NASCAR »

Is the 'ringer factor' still relevant to NASCAR?

How do you flesh out the entry list for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race?

Hold it on a road course.

On the circuits where right turns won't necessarily get you in trouble, you'll routinely see drivers who rarely appear on the staple of stock car racing - the ovals.

Sunday's race at Watkins Glen won't be an exception, with P.J. Jones, Ron Fellows and Brian Simo entered in the race. Sports car ace Andy Lally will make his Cup debut in a second car fielded by Kevin Buckler. For the second time this season, Patrick Carpentier will take the wheel from Michael Waltrip for a road-course event.

Not that long ago, the so-called road-course 'ringers' were capable of contending for victories in Cup races. Fellows has come closest, having finished second at Watkins Glen in 1999 and 2004. If the ringers were a factor, so were the Cup drivers with polished road-racing skills — but you didn't need two hands to count them.

Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon invariably appeared at the top of the list of favorites to win on a road course.

Recently, however, road-course events have been much more competitive. It still helps to have a road-racing background, as Marcos Ambrose proved by driving from the rear to consecutive third-place finishes in the most recent races at Watkins Glen and Infineon Raceway. But road-course skills are no longer a guarantee of relative success, as Fellows and Boris Said have found in recent races.

Yes, testing and practice have improved skill levels throughout the field, and yes, drivers from oval backgrounds are far less hesitant to mix it up with the ringers than they used to be. If there's one factor, however, that has taken an advantage away from the ringers and road-course savvy Cup drivers, it's NASCAR's new racecar.

That, at least, is the way Jeff Gordon sees it.

“Yeah, I think this car has closed up the gap quite a bit,” Gordon said. “It's just hard to have much of an edge over the competition anywhere we go, and it shows up as well on the road courses. Everything NASCAR has done has really put us into a box as far as our transmissions and obviously with the car.”

Perhaps coincidentally, Gordon hasn't won on a road course since 2006. The new car has been in use on road courses ever since. Then again, Gordon was leading at the Glen two years ago when he spun in turn one with two laps left, in essence handing the victory to Stewart.

“For me, if I get out in front, don't wheel-hop getting into turn one and spin out with two or three laps to go — that's what I'm going to be working on,” Gordon said facetiously.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Interstate Batteries Toyota, during the NASCAR XFinity Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway on May 17, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 16, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Saturday night, May 16, 2015, in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag ahead of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Dollar General Toyota, to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 15, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag ahead of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Dollar General Toyota, to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 15, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Dollar General Toyota, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 15, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Dodge Motorsports Dodge, during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway on May 7, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota, and Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, lead the field during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway on May 8, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #18 M&M`s Red Nose Day Toyota, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 8, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place Sunday, April 19, 2015 in the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place Sunday, April 19, 2015 in the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet, races Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2015 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.