bit because they know how hard you worked for it."
Pruett has won races and championships in sports cars and added victories in Indy cars and IROC. He is driving a fourth entry for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Dodge/Save Mart 350. The race at Infineon Raceway on Sunday will be on a 1.99-mile, 10-turn circuit, one of only two road courses on the Cup schedule each year.
"It's not a walk in the park or a gimme," Pruett said. "It's a lot of years of working and racing and trying to do the right thing and the smart thing."
Referring to fellow road racing "ringers," Pruett pointed out that he and Ron Fellows and Boris Said have been doing this a lot of years.
"If we are fortunate enough to win one of these races, it's through hard work and dedication," Pruett said.
No road racing specialist has won a Cup race since Mark Donohue took the checkered flag for Roger Penske's team in 1973 at now-defunct Riverside Raceway. Pruett has come close, finishing second at Watkins Glen International in 2003 and third in Sonoma last June.
A year ago, he followed race winner Jeff Gordon and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray across the finish line after being ordered to remain behind McMurray's Dodge.
"That's all in the history books now," Pruett said. "We just have to do the right thing here this week."
"My first priority is to try to win this race," he added. "My second priority is to try to help my teammates any way I can, whether it's setup or whether it's talking about the track or whether it's just trying to help them on the track like last year."
Said started from the pole in this race in 2003 and has finished sixth each of the past two years at the picturesque wine country track. His situation has changed, though. The MB Sutton Motorsports team is running Said in up to 15 Cup races this season, with the hope of making it a full-time deal in 2006. This will be his fourth race of the season with the team.
"In the past, I would show up at Sonoma after not being with the guys since the August race in Watkins Glen," Said noted. "When you're not around for a good period of time, it takes a while to get adjusted to the car and re-establish communications with the crew chief and crew."
Said won the 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on this course.
"It's a great feeling going into a race knowing that you have a shot at driving your car to Victory Lane," he said.
Fellows started third and finished seventh in Sonoma 2003. He missed last year's Infineon event but came from last place to finish second at Watkins Glen, driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., in his only Cup start of 2004.
"The level of competition in Nextel Cup has elevated tremendously in the last several years," said Fellows, who is driving for Cal Wells's PPI Motorsports. "A lot of the guys have adapted very well."
Pruett is 45 and doesn't expect too many more shots at a Cup victory.
"I love that I have the opportunity to come and win a NASCAR race here -- at least the equipment and the team to help put me in a position to run at the front," he said. "If you can run at the front, one of these days you can win one of these races.
"And that's the biggest achievement left for me, personally, to win a NASCAR race."