DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Call them road-course ringers, road-course warriors or road-race specialists; their approach is the same – putting their road-racing experience to use competing against regular stock car drivers in road-course events.
Many of these road racers invade the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West when the circuit makes its annual visit to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. This year’s event on the twisting 1.99-mile road course is the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 on Saturday, June 19.
The event – which will be televised to a national audience on SPEED at 3 p.m. PT on June 24 – is part of the big NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend of racing at Infineon Raceway.
Although road race specialists have placed in the top five in recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races at Infineon Raceway, they have yet to visit Victory Lane there. P.J. Jones took the runner-up spot in 2007, with Boris Said finishing just behind him in that race and then returning last year to finish fourth. Tom Hubert, meanwhile, came away with a fifth-place finish in 2006 and was fourth in 2008.
“I like having the competition,” said David Mayhew (No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends/KHI Chevrolet), who finished second in this event last year and currently leads the championship standings by 42 points. “It makes everybody in our series step their game up. Going against guys like Boris Said makes it a lot of fun.”
For Mayhew, competing on a road course is nothing new.
“I grew up road racing, starting with go-karts and then formula cars,” he said. “It’s kind of second-nature for me. I definitely look forward to going to the road courses.”
Road-course experts joining the field this year will include two-time race winner Jason Bowles, who is running a limited West schedule a year after taking home the title; Andrew Ranger, two-time champion in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobile 1 champion, who has recorded six of his nine wins in that series on road courses and who finished third in last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Montreal; and Mattias Ekstrom, who is subbing for Casey Mears in Brian Vickers’ No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Although he honed his talent on short tracks in California’s Central Valley, two-time series champion Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Toyota) also looks forward to competing against road racers at Infineon Raceway each year.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Holmes said of being challenged by road racers at Sonoma. “I’ve never considered myself a road racer, but I’ve beat Boris Said and P.J. Jones and I know they’re pretty awesome road racers. It makes me feel good when I beat them.
“I personally want to win really, really bad,” said Holmes, who won the pole and finished second in the event in 2008 and came away third last year.
“It makes it tougher on us, but when I do get to finally win the race, it will be that much better,” he said of the challenge.