Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Let’s Meet the COTA Road Course Ringers

This weekend, NASCAR heads to Texas for its first road course event of the season.

As such, there are plenty of road-racing ringers who are joining the contingent of full-time competitors at Circuit of the Americas.

So what is a road course ringer?

Historically, the NASCAR schedule is comprised mostly of ovals with a few road courses sprinkled in. A team will often employ a driver from a different racing series who specializes in road courses (casually known as a ringer) to hopefully give the organization a better showing in the race.

This weekend, there is certainly an impressive roster of ringers, from Formula 1 world champions and IMSA stars to NTT IndyCar Series drivers, and even former Cup champions.

Jenson Button

Button is a semi-retired, 43-year-old driver from Great Britain who competed in F1 between 2000 and 2017, scoring an impressive 15 wins, eight poles, 50 podiums and the 2009 championship.

He has also competed in sports cars, endurance rally racing and Nitro Rallycross, and will drive with Hendrick Motorsports in the Garage 56 entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Now Button makes his first foray into stock cars in preparation for his Le Mans entry. The Brit will pilot the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford in a partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Kimi Raikkonen

Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks has tabbed Raikkonen once again for his Project 91 program; a third Trackhouse entry set to run part time with an array of world-renowned drivers.

Raikkonen joins Button as the second F1 champion entered in the field this week, having claimed the title in 2007. The Finn also captured 21 victories and 103 podiums in an F1 career that spanned from 2001 to 2021.

The driver known as the Iceman competed in the Project 91 entry at Watkins Glen International, finishing 37th due to a crash halfway through.

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Raikkonen’s second career Cup start this weekend is his only known NASCAR start this season.

Jordan Taylor

Chase Elliott‘s leg injury has paved the way for Taylor to make his first foray into NASCAR. Taylor is a full-time competitor in IMSA, boasting an impressive resume that includes three class championships, a class victory in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, two 24 Hour of Daytona victories and 24 total IMSA wins.

The personable 31-year-old will replace fellow substitute driver Josh Berry this weekend in Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports. Taylor has been testing Hendrick’s 24 Hours of Le Mans cars this season.

Conor Daly

Like Taylor, Daly also has a ride in another series, but the IndyCar competitor also has a part-time seat in the Cup Series. Daly drivers the No. 50 Chevrolet for The Money Team Racing, an organization co-owned by legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Daly’s only other NASCAR start this season was a heroic effort to get his little team qualified for the Daytona 500. Daly’s previous stock car experience includes his Cup debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL last season and a handful of NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series starts between 2018 and 2021.

The Indiana native and son of former F1 driver Derek Daly has made nearly 100 IndyCar starts since 2013, including a pole at Iowa Speedway and a podium at the Raceway at Belle Isle.

Jimmie Johnson

It’s almost ludicrous to call a seven-time NASCAR champion a road course ringer, but Johnson is just that this week. After competing in IndyCar for the past two seasons, the future Hall of Famer returns to the series he called home for 19 seasons for a part-time role in 2023.

He competes in the part-time No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet, an organization that the 47-year-old co-owns, alongside the full-time entries of Erik Jones and Noah Gragson.

Johnson will also compete at Le Mans in the Garage 56 entry alongside Button and sports car ace Mike Rockenfeller later this year.

Josh Bilicki

Like Johnson, Bilicki also has a robust resume of NASCAR experience, having made 176 starts across the three national series. Bilicki competed in SCCA sports cars and Spec Miata before coming to NASCAR.

The Wisconsin native will pilot the No. 78 Chevrolet this weekend for Live Fast Motorsports, his first Cup start of 2023.

Ringers in the Xfinity Race

Undercard races on road courses are also no stranger to road course ringers.

Miguel Paludo leads the fleet of ringers in the Xfinity race. The Brazilian has won four championships in the Porsche GT3 Cup Series and competed full time in the Truck Series between 2011 and 2013. He will drive a fifth entry for JR Motorsports, the No. 88.

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Emerling-Gase Motorsports will put ringers in both of its seats this weekend. Parker Chase, a full-time competitor in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series, will wheel the No. 35 and former Spec Miata driver Brad Perez is in the No. 53.

On the note of Spec Miata, the 2017 champion Preston Pardus is back with his family-owned No. 50 Chevrolet. 2017 NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion and noted road race Alex Labbe is in the No. 92 for the suspended Josh Williams.

Two ringers will attempt to make their series debuts this weekend: Cameron Lawrence in the MBM Motorsports No. 66 and Argentinian open-wheel driver Baltazar Leguizamon in the CHK Racing No. 74.

Ringers in the Truck Series

Former IndyCar driver Ed Jones leads the contingent of ringers in the Truck Series. It would be his first NASCAR event of any kind should he qualify, and he’ll pilot the No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet in his debut.

Another ringer debut is Dale Quarterley, a multi-time AMA Superbike champion and occasional ARCA Menards Series competitor. Quarterley will wheel the No. 46 for G2G Racing, though the equipment is his own.

Mason Filippi is a teammate to Chase in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. The 24-year-old will wheel the No. 34 for Reaume Brothers Racing.

TC America driver Colin Garrett is entered in the No. 30 On Point Motorsports Toyota and SPEARS Southwest Tour Series competitor Logan Bearden will drive the No. 22 AM Racing Ford.

Finally, Joe Nemechek‘s NEMCO Motorsports returns for the first time since 2021 with driver Sam LeComte. Nemechek and LeComte are both regular competitors in vintage racing.

About the author

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

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Alex Curtis

Here is the long list of road course ringers who have won a NASCAR road course race: Mark Donohue and Ron Fellows. Most of the “ringers” provide comic relief as they spin off course again and again or run into the back of other cars. Kimi did run well at Watkins Glen until taken out in a wreck, hopefully he does well.

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