The road course ringer is dead. It’s an unfortunate reality when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the road course races of Sonoma and Watkins Glen. But this year, the Watkins Glen race will see a debut, which may lead to the highest-ranking finish for a ringer since Boris Said in 2010.
Owen Kelly will be making his debut for the somewhat competitive Phoenix Racing team and will be driving the same car which Kurt Busch wheeled to a third place finish in 2012 at Sonoma. Kelly comes from the same V8 Supercar series, which brought us Marcos Ambrose, a five-time winner at Watkins Glen, including three victories in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which Kelly has run with phenomenal success.
Two races at Road America are enough to tell Kelly has a knack for driving a stock car on a road course. In 2010, Kelly took the Curb Racing car to a top-five finish, something which the team has not seen since. In 2013, Kelly was in a Kyle Busch Motorsports car, and earned another top-five performance despite having to charge his way through the field.
V8 Supercar’s share striking similarities to NASCAR’s generation six car’s as the aforementioned Kurt Busch found out when he tested at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. At 3100 pounds, a V8 supercar is one of the few racing vehicles in the world that come close to a stock car’s weight.
However, the few things Kelly will have to adjust to most will come in the form of power application. A V8 supercar has around 200-300 less horsepower going to the rear wheels. But, a NASCAR Nationwide Series car has only about a 100 horsepower difference, so the adjustment to Kelly should be one he can easily cope with, thanks to his great run at Road America.
What will benefit Kelly is the ability to setup the car. Andrew Dickerson is an Australian Engineer who works for Phoenix Racing, so he should immediately find chemistry with Kelly. Together, they should be able to set up the car to a similar style, which Marcos Ambrose does so well; able to find speed through the middle of Watkins Glen’s sweeping corners, while having a high first gear able which Kelly will be able to power the car out of the chicane and turn one.
All in all, I have confidence in Owen Kelly based on his similar pedigree and his underrated performance at Road America earlier this year. Expect him to get acclimated rather quickly and be comfortably in the top twenty by the end of the day.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486