In some racing museum somewhere, you may find an endangered species. Typically, this species had its origins in sports cars series or perhaps some form of open wheel racing. Critics would argue that NASCAR racing on road courses is like a pig doing ballet.
Among the old time legends of the sport, you would struggle to find one proficient at road course racing. Dale Earnhardt won only once on a road course- at Watkins Glen. By comparison- Richard Petty had six, Bobby Allison five, and David Pearson four. To be fair, short tracks ruled during the salad days of most of these drivers.
When road courses appeared on the schedule, the now endangered specie known as the “road course ringer” appeared. Dan Gurney was one of the originals. In more recent lore, there was Boris Said, Scott Pruett and Ron Fellows. Even though he never won in the Cup series, Said has long been considered a road course racing guru to the full-timers.
While some modern day drivers have not embraced racing on tracks of right and left turns, many top contenders now consider a win at a track like Sonoma or Watkins Glen a badge of honor. Heck, one recent article reveals that Clint Bowyer calls Sonoma his “favorite track.” Yes, Clint Bowyer- hardly your stereotypical road course guy.
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were among the best at road courses with their open wheel backgrounds. Kyle Busch has multiple wins at such tracks. Kevin Harvick is usually a contender. AJ Allmendinger- a former champ car driver- is a journeyman who emerges from the crowd when road courses pop up on the schedule.
Nowadays, being a top driver on a road course is a sign you’re a true championship contender. It means you’re in a position to win anywhere. Because of aerodynamics being what they are, a number of fans who wouldn’t ordinarily consider themselves road course fans suddenly love it for the quality of racing.
It’s one more sign that this isn’t your daddy’s NASCAR.