Richmond Rear View Mirror


Pistone: "Richmond Int’l Raceway was the perfect tonic for NASCAR to shake the controversy of last Wednesday’s Joe Gibbs Racing penalties." (Photo: Getty Images)


After a week where the focus was on penalties, fights and arrests it was good for NASCAR to get to a track where actual good racing is the norm.

Richmond Int’l Raceway was the perfect tonic for NASCAR to shake the controversy of last Wednesday’s Joe Gibbs Racing penalties.

The three-quarter mile track has carved out a deserved reputation as one of the most competitive tracks on the NASCAR schedule. It’s hard to imagine the dusty half-mile speedway that once sat on the same fairgrounds property with the new and improved RIR we have today.

From the outset, the reconfigured Richmond has produced two and three wide racing and once again it was on display from the first green flag of the weekend. Thursday’s K&N Pro Series East and Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown doubleheader produced classic short track racing and brought the sport back to its roots in more ways than one.

It’s a shame more tracks weren’t built like Richmond or its cousin at Iowa Speedway – both short tracks that carry the best traits of the small bullrings fans love with the larger superspeedways. 

In the race to build multi-purpose facilities capable of hosting both NASCAR and IndyCar racing, the intermediate-sized, 1.5-mile track was in vogue. 

But now that open wheel racing has for the most part bailed on such tracks, the mile-and-a-half facilities have come under fire for sometimes providing lackluster racing you have to wonder what the NASCAR landscape would look like with more places like Richmond. 

The irony is Richmond and Iowa have both shown the open wheel world can compete at both tracks and produce exciting racing although RIR no longer hosts the open wheel set. 

As we see more speedways repave and reconfigure, it will be interesting to see if any track operator decides to pull out the bulldozers and replicate what’s been so successful in Richmond. 

It’s hard to argue with the kind of racing that regularly takes place at the track.

Saturday night’s race may not have been one for the ages at least until the finish, but any race at Richmond usually provides more than its share of good, hard racing.

  • Saturday night’s race was slow at the beginning, picked up steam in the middle portions and then finally built to a riveting finish. You could just feel the tension of the race growing as the checkered flag neared and in the overtime finish Kevin Harvick was able to pull out an improbable win, lining up seventh on the final restart. As in most sports, only the finish is what’s remembered and NASCAR fans will no doubt be talking about how the first Richmond ended in such dramatic fashion for some time to come.
  • There were several on track scuffles throughout the course of the 400-laps including one between Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart that spilled over after the checkered flag flew between. Busch was involved in an earlier incident with Martin Truex Jr. while Stewart also had issues when he made contact with Jimmie Johnson. Despite the high emotions thankfully nothing escalated to the ridiculous Brian Scott-Nelson Piquet Jr. the night before, which ended in two RCR crew members being arrested early Sunday morning for an altercation in the track motor home lot. The incident was an embarrassment for NASCAR all the way around.
  • Speaking of Johnson, despite his issues Saturday night the Hendrick Motorsports driver has built a 42 point lead over Carl Edwards in the Sprint Cup standings. Granted the Chase will re-set things once September rolls around but the way Johnson is going is very reminiscent of how he became a five time series champion.
  • NASCAR overturned a crucial call made on Kyle Busch, who was initially penalized for missing the commitment box when attempting to pit under caution. I’m hard-pressed to remember another time the sanctioning body reversed a decision in as critical during an event. Unfortunately for Busch, had he served the original penalty he may not have run into Johnson after his spin with Stewart. But details, details….

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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