By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Since the dawn of NASCAR, road course specialists, also known as ‘ringers’ have attempted to upset the regulars in NASCAR’s National Series. However, in recent years, the ringers have struggled to finish inside the top-15 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The only exception to this being Max Papis’ 15th-place finish in 2013 at Watkins Glen when he was subbing for the injured Tony Stewart.
Some have said that the days of road course ringers are numbered because NASCAR’s drivers have become better road racers. That is just one of the factors. Another factor is that quality rides are just not available to the ‘ringers’ in NASCAR’s Premier Series compared to the past. I personally, see a place where the road course specialists can still shine.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, ‘ringers’ have proven that they do not have to be in a front-running ride to run well. In yesterday’s Mid-Ohio Challenge, Andy Lally, who earned his first career NASCAR top-five finish, was in SS-Greenlight Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro. Lally earned the team their third top-five and seventh-top 10 in its 12-year history. He also brought Bobby Dotter a top-10 at Road America in 2014.
Lally earned praise from NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin,
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) August 12, 2017
Further back in the field, ‘ringers’ such as Anthony Kumpen (NASCAR Whelen Euro Series), Enrique Baca (NASCAR Peak Mexico Series), and Tim Cowen, brought home finishes of 16th, 18th, and 20th respectively. What makes these finishes impressive is the fact that Kumpen’s Precision Performance Motorsports No. 46 is a part-time team. For Baca and Cowen, their Motorsports Business Management cars earned team-owner Carl Long his sixth and seventh top-20 finishes in the team’s history.
Long’s team utilizes older, under-supported Chevrolets, Fords, Toyotas, and ‘zombie-Dodges.’ Last year, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series regular, Alon Day, turned heads when he ran inside the top-five and top-10 in a four-year Dodge. Day finished in 13th after a last lap spin, earning the only top-15 finish to date for Long’s team.
‘Ringers’ have also had success in fully-funded cars. James Davison (IMSA) finished fourth at Mid-Ohio in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry. Two years ago, Alex Tagliani finished second for Team Penske at Mid-Ohio, fifth for Brad Keselowski Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
These successes in both funded and under-funded rides show that road course specialists still have a place in NASCAR. It may no longer be in the Premier Series, but the show they put on competing with series regulars in the Xfinity and Truck Series is still exciting to watch.
This writer, for one, loves to see the different stories each ‘ringer’ brings, whether as a favorite or an underdog. With just two road course races left in the 2017 season, the Johnsonville 180 at Road America August 27, for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the Chevrolet Silverado 250 September 3, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the excitement ‘ringers’ bring will only continue.