Back in the early to mid 2000s, the term “road-course ringer” used to be a common one when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed to any one of the two true road-course races on the schedule – the June race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and the August event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Road-course specialists like Boris Said, Ron Fellows, and Scott Pruett regularly entered the Cup Series races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, taking on NASCAR full-time drivers who also showed plenty of skill going left and right. While the road-course ringers ran up front with regularity, the full-time drivers still brought home the majority of the victories, with Jeff Gordon’s nine road-course wins leading the way, just ahead of Tony Stewart’s eight wins. And drivers including Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace regularly showed a penchant for navigating the road circuits to perfection.
Going back even further, the original road course ringer was open-wheel ace Dan Gurney, who won four consecutive NASCAR races at now-defunct Riverside (Calif.) Raceway, including the 1964 event in which he lapped the field. Today, three active drivers have multiple road-course wins – Kyle Busch with four, Martin Truex Jr., with three, all at Sonoma, and Kevin Harvick with two.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Watkins Glen in Upstate New York for the second and final true road-course race of the NASCAR Cup Series season aiming for his fifth win of the season. If the 2015 Cup Series champion was to grab another victory in Sunday’s GoBowling at The Glen, he could also join some elite company as a road-racing ace in NASCAR’s top series.
The M&M’S Hazelnut Spread driver’s four road-course wins ties him with retired drivers David Pearson and Mark Martin. That’s some pretty good company, already. But with a fifth road-course win, Busch could tie Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond and Gurney on the road-course win list at five. There is a bit of distance to the top two spots on the all-time road-course wins list, of course, when it comes to catching the aforementioned Gordon and Stewart’s nine and eight road-course wins, respectively.
Busch scored his fourth career Cup Series road-course win in June 2015 at Sonoma, and he heads to Watkins Glen with an impressive 12 top-10 finishes in his 14 career starts at The Glen, which includes two victories. Add an average finish of 9.4, along with his 247 laps led, and Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s race.
After his inaugural Cup Series victory at The Glen in 2008, he nearly won for the second time on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn circuit in his 2011 and 2012 visits there before breaking through again in 2013 with another victory in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region. A third Watkins Glen victory Sunday would continue to solidify Busch and the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread team as a favorite each time the series comes to town.
So as Busch prepares for some road racing this weekend, he would like to accomplish a few things – including another tally in the win column for the M&M’S Hazlenut Spread flavor while also adding to the record books as one of NASCAR’s best road-course racers and continuing his climb up the all-time overall win list.