Friday, May 2, 2008

NASCAR Basics: The Tracks: Richmond

Richmond International Raceway is a D-shaped, 0.75-mile oval, a short track masterpiece that always sees exciting races with high speeds, side-by-side racing and close finishes. Downforce and camber are key here, but teams need to leave enough openings in the front end to allow air to get in to keep the brakes cooled down. Look for a lot of racing going into Turn One and out of Turn Two, one-groove corners. There are two and sometimes three lines side-by-side through Turns Three and Four.

There's a lot of racing history at the site of the RIR, going back to pre-NASCAR days. The track opened in 1946 as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds and held its first NASCAR race, a Grand National Division affair won by Lee Petty, in 1953. Back then, the track was a half-mile dirt track. Petty led the 100-mile race wire to wire, averaging 45.535 mph. Since then the track has undergone three name changes, four configuration changes and the switch from dirt to asphalt. Lights were added in 1991 and now RIR is the only track to hold all its major events at night.

Richard Petty competed in his first NASCAR race at Richmond in 1960 and won there a record 13 times. Brian Vickers holds the qualifying speed record, 129.983 mph, set in May 2004. Kyle Busch has the best average finish among active drivers, 6.17, with five Top 5s in six starts. Denny Hamlin is second with an average finish of 6.5. Jeff Gordon is the track's all-time money winner with 16 Top 10s, 12 Top 5s, and two wins in thirty starts.

Richmond International Raceway hosts two Sprint Cup races per season, the Crown Royal Presents "Your Name Here" 400 in May and the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in September. The "naming rights" of the spring race are determined by a contest of Crown Royal's choosing. The fall race is the last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins.

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NASCAR Basics: The Tracks Master List

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