Richmond Rear View Mirror

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Maybe the biggest story of the Richmond weekend was who did not compete at the .75-mile track.

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was absent after being hospitalized again for symptoms speculated to be associated with the insect bite he suffered two weeks ago.

Roush Fenway Racing’s announcement that Bayne would not be able to answer the bell for Friday night’s Nationwide Series Bubba Burger 250 caught most of the NASCAR world off-guard including the personable young driver.

In typical Bayne positive fashion he tweeted from his hospital stay that he was sure all will work out for the best but has to be at least some concern about what’s ailing the 20-year-old.

Chris Buescher stepped in and did an admirable job driving Bayne’s No. 16 Mustang Friday night but by missing the race, hopes of a possible championship have pretty much gone by the wayside.

Bayne wasn’t going to compete in Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race as the Wood Brothers limited schedule did not have Richmond on the plan. The team is not going to be back on track until the May 21st All-Star Race in Charlotte with Bayne hopefully at full strength.

Another curious absentee on Friday night was Kyle Busch, who did not compete in the Nationwide event behind-the-wheel of the potent Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Despite Busch’s stellar track record at Richmond and overall excellence in the Nationwide effort, sponsorship did not include his participation in the No. 18 entry.

Kelly Bires, who reportedly did bring sponsor dollars to the table, got the opportunity to race Friday for JGR but unfortunately got tangled up early in the race and was never a factor.

While I’m thrilled to see the still young Bires get a shot, it’s hard to understand how Busch wasn’t in that car with such a strong chance to win. The way the race played out, Busch most likely would have been the only one to challenge JGR teammate and eventual winner Denny Hamlin.

It points out how crucial and fickle sponsorship can be in today’s NASCAR and sometimes even the sport’s superstars like Busch are impacted by how much money is available to race.

  • Thursday night’s K&N Pro Series East/Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown was an enjoyable night of racing to watch. The K&N Series is quickly becoming one of my favorite divisions in all of racing and there’s a feeling much akin to the “old” days of the Busch/Nationwide Series to the circuit. I’d love to see more tracks get on the schedule and maybe a 16-race slate for both the East and West down the road. The young stars in both divisions read like a “Who’s Who” of short track and second generation drivers and it will be fun to watch them all develop. The Hamlin charity race, moved to RIR for the first time, was a little sketchy and although I’m glad to see late model drivers get a chance to race in a bigger spotlight I’m not sure those cars belong on a track as large as Richmond. There was much carnage that probably impacted the car counts at a few local tracks over the weekend. But the dramatic finish that saw Hamlin get by teammate Kyle Busch for a last lap win was the lasting impression of the night. Kudos to SPEED for televising both events live.
  • “Boys Have at It” hasn’t really been a part of the 2011 season as much as it was last year. But Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya changed that Saturday night. The two have been feuding since last season’s Homestead finale and after Newman made contact with Montoya early in the race the favor was returned – in kind – later. The battle continued on pit road and in a war of words over the radio and after the race. Although it’s been a pretty competitive season, a dash of bad blood might not be the worst thing for NASCAR to juice up a little more interest.
  • Richmond had its version of “The Big One” on lap 301 when a multi-car accident broke out after Clint Bowyer clipped Matt Kenseth and then set off a chain reaction that swept up several others including Jeff Gordon who slid and made hard contact with the inside retaining wall on the backstretch. Unfortunately that area does not have a SAFER barrier and Gordon, who has experience with similar hits at Las Vegas and Texas, was uninjured but once again raises the need for all tracks to take measures and install the safety initiatives.
  • After starting the season so strong at Daytona’s Speedweeks, things have gone very sour for Kurt Busch and crew chief Steve Addington. Another rough night Saturday saw Busch erupt several times on his radio with tirades aimed at Addington, his crew and Penske Racing. It didn’t help matters that Brad Keselowski also suffered through a disappointing night including a couple of spins. The only Dodge team in the Sprint Cup Series appears to be in major disarray.

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