April 28, 2012
By Donalde z Smith
Returning from an actual vacation week off, I began searching for a topic for my weekly column.
I was surprised to see that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be racing in Richmond, Virginia this weekend.
NASCAR Race Mom has fond memories of the Richmond International Raceway (RIR). Back in April of 2011, I was honored to be part of Crown Royal’s “Capture the Crown” media event for the “Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.” That was my first and only visit to the facility known as “America’s Premier Short Track.
That weekend started off rather unexpectedly. After landing at the Byrd International Airport (RIC), NRM was greeted with a signboard by my driver Warren! Now that does not happen to me too often!
At the track, I learned that this short track has a RESPECT theme that is an awareness initiative to promote a first-class and safe atmosphere. NASCAR Race Mom was impressed at its simplicity yet effectiveness. The track emphasizes that the race fans: Be respectful of everyone; Be a good neighbor; Be responsible; Be attentive; Take pride and Have fun.
Richmond International Raceway is one of five short tracks that hold NASCAR races. The racetrack has seats for 97,912 spectators. It is a four-turn short track oval, 0.75 miles long, and the turns are banked at fourteen degrees.
The racing proved to be very exciting. Taking the lead after a restart on lap 300, Kyle Busch went unchallenged the rest of the way as he took the win at the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400. The victory was Busch's third straight in the spring race at Richmond International Raceway. Denny Hamlin came in second with Kasey Kahne rounding out the podium.
What makes this bit of NASCAR history interesting is this year Denny Hamlin is on fire. In just eight races into the 2012 season, Hamlin won in Phoenix (March 4) and in Kansas (April 22).
"We're excited. I love going to Richmond anyway, but any time you can go after winning the previous week, it makes it a little more exciting. I'm excited about it," said Hamlin, a Chesterfield, Virginia native. He advanced from sixth to fifth in NSCS points standings with his Kansas victory. Obviously Hamlin and his new crew chief Darian Grubb are starting to gel!
On the flip side, Kyle Busch, who has twenty-three NASCAR Sprint Cup victories, hasn’t won in twenty starts.
To put that in perspective, Busch had gone to Victory Lane every 10.6 starts when he last won at Michigan International Speedway in August of last year. The Las Vegas native has won in all seven seasons as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor with three or more victories in each of his past four years with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Although he has three top-tens this year, including a second place finish at the weather-abbreviated race at Auto Club Speedway, Busch is out of the top-ten in points (thirteenth). Hopefully, Saturday night’s 400-lap, 300-mile “Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is for Lovers” will help Busch return to his previous winning ways.
Kasey Kahne has also yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race this year. However, after a miserable start in his first season with Hendrick Motorsport, he now has consecutive top-10 finishes (eighth in Kansas and seventh in Texas) and is steadily climbing up the points standings. It would be electrifying if Kasey Kahne could keep his momentum going and present Hendrick Motorsports with their elusive 200th win.
“There are two grooves of racing at Richmond so there’s a lot of side-by-side beating and banging which is always a lot of fun," said Kahne. "Staying calm and patient -- is key, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. It’s really important to keep the fenders on the car in order to get a good finish because the cars are a little bit more aero-sensitive, than somewhere like Bristol. I’m really enjoying these races with the Turner Motorsports guys (In the Nationwide Series). Every week we unload this Great Clips Chevrolet and it's fast and we are able to contend for wins. It’s been a lot of fun so far this season.”
Richmond International Raceway is a great little short track. It will be interesting to see how last year’s RIR top driver progress this weekend. My prediction is that Kyle Busch is due and will capture his first win of 2012.
If you would like to learn more about Donalde z Smith, please check out her web site at NASCAR Race Mom.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.