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If they really are ‘ringers’ wouldn’t they win once in a while?

By admin | August 6, 2009

By Richard Allen

Whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to either the Infineon Raceway in California or the Watkins Glen Raceway in New York the term ‘road course ringers’ is often thrown out by the folks covering the races.

A ringer is someone brought in to assure that a certain team will win an event.

Ringers are often brought in for company golf tournaments. The manager of a particular company might hire a ‘consultant’, who just happens to be a former college golfer, the week before a four man scramble tournament is to be played. After the tournament is over, that ‘consultation’ period is over until the next golf tournament.

A church may miraculously find a former minor league baseball player to join their softball team just before a big game against another church from across town even though the old ball player isn’t exactly a regular attendee on Sundays.

Ringers insure victory. So if that is the case, these drivers who are so often called ringers are misnamed.

Boris Said, Ron Fellows, Brian Simo, P.J. Jones and Andy Lally are among those who this weekend in Watkins Glen are either replacing another driver or will show up with a team that does not race every week.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these drivers being there. It’s just that they are misnamed. Perhaps they should be called ‘road course runners’ or ‘guys who run well on road courses but not quite well enough’. Nah, those titles are a bit wordy and don’t have quite the flare of ‘road course ringers’.

No road course ‘ringer’ has ever won a Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen or Infineon. Granted, Fellows and Said have won in either the Camping World Trucks or the Nationwide Series. But in the top series both have had good runs but neither has broken through with a win.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s guys like Mark Donahue, Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones won on the road course at Riverside, California. They could have been rightfully called ringers.

One thing to consider is that NASCAR has absorbed many of the drivers who a few years ago would have been brought in to serve as ‘ringers’. Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose are drivers who have extensive road course backgrounds and would not have become NASCAR regulars a few years ago. But now, because of the money and stability in NASCAR those drivers are in stock cars full time.

This is not to say that one of the above mentioned ‘ringers’ can not win on Sunday. It is just that the Cup regulars have such a huge advantage in that they work with their teams 36 races per year rather than two races per year. The regulars know the cars better and all the nuances of making them work. And, the regulars are not such bad road racers anymore. Many of them have become quite skilled as a matter of fact.

Will a so called ‘ringer’ win in Watkins Glen? Probably not. And even though in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter what they are called, ‘ringers’ is not really the appropriate term, until one of them actually wins.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

4 Responses to “If they really are ‘ringers’ wouldn’t they win once in a while?”

  1. Justin Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I think it is fair to call them ringers, simply because they guarantee a better finish, maybe not a win, but a better finish. Look at Waltrip. He is terrible on the road course, and knows he is only going to finish 30th anyways. So he brings in a “ringer”, and instantly turns a 30th or worse, into a 15th or better.

    I do understand what your reasoning is behind taking “ringer” off the table, so perhaps they should be “road course specialists” or “road course experts”? Any thoughts…?

  2. midasmicah Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    When was the last time a “ringer” won a road course race”? And I don’t mean a cup regular. Like a lot of nas$car “myths”, this is a misnomer.

  3. Abe Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Ringers do not have the best equipment to run at these events. Any reasonable driver can win with better equipment.

  4. danno Says:
    August 8th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    The real motive behind many of these road-course driving cameos isn’t necessarily winning, although you do rightly mention the lower-series triumphs of Fellows and Said. Those two, experienced and well respected in the garage, can still threaten to win in Cup cars if circumstances fall their way.

    For other teams, just getting enough owner points to finish 35th and automatically qualify is a huge incentive to bring in a specialist. You could also look at how most contingency prize money is awarded, usually to teams in the top 25 in points.

    All’s fair in the fight to survive in NASCAR.