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Woody: Gentleman, Start Your Ringers

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 18 2010

Kasey Kahne led the field at the start of the 2008 race at Infineon. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Well, it’s off to Snore-noma for Sunday’s race at Infineon Raceway, a meandering 1.99-mile road course shaped like a NASCAR fuel can.

I’ve never been a fan of road-course racing. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different from the traditional oval-track tussles most of us old-time (read: ancient) fans grew up on down South. By the same token, I’m sure most folks out in Sonoma, California, don’t care for hot-buttered grits and Charlie Daniels.

Yes, I realize that NASCAR has been running a handful of road races for decades. For a lot of years I traveled to Riverside, Calif., to cover Darrell Waltrip’s season-ending championship showdowns with Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and other titans of the era.

Back then there were no TV press box monitors, which meant it was impossible to keep up with what was going on down there on the long and winding road.

Cars would rumble past the press box, disappear over a sand dune, and a few minutes later re-appear at the other end of the track – or at least most of them would. Sometimes a car or two would be missing and we’d have no idea what had happened to it. Wreck? Engine? Beamed up by aliens?

Now, thanks to the unblinking eye in the TV tower, we know if someone is mired up to their hubcaps in a back-stretch sand pit. But other than that, not much has changed.

Also, I’ve never liked the notion of bringing in ringers for the road courses. Ringers are fine in horseshoes but not in racing.

What’s next – using designated hitters for short-track races?

As bad as ringers are, at least NASCAR has had the gumption not to follow the IRL’s goofy lead and designate duel championships – one for road courses and one for round tracks.

Then again, if enough team keep bringing in road-racing ringers, maybe having a separate championship would be the fair thing to do. NASCAR could award a Regular Racers championship along with a Road Ringers title.

I used to think road racing was about as exciting as watching somebody stuck in a sand pit, but I have to admit that some of the recent races have been fairly exciting. It’s fun to see the regulars mix it up with the ringers.

So I’ll take back that “Snore-noma” crack and give the roadies the benefit of the doubt going into Sunday’s race. With the increased pressure created by the urgency of the Championship Chase, we might be treated to some outbreaks of road rage.

And considering how much complaining some drivers have been doing lately, maybe a visit to California’s whine country is appropriate.

Nevertheless, I’ll be glad when the circuit returns to circles. I like my stock car racing like my pork chops – spicy, round and Southern fried.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 18 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • gopapa says:

    Larry, if you refer to the road courses as being snoozers, then how do you really feel about races like we saw at MIS last week and at Pocono?? You must not be able to watch those at all without falling out.
    I see a lot of fans suggesting that a road course race should be added to the Chase, and I couldn’t agree more.

    BTW, the N/W race at Road America turned out to be pretty intriguing. Hardly a straight piece left on the track when all was said and done. They sure were beatin’ and bangin’ for the second half of the race.

  • john says:

    I’ll whine about Road Course Ringers when they fill the top 5 spots in the finising order every race. Until then they’re just dudes trying to keep poor cars in the top 35.

    I eagerly look forward to every road course race on the Cup, Nationwide, Canadian Tire and East/West Pro Series schedules. The chance to see what for many is the most exciting road racing in North America, it only happens a handful of times a season. To see road racing that CLOSE on a regular basis is rare, with the cars nose to tail, and seeing a nice DIFFERENT variety of drivers running in the Top 10 all race.

    Seeing drivers throw around 3600 lb, 900 horsepower stockcars with very little rubber under them, on a road course? Awesome. It separates the men from the boys.

    The Canadian Tire Series up here is even better on road courses, because the cars are about 2800 lbs, and make about 500 horsepower, but they’re on bias ply tires, so they can really toss them around, slide them around. Seeing those cars doing 180 mph down the Andretti Straight at Mosport is awesome. Or the street course at Trois-Rivieres, inches from concrete and armco in every corner.

    I say add more road courses to the Cup schedule! VIR would be great, as would Lime Rock.

    • Richard in N.C. says:

      John, Very good!
      I enjoy road racing and am a fan of several of the “ringers,” Ron Fellows and Boris Said in particular, so I really enjoy seeing them run in NASCAR. I do believe the ringers over the years deserve some of the credit for the NASCAR regulars getting better on road courses and making the road races more competitive.

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