Now that the off week is behind us, itís back to racing this Saturday night in Richmond at Richmond International Raceway.
This will be the second straight true night race of the season and the final short track race of the season until Bristol in August. Richmond is 0.75 miles in length, making it one of three short tracks on the schedule, along with Bristol and Martinsville. Its current layout has been in place since 1988. Lights were added for the fall 1991 race and both its races have been run at night for over fifteen years.
Richmondís spring race was at one point the second race of the season after the Daytona 500. One of the most famous spring Richmond races occurred in the second race of the 1990 season. Itís famous because it decided the championship that year. Mark Martin won the race, but in post-race inspection, it was found that his engineís carburetor spacer plate was bolted on instead of welded on. That made it half an inch too thick and NASCAR docked Martin 46 points, which was the difference between first and tenth place, the last car on the lead lap. Martin wound up losing the 1990 championship by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt.
Another famous spring race came in 2008. Denny Hamlin dominated the race, leading 381 of the first 382 laps. He cut a tire down and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch got by Hamlin. Instead of pitting to change the tire, Hamlin tried to ride it out, but the tire eventually went flat and Hamlin stopped on the track in order to get a caution so as to remain on the lead lap. NASCAR penalized Hamlin two laps, which is what they figured he would have lost had he pitted under green. When the racing resumed, Earnhardt and Busch waged a fierce battle that ended when Busch drove into turn three too hard, washed up the track, and hit Earnhardt, Jr. in the left-rear quarter panel, sending Earnhardt into the wall and causing Earnhardtís legion of fans to let Busch know exactly what they thought of the wreck and him. Before the caution light came on, Clint Bowyer took advantage of the situation and passed Busch for the lead and held off Busch in a green-white-checkered finish for his second career win.
Most wins among active drivers: Kyle Busch (4)
Defending Winner: Kevin Harvick prevailed in a green-white-checkered finish last year for his third win at the Virginia short track.
Prediction: This driver has two wins at Richmond and an average finish of 10.1. A controversial late-race spin last September at Richmond by this driver shook up the Chase picture and brought an organization-wide punishment down on his team, Michael Waltrip Racing. Iím going with Clint Bowyer, who got married during the off week. After what went down last fall, Bowyer would love nothing more to eradicate the demons of his actions and what better way to do that than to return to Victory Lane and lock himself into the Chase? Look for Bowyer to be up front and challenging for the win on Saturday night.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and is currently in his senior year at Mansfield University.