Richmond Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 27, 2014 | 12:29 A.M. EST
Two and three-wide racing is the norm at Richmond and the track has built such a reputation more than a handful of drivers call it their favorite on the circuit. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s almost impossible to remember what Richmond International Raceway used to look like before it was reconfigured more than twenty years ago.
Memories of the old half-mile fairgrounds oval the preceded the current .75-mile track are foggy at best. Make no mistake there were a number of memorable moments at the old Richmond over the years, but RIR has been a definitely been a superior replacement and added another chapter to that legacy this weekend.
Two- and three-wide racing is the norm at Richmond and the track has built such a reputation more than a handful of drivers call it their favorite on the circuit.
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 open wheel racing has for the most part abandoned such tracks and NASCAR continues to try and find way to improve the competition on mile-and-a-half speedways.
The weekend included more talk about what NASCAR might do for next year’s rules package in terms of reducing horsepower and tweaking aerodynamics in hopes of elevating the racing product, again with emphasis on intermediate tracks.
But there’s no such talk regarding racing at RIR. Really the only thing disappointing about a racing weekend at Richmond is there isn’t another track like it on the schedule and NASCAR will have to wait more than four months to come back and race in September.
- After Saturday night’s race I’d expect most fans are already counting down the days until the Richmond return. While the first two-thirds of the race were a little sedate, things heated up at the end with another thrilling race to the checkered flag. The final laps battle between Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano were among the best in Richmond’s history. It was the latest entry in a season that has featured exciting, entertaining and compelling racing on nearly a weekly basis.
- The tight competition also triggered high emotions and more than a few drivers aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. Keselowski was furious with Kenseth and marched down pit road after the race ended to voice his anger. Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t exactly pleased with Keselowski. And things really boiled over in the garage between Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears, a disagreement that broke out in fisticuffs. Whether or not NASCAR hands out any disciplinary action for the incidents remains to be seen (they shouldn't in my opinion) it’s safe to say many fans enjoyed the display of emotions.
- Don’t expect Clint Bowyer to be booking a summer vacation in Richmond when the July off weekend rolls around. The Virginia capital has not been one of Bowyer’s favorite places lately. He was of course involved in last September’s “Spingate” controversy in the regular season finale at RIR that caused a firestorm within the sport. His woes continued Saturday night and started only seconds after the field took the green flag when he made contact with pole sitter Kyle Larson. Both drivers blamed the other for incident and Bowyer soldiered on, only to find more trouble later when he was forced to pit road with a tire failure and dealt with more problems as the race progressed including a fire that broke out after another tire issue. Bowyer eventually finished last after many had predicted the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing entry was one of the strongest cars in the garage. Nobody would blame Bowyer if he’s not counting the days to return to Richmond in September.
- It turned out to be a rather fiery night in Richmond, but not in the aggressive driving manner some expected to take place. In addition to the blaze that started with Bowyer’s tire issues, Cole Whitt and Reed Sorenson also dealt with fires. Camber set-ups and tire wear appeared to combine for the odd infernos Saturday night.
- There were definitely a couple drivers in the top 10 that deserved attention. AJ Allmendinger’s continued improvement at JTG Daugherty Racing reached a high water mark Saturday with a sixth-place finish. It was Allmendinger’s best finish since his second at Martinsville in 2012. Martin Truex Jr. finally gave the Furniture Row Racing organization something to feel good about with his 10th-place run, which was second straight top 10 at the track.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.