As NASCAR prepares to hit the Daytona International Speedway road course for the first time, many teams have prepared special drivers for the weekend. Across the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, “road course ringers” will provide their services to help their teams in the owners’ points.
Initial entry lists for the races were released on Monday. The Xfinity Series’ UNOH 188 will take place on Saturday, while Sunday will see a doubleheader with the Trucks’ Sunoco 159 and Cup’s Go Bowling 235.
The Truck Series, set for its first and only road course race of the year with the Sunoco 159, will see eight drivers make their season débuts. Three of the ringers have no prior experience in NASCAR.
Reaume Brothers Racing‘s two trucks will be driven by a pair of Florida natives in Bobby Kennedy (#00) and Bryan Collyer (#33), both of whom will compete in NASCAR for the first time. Kennedy has raced in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and Trans-Am Series, while Collyer has competed in SCCA and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
Mike Skeen will drive the #8 for NEMCO Motorsports. Skeen is coming off a rain-shortened Trans-Am TA2 class victory at Road America, his third win of the season. The North Carolina native’s lone Truck Series start came in 2013 at the inaugural Canadian Tire Motorsports Park round, a race that ended with a confrontation between him and Max Papis; Skeen finished thirteenth. Five years later, he finished twenty-eighth in the Xfinity event at Watkins Glen International for JD Motorsports.
The GMS Racing #24 truck will be piloted by Kris Wright. The 2018 IMSA Prototype Challenge LMP3 champion who was initially planning to race in the Euroformula Open Championship in 2020, Wright joined GMS in early August for a part-time ARCA Menards Series schedule. His stock car involvement began in June when he scored top-five finishes in the ARCA Menards Series West doubleheader at Utah Motorsports Campus.
While not necessarily a road course ringer, dirt track ace Mark Smith will drive the #42 for Niece Motorsports; the sprint car driver’s first Truck start was a fifteenth at Eldora Speedway in 2019. With the 2020 Eldora race cancelled, it is assumed Smith’s Daytona RC entry will fill in that gap. One of his team-mates is Carson Hocevar in the #40, who will race for the first time in 2020; Hocevar had joined the team for a nine-race 2020 schedule before the pandemic.
On Point Motorsports will field the #30 for Scott Lagasse Jr., who last raced a truck in 2018. The Florida native has typically run the Daytona oval events at the Xfinity level, scoring a best finish of sixth in 2017; he finished twenty-second and twenty-third in his two career Xfinity road races at Mid-Ohio and Road America that year. The #30 is typically driven by Cup Series driver Brennan Poole, who has exhausted his available Truck starts; Danny Bohn will take over for the Truck Series’ next race at Dover International Speedway and the rest of the season.
Trans-Am driver Roger Reuse has exclusively raced on road courses in the NASCAR national series. He and his younger brother Bobby were team-mates at Jordan Anderson Racing for the 2018 and 2019 Mosport events, while Bobby scored a top-twenty finish in his Truck début at the Canadian circuit in 2017 with Beaver Motorsports. For Daytona, Roger will drive the #49 CMI Motorsports truck.
With his home race cancelled, Canada’s Alex Tagliani will return to Kyle Busch Motorsports‘ #51 for Daytona. The longtime IndyCar Series driver-turned-NASCAR road ringer and Pinty’s Series veteran has three top tens and two poles in five career Truck starts, all at Mosport; he finished second in the 2019 race. Although the Daytona road course will feature a new chicane coming to the start/finish line, Tagliani is no stranger to the track, having raced the Rolex 24 in 2007 and 2014.
“We finished second last year with the No. 51 Tundra at Mosport and now Kyle and everyone at KBM has provided me with an amazing opportunity to go to the road course at Daytona and try to finish one position better and add another banner to the rafters in their shop,” Tagliani said in a team release. “There are a lot of guys in the Truck Series that have been able to make a lot of laps around Mosport the last few years, which is a challenging road course, so the laps they’ve made there in practice and the race are going to pay dividends at a track like Daytona and it’s not going to be a walk in the park. I love the track and it’s going to be a good battle and exciting for the fans in attendance and watching on television.”
The UNOH 188 will be the third road course race of the season and the second on an infield road course after July’s Pennzoil 150 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nine of the drivers entered can be considered road ringers, many of whom competed at Indianapolis or the previous weekend’s Road America event.
Longtime NASCAR driver Mike Wallace returns to JD Motorsports‘ #0 after running Indianapolis and Road America, finishing twenty-fourth in both races. He returned to the Xfinity Series after a five-year absence.
Last Saturday, Andy Lally finished fifth at Road America in his first NASCAR race in two years. The former Cup Rookie of the Year returns to Our Motorsports‘ #02 for Daytona.
IMSA‘s Jade Buford, who made his NASCAR début at Indianapolis in the #07 for SS-Green Light Racing, rejoins the team for Daytona. He finished fourteenth at Indianapolis, followed by a nineteenth-place run at Road America for JD.
Brandon Gdovic finished twelfth at Indianapolis in the part-time Sam Hunt Racing #26. The former ARCA East driver ran the 2016 Rolex 24 for Performance Tech Motorsports, whom Wright drove for in the 2019 race.
Driving DGM Racing‘s #36 will be Preston Pardus, who is two-for-two in Xfinity top tens in 2020 after finishing tenth and eighth in the two road dates. He hails from New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Pardus tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, “I always dreamed of racing a stock car on the high banks of Daytona as a kid! Never in those dreams was it wrestling one of these beasts around the road course… Can’t wait for my first hometown race in NASCAR on Saturday after the great run last weekend in the DGM 36!”
Scott Heckert finished thirty-third at Road America with B.J. McLeod Motorsports. He has served as the team’s road course ringer since 2016.
Among the NASCAR newcomers are Earl Bamber in Richard Childress Racing‘s #21 and Harold Crooms in MBM Motorsports‘ #66. Bamber has enjoyed great success in sports cars as an IMSA, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and FIA World Endurance Championship champion, and is expected by many to be one of the favourites in the UNOH 188. On the other extreme, Crooms has short track experience such as the CARS Super Late Model Tour and CRA Pro Late Models.
Crooms will be partnered at MBM with Bobby Reuse, who was initially scheduled to run the Truck race for Clay Greenfield Motorsports but withdrew as the #68 team failed to submit a NASCAR-certified chassis in time. Reuse will instead pilot the #13 for MBM, a car that was used by another road ringer in Jesse Iwuji at Road America.
Despite the diversity in ringer qualifications, one should never count out the Xfinity regulars like NASCAR veteran A.J. Allmendinger, Indianapolis winner Chase Briscoe, and Road America victor Austin Cindric. Cindric and Briscoe currently occupy the top spots in the Xfinity standings.
Unlike its feeder levels, the Cup Series has generally seen a decline in such specialists in recent years as drivers improve in track versatility in the push for playoff spots and grid spots become scarce. Of the thirty-nine entries, Brendan Gaughan, Gray Gaulding, James Davison, and Stanton Barrett have less than ten starts in 2020, with only Barrett being the only one who has yet to run a race this year.
Gaughan, currently in his final season of NASCAR racing, was initially scheduled to run just the superspeedway races prior to COVID-19, a virus that he would test positive for in July but has since been cleared. The Las Vegas native, who finished seventh and twenty-first in his two starts in the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway, won his first Xfinity race on a road course with the 2014 Road America event. Gaulding is in the #53 for Rick Ware Racing; he finished thirtieth in his lone career Cup road race at Sonoma Raceway in 2018.
Davison has road course experience in sports and open-wheel cars. Although he is running the Indianapolis 500 and qualifying for the event takes place that day, he has committed to the #51 RWR machine in Joey Gase‘s place.
Barrett, a Hollywood stuntman whose last national series race was the 2019 spring Talladega event, will drive the #77 Spire Motorsports car in Reed Sorenson‘s place. It will be his first Cup road start since the 2018 Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval event and his first premier series race at Daytona; it is also his first Cup Series action at Daytona since he failed to qualify for the 2008 Daytona 500.
“Looking forward to racing this weekend thanks to call form @spiremotorsportsllc,” Barrett posted on Instagram. “Got everything adjusted and seat perfect! Ready for the first #nascar #roadcourse race at #daytona hopefully some more to come this season!”
The Go Bowling 235 will be the first of two road races for the Cup Series, replacing the original road course date at Watkins Glen.
UPDATE (14 August): Article has been updated to include entry list changes (Bobby Reuse, Stanton Barrett, James Davison).