Richmond International Raceway — A hybrid
Saturday night we are back to great short-track racing under the lights here at Richmond. The thing I love about this track is it’s so unique and different. It literally is the only three-quarter-mile racetrack in the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This track even has a unique shape to it.
I think that’s one of the main reasons why all the drivers and the fans love coming here twice a year. There’s literally not another track out there like it. This is a fast racetrack with a lot of room to race which I know must sound ironic when you’re talking about a track that’s only three-quarters in length.
There’s a lot of room in the turns to move around. There’s that big sweeping front straightaway that gives you some options to get around the competitors. It actually is pretty tight coming off Turn 2 and we always see a lot of action there. It’s just a case of not enough real estate basically. You come out of that corner, you run out of banking and the walls right there.
We see a lot of action down the back as well. It’s a pretty short backstretch leading into Turn 3. You charge into Turn 3 trying to get in under someone, maybe slide up some, get them loose and push them up in the wall.
Richmond really is a track that has everything a driver likes. It’s fast and hard to drive. It’s tight and a lot of fun. By nature drivers like to be aggressive and you can definitely do that at Richmond. One things for sure the fans in the grandstand and at home certainly get their money’s worth when it comes to the racing here.
I was fortunate to win six times at Richmond but it was under the old configuration. Back then it was a five-eighths mile surface. It was flat and the wall literally was a guardrail. This newer configuration makes for some really great racing which in turn makes for a fun NASCAR on FOX broadcast like we’ll have Saturday night. Also remember the teams will be back here in mid-September, once again under the lights, as it’s the final race in our regular season. With the waving of the checkered flag on that race, our 2014 Chase field will be set.
This will be our ninth race of the 2014 season and I think everyone has to agree Kevin Harvick is the man to beat right now. I said back last year when they announced he would be paired with crew chief Rodney Childers that I just thought it could be a magical combination. Some folks might be shocked by how well they’ve done so far, so early, but I’m not.
I also think it is safe to say that Kevin gets overlooked at times as one of the best drivers on the circuit. Obviously, there are still 28 races to go starting here Saturday night, but that No. 4 car has to be considered a strong contender for the 2014 championship. Being the only two-time winner in 2014, Kevin and his team already know in April that they will be in the Chase for the championship starting in September. Trust me that does a lot for your confidence plus it frees you up to take some risks and gamble some to put more wins on the board.
The Penske Fords have been the other surprise of the season so far. Not a surprise because they have already won, but more so how consistently fast they are week in and week out. Young Joey Logano has sat on the front row three of the eight races. His teammate, Brad Keselowski, has sat on the front row five of the eight races.
You simply can’t come to Richmond and not put the number one threat to win as Kyle Busch. He’s won four of the last five times we’ve raced here in the spring. I look for a battle between Kyle and Kevin Harvick because Kevin always seems to run well here.
I also wouldn’t overlook that little rookie, Kyle Larson. That kid’s been showing steady improvement. I like that kid and what he’s doing, so keep an eye on that rookie. He could certainly be a factor Saturday night. He might even win the thing. It also wouldn’t surprise me if it came down to another Kyle and Kyle Show like we’ve seen happen this season.
Congratulations to Clint Bowyer on getting married. He’s another one that runs well here. Here’s the one that has me scratching my head though and it involves Greg Biffle. Unbelievable a wheelman like Greg, is zero for 69 when it comes to winning on a short track. That is just so bizarre to me considering Greg grew up racing on the short tracks.
Jeff Gordon continues to lead the points heading into Saturday night’s race. We literally have an all-star lineup of names of drivers that have yet to win this year. It wouldn’t be any great shock to see our eighth different winner in nine races after Saturday night.
Three drivers come to mind that really, really need a good run Saturday night, and Richmond might just be the place to turn it around. Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all need to get something positive going their way. All of them are good on the short tracks.
It’s going to be a fun, action-packed race under the lights Saturday night. There will be a lot of things to watch, so for you fans that can’t make it to Richmond, I sure hope you’ll join us for our NASCAR on FOX broadcast.