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Boris Said is one of the most prominent road course ringers in NASCAR.

A road course ringer, also known as road course specialist,[1] road course expert,[2] or a road runner, is a non-NASCAR driver who is hired by a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or Xfinity Series team to race, specifically on road courses.

Current NASCAR national-level road courses include Sonoma, Watkins Glen, the Charlotte Roval, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Mosport. Former road courses include Riverside, Topeka, Mexico City, and Montreal. Typically, only two or three races a year will be a road course in any of the top three divisions, providing limited opportunities for ringers.

NASCAR describes road course ringers as "drivers who specialize in turning both left and right," and says that "perhaps the greatest road-course ringer in NASCAR history might be Dan Gurney" after he won four straight NASCAR races at Riverside.[3] He lapped the field at the 1964 event.[3]

Term originEdit

"Ringer" is a slang term commonly used in sports to describe a particularly good competitor who is brought in to win in a specific match as opposed to competing in the entire schedule. It can also be used to describe a professional athlete who competes in amateur sports; a softball team might have a "ringer" who used to play minor or major league ball. The term does not relate directly to racing and does not refer to the shape of the race course.


Ron Fellows is one of the few ringers to win races in two of NASCAR's top three divisions.

A road course ringer is often brought in if the usual driver either is inexperienced at road courses,[1] or is having a poor season and the team needs an excellent qualifying run to qualify for the race.[1] Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams who are near the bottom of the top 35 in owner points hire a ringer or adept former competitor like Terry Labonte to ensure that they remain in top 35 to keep a guaranteed starting spot in future races. It is not unusual that a lower level team's best finish would be at a road course because of the use of a road course expert.[1] Some full-time drivers are adept at racing on road courses, but they are not considered road course ringers.[1] Road course ringers have competed in championships which race primarily road courses, frequently in IndyCar or sports car racing series such as ALMS or Grand Am.

I think a handful of guys, or 10 guys, 12 guys that really like going to the Glen and like going to Sonoma and look forward to those races. Then there's probably half the field that can take it or leave it. Then there's a quarter of the field that would be fine if we didn't go.[4]

Notable road course ringersEdit

Full-time driversEdit

This is a list of regular NASCAR drivers who have shown particular prowess on road courses, though several of these drivers were full-time road course drivers before transitioning to stock car oval racing.


Dan Gurney won 5 NASCAR races as a ringer, while also succeeding in Formula One. The last win by a road course ringer in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was by Mark Donohue in 1973 in a Penske Racing AMC Matador in the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside.[6]

Current ringers Fellows, Said, and Pruett had combined for 13 Top 10 finishes in their 35 career road course starts (as of 2007).[1] Said has the only two poles by a road course ringer, but only one was in a road course race. Said qualified on the pole for the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Sears Point Raceway and almost won the pole for the 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, when rain cancelled the conclusion of the trials while Said was on the pole. Due to Said not being in the top 43 in points, which is how NASCAR determines the starting lineup in the event rain washes out qualifying, he wound up not making the field and missed the race. Boris Said later won a Nationwide Series race in Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec in August 2010.

Ron Fellows has won the most races by road ringers, winning in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series mostly at Watkins Glen and once in Montreal. He almost won 4 Cup series races, finishing second at the Glen in 1999 & 2004, and dominating at Sonoma in 2001 (with NEMCO) and 2003 (with DEI.

Often, the disadvantage of having the NASCAR race car in itself, with its heavier car, narrower tire, smaller (compared to premium road-racing cars) brakes, (especially with inexperienced drivers) pit stops, and most often longer races (all NASCAR road course races are at least 200 miles/322 kilometers or longer) have hurt the "ringers".

Decline in the Cup SeriesEdit

In the late 2000s, the "ringer" has steadily disappeared from the Sprint Cup Series. Factors contributing to this trend are:[7]

  • The Chase for the Sprint Cup has made it counterproductive for teams to sacrifice the driver points of their full-time drivers in exchange for a possible win by a road course specialist.
  • Because of this, full-time drivers have been forced to become more proficient on road courses, which in turn means that the average NASCAR driver today is a much better road course driver than in the recent past.

The decline of "ringers" was dramatically illustrated at the 2009 Watkins Glen race. Only one road course specialist was substituting for a driver in a fully sponsored, full-season NASCAR team—Patrick Carpentier for Michael Waltrip Racing. He did not compete for Michael Waltrip Racing the following season, though did run for Latitude 43 Motorsports for 8 races.[8] Fellows drove in the race with the part-time Phoenix Racing, Said is now a part-owner of his team, and three other specialists were with lower-tier teams without full sponsorship.

Xfinity and Truck road course ringers in playoff eraEdit

  • The nature of the Xfinity Series races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America often allows road course ringers to participate in those races, since they are not subject to NASCAR's seven-race restriction Cup Series regulars are restricted by NASCAR rule. Also, both events are often held on weekends where Cup Series action is at an oval elsewhere around the country.
  • Similarly, because Cup Series drivers are prohibited from participation in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park because it is in the playoff, a road course ringer is preferred as a substitute driver. Note too a road course ringer may often substitute for a team if they normally use a driver under 18 years old. Despite being 2.459 miles long, NASCAR classifies road courses in the same category as tracks less than 1.25 miles, allowing drivers 16 and 17 years of age to participate in this race.

Dirt track ringerEdit

A variant of the road ringer, the dirt track ringer, has appeared in NASCAR since the Truck Series organized the Eldora Dirt Derby. Teams have often added a dirt track ace, typically a sprint car or dirt late model driver, for the Derby.

Notable drivers have included Scott Bloomquist, Bobby Pierce, Logan Seavey, and Kyle Strickler.

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Borden, Brett (August 10, 2007). "Road race twists bring out new faces". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Network, Mike (June 22, 2008). "Infineon: How Well did the Road Course Ringers Race?". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  3. ^ a b c Aumann, Mark (April 17, 2008). "Gurney was the sport's first 'road-course ringer'". NASCAR. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  4. ^ "Pocono II: Second, third finishers press conference". August 4, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Speedway Media
  6. ^ Bowles, Tom and Heffelfinger, Toni. What's the Call? Road Course Ringers Archived 2006-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, Frontstretch, June 29, 2005
  7. ^ Caraviello, David (2009-08-08). "NASCAR's road ringers reaching end of their era". Retrieved 2009-08-09. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  8. ^ "Driver Patrick Carpentier 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Results -". Retrieved 2017-06-24.