One of the exciting aspects of races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen are the road course specialists, also known as "road course ringers," that are brought in by teams to try to get a good finish and maybe even steal a victory. There are five such drivers competing this weekend at Sonoma, a number limited by the Nationwide Series' event on the legendary Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, WI (including my personal favorite, Ron Fellows).
The most popular of the ringers is Boris Said, thanks to his fro of hair and his gregarious nature. Said is driving the No. 32 Ford for Frank Stoddard this weekend with sponsorship from Rick Hendrick's car dealerships. Said won the pole for the Sonoma race in 2003 and added a top qualifying effort at Daytona in July 2006. Said has vowed to cut his famous mane if he is able to win a Sprint Cup race, which would create an interesting decision for his wig-wearing fan-club, the "Said-Heads."
Trans-Am champion Tomy Drissi is racing the No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet this weekend. Drissi, a veteran of SCCA road racing, will be making his Sprint Cup debut this weekend after being deemed ineligible to race last year by NASCAR.
His replacement for that race was Bondurant School of High Performance Driving instructor Chris Cook. Cook has run two Cup races in his career, including last year's race in the No. 37 Ford. Both of those starts have come at Sonoma, while he has also run a handful of Nationwide Series road races. Cook will be driving Randy Humphrey's No. 19 Toyota this weekend, usually a start-and-park entry.
Veteran Brian Simo is driving Inception Motorsports' No. 30 Toyota, normally piloted by David Stremme. Simo, like Drissi a former champion in Trans-Am, finished tenth in a Richard Childress Racing-owned car at Sonoma in 2005. Remember the old "No Fear" clothing you used to see everywhere? That was the brainchild of Simo and his twin brother, Mark.
The fifth road racer is David Mayhew, who is competing full-time in the K&N West Series this season. Mayhew ran a few Camping World Truck Series races and one Nationwide Series race for Kevin Harvick's old team. Last year he qualified Phil Parsons' car for Michael McDowell, though McDowell drove the car in the race. This weekend, with McDowell running at Road America for Joe Gibbs Racing, Mayhew gets the shot to race the Parsons-owned No. 98 Ford this weekend.
Mayhew, Simo, and Cook all have to qualify for the race on time, while Said and Drissi are locked into the event because their teams are locked in via a top-35 standing in the owner points. Those who get to start the race will be looking to become the first ringer to win a Cup Series race since the legendary Mark Donohue took the 1973 season-opener in Riverside, CA.