Hendrick cars allowed back on track at Infineon

Updated: June 23, 2007, 5:26 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

SONOMA, Calif. -- Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who were not allowed to participate in any on-track activities on Friday after their cars failed initial inspections, were first on the track for practice Saturday morning at Infineon Raceway.

NASCAR cleared both cars for Sunday's race at the 1.99-mile road course.

Gordon and Johnson were parked on Friday after officials discovered the front right fenders were flared out beyond the wheel well on both cars.

Both teams will face major penalties for the infraction when NASCAR reviews the case early next week.

It is the second violation involving the Car of Tomorrow, which is being used in 16 races this season.

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was suspended for six races and fined $100,000, and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was docked 100 championship points after alterations to the rear-wing bracket were discovered at Darlington.

Gordon and Johnson can afford a heavy hit. Gordon, who became a first-time father on Wednesday, leads the points standings by 264 over second-place Denny Hamlin.

Johnson, the defending Cup champion, is third -- 337 points behind Gordon. He is 11 points ahead of fourth-place Matt Kenseth and 136 ahead of Jeff Burton in fifth.

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

In the morning practice, with cooler track temperatures and fast speeds, Gordon was third fastest and Johnson 16th. In the afternoon, Johnson was ninth and Gordon, who spun harmlessly at one point, wound up 10th.

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.

"We're really put into a bind here and we're going to do our best, that's all I can say," Gordon said. "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.

"We'll try to do everything in our power to get the best finish out here we can. I'll be honest, right now it's a little hard for us to be realistic about a win. It's more about being realistic about trying to get a top 10."

David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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