Two Cup teams hire ringers to handle road course
Be prepared to hear the term “road course ringers” if you watch Sunday’s Sprint Cup race from Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 is one of two road course races on the circuit, and the term road course ringers describes those veterans of making left and right turns who replace drivers with only oval experience when the tour moves annually to the twisty circuits in Northern California and Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Only two ringers will be imported for this weekend’s Cup activities: Scott Pruett will replace Reed Sorenson in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 40 Dodge and Ron Fellows will take Regan Smith’s seat in the No. 01 Chevrolet at Dale Earnhardt Inc.
While each team would love to have their ringer win Sunday, their hired gun status is more to earn enough points to keep the cars solidly in the top 35 in owner’s points which guarantees starting spots in the next race.
Smith is ranked 30th (302 points ahead of 36th place) and Sorenson is 32nd (297 points ahead of 36th). The most points a driver can earn in a race is 195.
These driver moves are about survival and not chasing spots in the 12-man Chase.
BIG ONE FOR KURT
This is a critical race for Kurt Busch. He’s ranked 19th in points, 227 outside of the Chase.
This is a must top-five for him. And it comes at a track where Busch caught the attention of Jack Roush when he won a NASCAR Southwest Tour race during the 1999 Cup weekend, while driving for Las Vegas owner Craig Keough.
Ryan Newman started off with the biggest win of his Cup career when he won the Daytona 500.
But after that, Dodges have sucked until Kasey Kahne got hot at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at the end of May. Kahne has won twice in a month, but the next best Dodge is Newman in 17th place.
Newman’s contract is up after this season and, unless miracles happen at his Penske Racing team and with Dodge in general, don’t expect him there next year.
If his performance doesn’t improve he should leave.
DUMP DODGE, PART 2
Chip Ganassi hasn’t forgotten how to win.
His IndyCar driver, Scott Dixon, won this year’s Indy 500 and is the series points leader. Teammate Dan Wheldon is third in points.
In sports car racing, Scott Pruett has won four of six races for Ganassi to lead the points in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
Ganassi’s drivers in the Cup series: Juan Pablo Montoya is 22nd with one top-five finish; Reed Sorenson is 32nd with one top-five.
It’s not like they have forgotten how to drive.
KYLE TO FOCUS ON CUP
Cup points leader Kyle Busch has decided to focus on the Cup series and only drive occasionally in the Nationwide and Truck series; he has fallen to fifth in Nationwide, 243 points behind leader Clint Bowyer. Busch is 13th in trucks.
He told NASCAR.com: "We are so far behind in the Nationwide stuff it's not worth trying to catch back up.
“Clint Bowyer is pretty good and such a consistent driver that it's too hard to catch back up, so we aren't going to stress ourselves trying to make it.
“We are just going to have fun now and win the races."
Gee, I thought he has insisted trying to run three series had no ill effect on his effort in Cup?
There’s been a lot of drama in motor sports already this year, but there’s more to come. Read more in my Friday column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (http://www.lvrj.com/sports/20595939.html)
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