Sears Point: In the loop

Road Course Aces: Time To Shine DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 20, 2007) -- Twice a year, new faces suddenly crop up in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Call them what you will: Specialists, aces, ringers. One thing's for sure: They don't miss a road...

Road Course Aces: Time To Shine

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 20, 2007) -- Twice a year, new faces suddenly crop up in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Call them what you will: Specialists, aces, ringers. One thing's for sure: They don't miss a road course race. The trend continues this Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Still, a so-called "road course ringer" has won only one road course race in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history -- and that was back in 1973 when Mark Donahue won at Riverside International Raceway.

But current road course specialists have made gains in recent years, with Boris Said leading the charge. Said has four career top-five finishes at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Additionally, Terry Labonte, a two-time series champion and one of the most road course savvy drivers in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history, finished third in this race last season. He'll sub for Michael Waltrip in the No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota this weekend.

Check out the "Track Best" stats by road course specialists over the past two years at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen:

Driver Rating
Driver Track/Date DR
Boris Said WG, 8/05 113.6
Boris Said IR, 6/06 107.7
Boris Said IR, 6/05 100.9
Scott Pruett WG, 8/05 99.6
Scott Pruett IR, 6/05 98.0

Average Running Position
Driver Track/Date ARP
Boris Said IR, 6/06 7.173
Scott Pruett IR, 6/05 8.482
Boris Said WG, 8/05 10.902
Boris Said IR, 6/05 11.091
Scott Pruett WG, 8/06 12.956

Compare those road-course ace-specific "Track Bests" to the overall "Track Bests." Said's numbers compare favorably with some of the top marks of the series regulars.

Driver Rating
Driver Track/Date DR
Tony Stewart WG, 8/05 150.0
Tony Stewart IR, 6/05 142.7
Jeff Gordon IR, 6/06 137.0
Tony Stewart WG, 8/06 130.1
Ryan Newman IR, 6/06 127.8

Average Running Position
Driver Track/Date ARP
Tony Stewart WG, 8/05 1.511
Tony Stewart IR, 6/05 2.800
Ryan Newman IR, 6/06 2.945
Tony Stewart WG, 8/06 3.444
Jeff Gordon IR, 6/06 3.464

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are always among the favorites going into a road course race. The two have combined to win the last three races at Infineon and four of the last six at Watkins Glen. Gordon leads the career road course wins list with nine and Tony Stewart's in the top 10. Below are the top 10 road course winners.

                         Road Course
Driver                     Wins

Jeff Gordon 9
Bobby Allison 9
Rusty Wallace 6
Richard Petty 6
Ricky Rudd 6
Tim Richmond 5
Dan Gurney 5
Tony Stewart 5
Darrell Waltrip 5

Over the last two years, two drivers have been on the verge of victory, but have come up short. Coincidentally, they're both on the same team -- Penske Racing.

Kurt Busch (three top fives at Sonoma) and Ryan Newman (two top fives and four top 10s at Sonoma) have placed themselves in the upper echelon of road course drivers. Check out their stats and rankings from the last two races at Infineon Raceway.

Kurt Busch
Driver Rating: 121.2 (1st)
Avg. Running Pos.: 4.205 (1st)
Fastest Laps Run: 12 (4th)
Laps in the Top 15: 217 (1st)
*Quality Passes: 44 (5th)

Ryan Newman
Driver Rating: 117.6 (3rd)
Avg. Running Pos.: 5.923 (3rd)
Fastest Laps Run: 8 (T 7th)
Laps in the Top 15: 215 (2nd)
*Quality Passes: 44 (T 5th)

* - Quality Passes are passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Boris Said , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Scott Pruett , Dan Gurney , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Tim Richmond