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PRUETT GIVES UP AIR TIME TO HIT ROAD

Scott Pruett is leaving the ESPN RPM 2Night studio for a little track time. He raced on the Winston Cup circuit full time last year but was unable to secure sponsorship for the 2001 season.

This weekend, though, the former CART racer is going to be back in a stock car for the Dodge/Save Mart 250 at Sears Point Raceway.

Pruett will be driving the No. 33 car owned by Andy Petree. Last year, Pruett qualified in ninth place for the road course race in Sonoma, Calif. before a transmission put him out of commission. He was leading the race in the No. 32 Tide car before the engine problems. He led 10 of the 112 laps.

"Scott showed what he could do last year at Sears Point," Petree said. "We had a pretty good car a year ago at Sears Point, and we can put another good car out there this year. Couple that with Scott's expertise on the road course, and I'd say this Oakwood Homes bunch has a great shot at doing something special (this weekend)."

Pruett will be driving in place of the injured Joe Nemechek. Last month during a Busch Grand National test session at Dover Downs (Del.), Nemechek broke his right scapula and right arm in a single-car accident. He is scheduled to return after the Sonoma race. The Winston Cup series' next stop is the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7.

Pruett was in France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend. Along with Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell, Pruett and the Corvette team finished first in the GTS class. He will race in the Le Mans Series again in October and is hoping to get a full-time ride with at least one racing series. Pruett has raced in IROC, Trans-Am and IMSA as well as NASCAR and CART.

Besides being a backup behind the wheel, Pruett also has been a regular guest on the ESPN's motorsports show.

Drivers will be on the track Friday for qualifying. The race starts at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

While Pruett is in the driver's seat, Mike Wallace is out. Wallace won't be in the No. 7 car this weekend. Wally Dallenbach Jr. replaced the slumping Wallace for the Pocono 500 last weekend, and Robby Gordon will drive for him at Sears Point.

Gordon is able to fill in as a backup driver because he was ousted from his No. 4 car earlier this season. In five Winston Cup starts, he failed to break the top 10. Last year at Sears Point, Gordon finished ninth.

There have been rumors another driver would replace Wallace for the remainder of the season, but team owner Jim Smith said he expected Wallace to be back for the Daytona race.

"It's no secret that our performance hasn't been where we want it to be, especially over the last few weeks. Everybody at Ultra Motorsports is doing everything they can to get over this hump and figure things out," Smith said in a statement. "For the most part, nothing has changed . . . and we anticipate Mike Wallace being back for the race in Daytona."

Dallenbach finished 26th at Pocono after a 43rd-place start.

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