Tha Sports Junkies 101

What Makes Sonoma Unique



Sonoma Raceway’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 is a yearly standout on the NASCAR schedule. Instead of a traditional oval track, the sport’s stars will compete on a very tight and technical road course. Sonoma is in a demographic market relatively untapped by NASCAR. This race is the most northwest of any on the circuit. Lastly, a different breed of drivers will attempt to qualify for this race.

These “road course ringers” are a flashback into NASCAR’s past. Noted ringers of yesteryear included names such as AJ Foyt, Dan Gurney, and Mark Donohue. Some of the ringers slated to race this weekend include Boris Said, Billy Johnson, and Israeli star Alon Day.

6 drivers in total with extensive road racing backgrounds will make their season debut this weekend. This list includes the aforementioned Said, Johnson, and Day, as well as Josh Billicki, Kevin O’Connell, and Tommy Regan.

Recent history does not serve well for road course ringers. The last ringer to win a road course race was Mark Donohue at Riverside in 1973. In addition, due to the Playoff format, fewer teams risk running a certain driver for a single race. It is more practical to have a single driver all year.

Ringers have found more recent success in the Xfinity and Truck Series. Canadian Ron Fellows has multiple road course wins in each series. Road racing aces usually have a difficult time adapting to heavier stock cars, as they are polar opposites of  “open wheel” cars. Narrower tires, smaller brakes, pit stops, and longer race distances also mark major differences between NASCAR and open wheel racing.

None of the road course experts competing this weekend are with top notch teams or equipment. The highest funded car for a ringer will be the Richard Petty Motorsports 43 car for Billy Johnson. However, expect these 6 road course ringers to have great influence on this weekend’s race. With some creative pit strategy or success in qualifying, an upset driver could end up in Sonoma’s Victory Lane.