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Assassins take high road to Watkins Glen

Aug 5, 2003 3:45 AM

The hired assassins return this Sunday to Watkins Glen for the final road course race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.

Sears Point and Watkins Glen are the only road courses in NASCAR’s top circuit and some believe it’s two too many. The Busch Series eliminated Watkins Glen from its schedule in 2002. Several Cup drivers wish it would happen in their series too, but it’s not likely only because of the market size of the Bay Area and New York.

Besides, there’s nothing quite like seeing the big heavy Winston Cup cars twisting left and turning right. It’s about as enjoyable as racing gets for this auto-racing fan. The skill and endurance required on the roads clearly separates the good ones from the bad ones. This week, the bad ones, like Jeff Green, sit.

Taking over for Jeff Green in his No 1 Pennzoil DEI Chevy is the top hired assassin in the world, Ron Fellows (6-1). Fellows has his second chance at driving the DEI car after finishing seventh at Sears Point. In that race, Fellows lost the lead after making a poor choice on when to pit and the mistake cost him his first win in the Winston Cup Series.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Fellows did win at Watkins Glen because he’s won in every type of car he’s raced there except a Winston Cup stock car. He won the 24 hours of LeMans and the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. Fellows also posted 20 wins in the SCCA Trans-Am series and four victories in 16 starts in the Busch and Truck series.

Four years ago Fellows finished second and third in Winston Cup starts. All agree that no one knows more about Watkins Glen than the Fellows who is from nearby Toronto.

Scott Pruett (18-1) was a teammate of Fellows during their GTS class winning performance at LeMans 2001. Pruett will be driving a Dodge entry from Chip Ganassi this weekend.

Boris Said (15-1) will drive No. 01 U.S Army Pontiac this weekend. Said won the pole at Sears Point six weeks ago and finished an impressive sixth in the race. It is by far the best car that Said has driven in all of his limited assassin duty. Last year he finished 13th at the Glen.

Robby Gordon (7-2) is considered the top regular road course driver. Gordon will be driving as the odds on favorite for the first time in his career. He finally got over the hump with a win on a road course at Sears Point after years of close finishes.

The other top regular drivers in the series are Jeff Gordon (2-1), Tony Stewart (5-1), and Mark Martin (8-1). Stewart has two career road course victories and was on his way to becoming the series’ top driver until Robby Gordon swooped in on his spotlight.

Jeff Gordon went on one of the more remarkable runs in Winston Cup history when he smoked the field over four seasons, winning 7-of-8 road course events. He has four career Watkins Glen wins and finished second to Robby Gordon at Sears Point six weeks ago. Stewart and the other Gordon seem to have that chip on their shoulder that seems to give them an edge that Jeff doesn’t have.

Gaughan’s stock rising

Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan, who currently leads the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series in wins, has caught the eye of car owner Ray Evernham. Rumors have it that Gaughan may be heading to the Winston Cup series in an Evernham Dodge.

Gaughan, the grandson of Las Vegas gaming Pioneer Jackie Gaughan, has said since the start of his career that he wouldn’t settle for just any ride to get into NASCAR’s top series. He has held true to his word, bypassing several offers from lower level teams.

There might not be a better situation for Gaughan to fall into than Evernham, who groomed Jeff Gordon from the start. We’ll see what happens.