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Do “Road Course Ringers” Even Work in the Cup Series?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Throughout most of NASCAR history, road course racing was more of a novelty that full-time drivers begrudgingly accepted. As a result, teams relied on “Road course ringers” to get through road course races, but, the role of a ringer has changed in recent years. Now, it’s an opportunity for road course aces to compete against NASCAR stars. In this era of incredible parity, how do these “Ringers” fare in the NASCAR Cup Series?

  • For this article, we will look solely at the Next-Gen era. The Next-Gen era has seen insanely close competition, and ringers have a better chance to shine in one-off efforts as a result.
  • We will consider a “Ringer” as any non-full-time Cup Series driver making a start with significant success and experience on road courses. Full-time Cup Series drivers who thrive on road courses will not be counted. For example, A.J. Allmendinger’s Charlotte Roval win in 2023 will not count for this list.
  • Fans love to see “Ringers” make a start on a road course. It’s an opportunity to see how Cup Series stars fare against some of the best drivers in other motorsports.

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Ringer Stats

The table below shows the combined statistics of all “Road Course Ringers” in the Cup Series from 2022 onwards, both the individual seasons and combined.

YearWinsTop-5sTop-10sAvg. FinishLaps LedRingers Per Race
202202424.9325.0
202311223.8102.7
Combined13624.542 3.8

Analysis

Generally speaking, “Road Course Ringers” have struggled in the Next-Gen era in the NASCAR Cup Series. Two drivers recorded all 6 top-10 finishes. A.J. Allmendinger had 4 top-10s in 2022 (he was not full-time in 2023) and Shane Van Gisbergen took home 2 top-10s and a win at the Chicago Street Race in 2023. Both drivers also account for all 42 laps led.

We can chalk this up primarily to equipment. Allmendinger and SVG were racing for Kaulig Racing and Trackhouse respectively, each is a race-winning organization. Other ringers drove for teams like Rick Ware Racing, Live Fast, and Team Hezeberg, and all have never won a Cup Series race.

Occasionally, a top team team such as 23XI Racing and RCR will field a third car. RCR did so for Brodie Kostecki at Indianapolis in 2023, and 23XI did the same at the same track for Kamui Kobayashi. Regardless, it was each driver’s first start in the Cup Series, and it’s tough to jump in that quickly. Drivers like SVG are the exception, not the rule.

It’s tough to jump into the Cup Series and compete up front immediately. Plenty of world-renowned racers like Kostecki, Kobayashi, Jenson Button, Mike Rockafeller, and others have all struggled to get a grip on a NASCAR stock car. Will that trend continue at COTA?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts