The only problem? No names really jump off the page when it comes to road course ringers. Sure, there are some guys that have had some success, but by and large, if there’s no Allmendinger, Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott in the mix to step down from Cup, the field really is wide open.
Is it a young guy who’s had to suffer through mediocre equipment? Or is it a veteran that can win on sheer experience alone? I went back and looked at every road course race in 2023 up to this point, and I’ve narrowed it down to three guys.
The result might surprise you.
This is not the surprising one.
Justin Allgaier‘s experience alone earns him plenty of credit when it comes to road racing. Seat time is one thing that you can’t coach in a driver, and Allgaier has plenty of it on everything from super speedways to road courses and short tracks.
If you take the top three Xfinity regular finishers in each road course, Allgaier has been inside that group five times already this season. A road course win has eluded him, but more times than not, staying in the mix on road courses can play out better over the long run than winning one every so often.
Maybe I misspoke when I said nobody jumps off the page, because Sam Mayer certainly should. His two wins this season have come at road courses and he would have had a third if it weren’t for Ty Gibbs dominating the last 15 laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this year.
In fact, according to Mayer, road racing is his wheelhouse. His background in karting got him started from a very young age.
In an article on RoadAmerica.com, Mayer explained that he grew up racing on road courses and that Road America was one he always looked forward to. The interview took place before his eventual win, so it’s safe to say the Franklin, Wisconsin, native called his shot.
Mayer is the runaway favorite as the sport’s next road course ringer if you ask me, but there’s another driver that’s been outperforming his car for the latter half of the season, especially when things have gotten twisty.
Parker Kligerman was able to sneak his way into the playoffs this year in what most would consider mid-field at best equipment. His 2023 season got off to a slow start when it comes to road courses with a 30th-place finish at Circuit of the Americas and a 14th place finish at Portland International Raceway, but since then, the 33-year-old has been on an absolute tear on the road courses.
It started with a fifth-place finish at Sonoma Raceway, then on to a ninth-place finish at the Chicago street course. Kligerman wasn’t done, though, as he followed that up with a second at Road America, seventh at the Indy road course and third at Watkins Glen International.
Kligerman’s playoffs have been up and down, but after a second-place finish at Texas, the Greenwich, Connecticut, native has a chance at his first ever Xfinity win this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. It begs the question, if Kligerman and Mayer were to switch cars, who would be faster?
There you have it, then. A wily veteran, a confident young driver and a wheelman out for redemption. It’s sure more interesting than watching Allmendinger run circles around the field, isn’t it?
About the author
Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.
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