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NASCAR road course ringer trend is alive and well
By Ryan McCafferty,
Just a few years ago, it seemed that NASCAR's fad of "road course ringers" — drivers from other racing disciplines who would cross over to race the tracks with both left- and right-hand turns — was dead. The days of Boris Said, Ron Fellows and Scott Pruett mixing it up with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were over, and no one was here to replace them.
Ever since the series added an influx of road courses to the schedule in 2021, however, the ringer trend has seen a full revival. That has continued this year, with two major names from overseas announcing Cup Series debut plans in recent weeks.
Kamui Kobayashi, a former Formula 1 driver who competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship, is set to run the at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course on Aug. 13. Kobayashi, of Japanese nationality, is a three-time champion in the WEC.
Just a few weeks earlier, New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen was announced to be running the Chicago street course race on July 2, which will be NASCAR's first street race ever. Van Gisbergen has racked up 76 career wins and three titles in Australia's V8 Supercars Tour.
Van Gisbergen and Kobayashi will be joining names such as F1 champs Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, and sports car stars Jordan Taylor and Joey Hand, as crossover names who've made their Cup Series debuts over the course of these past few seasons. There are sure to be more to come, too.
After a period in which the schedule had gotten stale and there were few fresh faces in the garage, the NASCAR Cup Series has arguably never been more diverse than it is now. Stars from all around the world want to give American stock car racing a try, and with more unique tracks on the calendar than ever, race teams are giving them opportunities.