NASCAR's Hired Guns, the Road-Course Ringers Who Left Their Mark

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NASCAR's Hired Guns, the Road-Course Ringers Who Left Their Mark
USA TODAY Sports

Although most fans think NASCAR has been an oval-only series for much of its seven-decades long existence, road-course races have been on its schedule since its inception.

In years past, the majority of the sport’s drivers, including many of its top talents, would circle the road-race dates on the schedule and view them with antipathy. Having cut their racing teeth on oval racing, road courses were just too much of a bother. Drivers and crew chiefs saw all the shifting, the braking and the wear and tear on equipment as an annoyance. 

Team owners resorted to hiring road-course specialists from the sports car and open-wheel ranks for these races. These "road-course ringers" were some of the best drivers in the world. But even though their talent turning right as well as left was far better than their Cup counterparts, the difficulty in fielding a successful one-off race was often too great a challenge for even the best of teams and drivers.

Most ringers, while entertaining to watch, were not race-winners.

Then about 15 years ago, the new generation of Cup drivers that came into the sport began to look at the road-course races in an entirely different light. Many went to road-racing schools to hone up on their skills. Today, the practice of hiring "ringers" is almost a thing of the past, as the top Cup drivers of the modern NASCAR era are as good or better than their road-racing counterparts on road courses.

Some teams still bring in a ringer, but these days it's likely to add an additional car to their team’s roster.

Here’s a look at a dozen of the more memorable and successful “road-course ringers” in NASCAR over the past three decades.

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