Are road course ringers going out of style in NASCAR circles? Maybe over the last several years, NASCAR has developed its own “ringers” from among its regular competitors. Take Jeff Gordon, for instance; he’s a five-time winner at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway alone.
While the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series have raced and are racing at different tracks this weekend, both circucits went/will go road course racing. The Nationwide Series took on Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Saturday, and the Sprint Cup Series is expected to race later today (Sunday) in Sonoma.
But where are all the road course ringers fans are used to seeing only a few times a year — just twice a year when you talk about the Sprint Cup Series? There are a few, or at least there were a few in Saturday’s Nationwide race. But only one notable road course specialist’s name showed up on the Sprint Cup entry list for this weekend — Boris Said.
Over the years, road course ringers haven’t been all that successful at the Sprint Cup level, anyway. I’m assuming that’s partly because the so-called “ringers” aren’t used to the cars and partly because its usually “also-rans” a.k.a. “back-markers” that have typically enlisted their services.
Ringers have found success at NASCAR’s other national levels, though. Heck, Alex Tagliani came close to winning from behind the wheel of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford in the Nationwide Series race at Road America on Saturday. Weather was in Tagliani’s favor that day.
Unlike in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR has no trouble directing Nationwide competitors to slap on some rain tires and continue racing when it rains on road courses, at least as long as there’s enough rain to make the track wet enough. Those who saw Saturday’s Nationwide event know what I’m talking about.
It’s not often the series races in the rain. I could be mistaken, but I’m thinking Saturday’s race was only the third time, ever, that the Nationwide Series has raced in the rain. So, it’s not exactly common. Tagliani has more rain-racing experience, probably, than the rest of yesterday’s Nationwide Series race field, put together, I’m suspecting.
Anyway, Tagliani led 19 laps in the last half of Saturday’s race that went to 53 laps because of a green-white-checker finish. After running out of fuel, he restarted 21st with two laps to go and wound up finishing second.
Other road course specialists have been successful in the past in NASCAR’s second-tier series, but even so, there just weren’t as many “ringers” as usual in Saturday’s race.
When I think about it, the biggest names among the road course specialists dipping their feet in the NASCAR waters circle are retiring from racing, at least for the most part. Ron Fellows and Patrick Carpentier have both retired.
Jacques Villeneuve is still around, but either wasn’t called on by a NASCAR team this weekend or just declined all offers. Most recently, his NASCAR activity came, for the most part, in the Nationwide Series, and he sure didn’t make friends there with his aggressive driving. Did anybody want him back? Did he not want to come back? I don’t know. Maybe he’s devoting more time to his musical career. According to Wikipedia, his 2007 album, the only one mentioned on the site, sold a whopping 836 copies in North America. Maybe he should stick to racing.
Maybe Said is just one of a dying breed of road course specialists willing and in demand to take on NASCAR. Is the “road course ringer” just going out of style? Guess the next generation of road course racers just isn’t as interested in NASCAR, or NASCAR isn’t as interested in them.
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