CONCORD, N.C. – As Chase Elliott continues to recover from a fractured tibia sustained in early March from a snowboarding accident, Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor will fill in to drive the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday afternoon in Austin, Texas.
Taylor is a decorated road racer with 24 wins in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and two overall wins in the 24 Hours of DAYTONA – one of which came with team vice chairman Jeff Gordon as a teammate in 2017. Taylor is also working with Hendrick Motorsports as a driver/coach on the Garage 56 program.
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The name “road course ringer” was a term coined as experienced drivers from other forms of motorsports ventured to Cup Series competition specifically to run road course races. Teams across the garage employed drivers from varying backgrounds in motorsports seeking to earn higher finishes with substitute roles or additional entries.
Since 1987, there have been multiple instances where a driver competed in a NASCAR Cup Series race for Hendrick Motorsports on a road course that was not running for full-time points. Here are all the drivers that have put their name on the this list.
Jim Fitzgerald, 1987
In 1987, Jim Fitzgerald became the first driver to compete in a one-off race at a road course for Hendrick Motorsports. Fitzgerald earned the ride as he worked with Rick Hendrick at the Road Atlanta driving school, serving as his primary instructor. In what was his second and final start in the Cup Series, he earned a 17th-place finish in the event. That was the second-highest finish of the four cars from the Hendrick Motorsports garage in the race, which was the final win for Tim Richmond.
Rick Hendrick, 1987 and 1988
As the 1987 season drew to a close, Tim Richmond (the primary driver of the No. 25) left the team due to health concerns. While Hendrick Motorsports did not field a substitute driver for every race he missed, Hendrick himself decided to suit up for the penultimate race of the ’87 season at Riverside International Raceway. Despite finishing 33rd due to a transmission issue, he made a return to Riverside again in 1988, this time driving the No. 18 entry for his team. His second attempt at Cup Series competition resulted in a 15th-place finish.
Tommy Kendall: 1989
Kendall was one of the first “road course ringers” to be utilized by multiple teams throughout the garage area. As an up-and-coming sports car driver, Kendall joined Hendrick Motorsports for the Watkins Glen International race in 1989 in the No. 18 entry. His only race with the team resulted in a 27th-place finish after a crash late in the race ended his afternoon. He would make 11 additional starts in the Cup Series for other teams, primarily being featuring on tracks turning left and right.
Stan Barrett: 1990
One of the more unique “road course ringers” to appear for the team, Barrett began his career as a stuntman in Hollywood before gaining fame through his attempt to break the land speed record with a three-wheeled rocket powered vehicle. Although his speed in the record breaking attempt was not officially recorded, he managed to turn the popularity into a Cup Series career. All in all, he made 19 starts on both ovals and road courses in the sport’s top series. The final race was in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 18 entry at Sonoma Raceway in 1990, where he finished 17th.
Sarel van der Merwe: 1990
Following Darrell Waltrip’s crash at Daytona International Speedway in July of 1990, Hendrick Motorsports tapped Sarel van der Merwe to drive the No. 17 entry at Watkins Glen while Waltrip recovered from his injuries. Prior to the call, Van der Merwe was once a driver for Hendrick Motorsports when the team competed with a Corvette GTP in the top class of IMSA. Behind the wheel of the Corvette, Van der Merwe contributed to wins at both Road Atlanta and West Palm Beach. His lone start in the Cup Series netted a 24th-place result at Watkins Glen.
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Ron Hornaday Jr.: 2000
In 2000’s edition of the summer race at Daytona, Terry Labonte (the full-time driver of the No. 5) was involved in a crash and the lingering effects from that kept him out of the car for two races. While Todd Bodine subbed for the team at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports called up Ron Hornaday Jr. to fill in for Labonte at Watkins Glen. After the 90-lap event, Hornaday Jr. earned a 15th-place result in the 43-car field.
Jeff Gordon: 2016
It does feel a little weird to refer to the most decorated road course racer of all time in the Cup Series – with nine wins – as a “road course ringer.” However, we are only classifying his 2016 stint on this list. After a decorated career in the No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon officially hung up the helmet following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2015. However, he returned to competition in 2016 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined due to a concussion. While Gordon did drive the No. 88 for eight races in 2016, one of those starts came at Watkins Glen and he finished 14th.
Catch Taylor behind the wheel of the No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet on Sunday, March 26, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).