SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Dale Jarrett, second to Jeff Gordon in the Winston Cup point standings, realizes he's hardly the favorite going into Sunday's Dodge-Save Mart 350 on the road course in scenic Northern California.
That honor goes to Gordon, who has won the event the past three years. In fact, Gordon has claimed six of the last seven road races at Sears Point Raceway and Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Jarrett has never finished higher than fourth in Sonoma. Last year he finished seventh, and the year before -- when he won the Winston Cup championship -- he ended in sixth.
Still, challenging Gordon this weekend doesn't daunt him.
"I know I'm capable of running in the top five," Jarrett said Thursday. "If he (Gordon) makes a mistake, that could turn things around."
Jarrett comes into the twisting 10-turn, 2-mile course with a new Ford, designed to make both right and left turns. He took it out for a spin recently on a course in Kershaw, S.C., and was pleased with the results.
"It's the first time I've had a new road race car in quite awhile," he said. "The car he had before was so old that it limited what we could do."
Jarrett also is encouraged by his steady recovery from a crash on May 26 in Charlotte. He cracked a rib and tore a chest muscle in the accident.
"I'm not 100 percent now, but it's really gotten better over the last two weeks," he said.
In addition to Gordon, Jarrett will face competition from teammate Ricky Rudd, who snapped an 88-race losing streak last weekend in the Pocono 500.
Rudd, known for his road course prowess, won at Sears Point in 1989. He has started on the pole four times, a track record.
Rudd is third in the point standings behind Gordon, who finished second at Pocono Raceway, and Jarrett, who was third.
The top trio will be among 43 drivers to take on the reconfigured course in California wine country. A segment dubbed "the Chute" was lengthened, giving drivers an additional opportunity to pass.
Rookie points leader Kevin Harvick, who is from Bakersfield, Calif., won a Winston West race at Sears Point in 1998, and tested on the Sonoma course earlier this year.
"It's got hills and curves and a lot of places to make mistakes," said Harvick, who took over Dale Earnhardt's Chevrolet after Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500. "And it's a lot of fun when you do it all right."
Jarrett agrees that there's plenty of opportunities to err on the course, but remains coolly confident. About the only thing that mildly irks him this weekend is his golf game.
The rib injury, he said, prevented him from bringing along his clubs. That's a problem when you're staying at a local golf resort, he joked.
"I woke up this morning and had to look down that the first or second tee," he said. "It was hard."
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