It wasn’t that long ago that when the Sprint Cup Series came to the Sonoma Raceway you would see a whole crop of drivers you might never have heard of before. Ron Fellows, Boris Said, Scott Pruett, and PJ Jones just to name a few. These were the road course ringers that would come in and try to help out lower tiered teams make up some points in the owner standings.
When the Sprint Cup Series ran yesterday’s Toyota Save Mart 300, there was only three of those road ringers in the field. The best finishing was Boris Said, driving for Go FAS Racing placing 35th. Tomy Drissi finished 38th for Jay Robinson Racing, and Alex Kennedy brought the Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet home in the 39th place.
Not very impressive finishes for those drivers skilled in the art of road racing, and honestly not that much better than their normal drivers might have placed. But that’s the key right there, those teams do not have permanent drivers week to week, so they have the seats available to plug in a road veteran.
One team that I thought was on the radar to be using a road replacement was BK Racing with Ryan Truex. Truex has struggled in his first season in the Sprint Cup Series, failing to make races being his biggest issue. With only 43 entries this week, meaning he was guaranteed in, there was no use for a replacement, Truex finished 41st on Sunday.
Times have changed a lot in the Cup Series where road racing gets as much emphasis as any other race. Drivers take the time to learn more about road racing, such as Carl Edwards who thanked Boris Said for his help in victory lane after winning the race. Names you wouldn’t expect to hear called as road racers are now ending up in victory lane, before Edwards it was Martin Truex, Jr., and before him was Clint Bowyer.
Road races have become not only some of the most entertaining racing on the circuit, but have become another stop. There’s no worry from drivers about coming there, because it could represent their lone chance of getting in the Chase with a win.
When the series gets to Watkins Glen in August, I’m sure we’ll see a few road ringers, but like at Sonoma Sunday, don’t expect them to do much. The days of a driver like Boris Said or Scott Pruett coming in and running in the top-5 are over.