As Sprint Cup Series drives have become more adept at road-course racing, the need for a road course "ringer" — a driver brought in to tackle the left and right turns at Sonoma and Watkins Glen — has dwindled. Only five drivers of the 44 entered for Sunday's race at Sonoma haven't been regular participants on the Cup circuit in 2012.
That's counting Robby Gordon, who is making his fifth race attempt of the season. Gordon probably has the best prospects of any of the five on Sunday — only Boris Said and Tomy Drissi are guaranteed starting positions via the top 35. And Said's No. 32 has only finished on the lead lap once this year (via Terry Labonte in the Daytona 500), while Drissi is driving the No. 10, which start and parked last week at Michigan and hasn't had a lead-lap finish with any driver.
The Nationwide Series is a different story. Eleven drivers are making (or attempting to make) their first start of the season Saturday at Road America, and many of them can be considered favorites to win.
Ron Fellows, who is driving the No. 5 for JR Motorsports, has four wins in 21 Nationwide Series starts and won in 2008 at rain-soaked Montreal. He finished 2nd, 7th and 11th in his three Nationwide Series road-course starts last year.
Max Papis is behind the wheel of Richard Childress Racing's No. 33. In 2010, Papis was beaten by Said in a drag race to the finish at Montreal. He only has two top 10s in 10 career Nationwide starts, but those stats don't reflect how well he's generally run on road courses.
Former Formula 1 and full-time Camping World Truck Series driver Nelson Piquet Jr. is making his third career Nationwide Series start for Turner Motorsports. He finished 7th at Watkins Glen last year.
Jacques Villeneuve is in the Penske No. 22. Villeneuve started and finished third last year at Road America and led 29 laps at Montreal before finishing 27th. Can he get his first NASCAR win?
Plus, that list isn't counting Michael McDowell, who is in the JGR No. 18 and almost won last year at Road America before going off track late. He'll be looking for redemption.
Who ya got? Will it be a (relatively) unfamiliar face in victory lane on Saturday or will it be a Nationwide regular?