Richmond Raceway welcomes Nationwide and Sprint Cup cars for the third short track race of the season
We get back to Friday and Saturday night racing this weekend, meaning the green flag drops on the Nationwide cars in just a couple of hours. Qualifying for the N'wide series is underway now, as I write this, and there are a few of the Sprint Cup regulars also in the race. So far, Sprint Cup regular, Kevin Harvick is fastest. Sprint Cup qualifying will follow, but I can already tell you that we have had a few cars much faster than the others in the two practices that just concluded.
Mark Martin shot out onto the track in the first practice and put down his fast lap, which held up for quite a while, but his former teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fastest in the second practice. Kyle Busch and Paul Menard were also quick, but a mechanical failure on Menard's car put him into the wall early on. The team was forced to pull out the back-up car that wasn't as fast.
Richmond was the site of the Kyle Busch/Dale Earnhardt Jr "mixup" in 2008 that allowed Clint Bowyer to grab the win.
After Kyle turned into Dale and sent him into the wall, Dale commented to the media that Kyle might want to make sure he has a couple of bodyguards when he leaves the track to protect him from Jr. Nation.
Of course, Jr has gone without a win for some time (I'm not counting the number of races - it's a lot) while Kyle has gone on to win quite a few, and piss more people off. This year, however, Kyle has not had the start to his season that he, and NASCAR experts, had expected, while Jr sits had been as high as second in the points, with consistency at every track.
We've had our chances to say "Jr can win this week" only to see he and his team falter at the end of the day. Can tomorrow be the night he can get it done? Or will this be the race that will get Kyle back on track?
Much has been made this year about the lack of cautions. We've had three races so far this year that have broken records for less cautions. Of course, that has led everyone and their dog to speculate on what is going on, and is it good or bad for the sport. Well, this dog needs to chime in as well.
It isn't about the cautions, in my book. It is about the racing. NASCAR has worked so hard to make sure that all teams have an equal opportunity to win at any given track, claiming they are putting the ability to win back into the hands and talents of the drivers. This isn't necessarily so. The cars now look so much alike and with the templates being determined by NASCAR there is no room for tweaking for advantage. We saw Chad Knaus penalized for putting in a non-approved C-post. Yes, the penalty was over turned, but the fact is, and I know I've said this a lot, that Chad is getting paid a pile of money to try to gain any and every advantage possible. Every crew chief is. If NASCAR penalizes any attempts to gain advantage (they have an all encompassing rule that can cover any transgression) how are we going to get any kind of real racing out of these cars?
I know we've given you a few hints about what is to come in 2013 with the car branding being allowed back into NASCAR. Now we'll give you a bit more information. So far, both Dodge and Ford have released photos of the cars they expect to be in NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2013. NASCAR, itself, has not released any information, but one has to think that neither Ford nor Dodge would move forward with prototypes if there were no plans to make changes. When we see something from Chevrolet, I'll be a little more convinced, but for now, I'm hoping it will happen.
However, none of this will help the racing this year. Instead, some of the drivers are calling for changes to the tracks, rather than changes to the cars. Bruton Smith, of Bristol Motor Speedway, is doing just that. Are his changes going to be good changes? It seems Bruton is making "middle of the road" changes to the track, and honestly, money is his motivation, nothing else. SPEED played a clip of his announcement today, and he described some of the changes saying, (sic) "it will be good for the drivers, good for the fans, and tickets will sell at $500 again". Wait, what?? Seriously, if he is making the changes because he wants people to pay an exorbitant price to attend his race, he really didn't read what the fans wrote. The economy in the US as well as Canada is in the toilet. Yes, our prospective governments say they are making changes to boost the economy, but is it working? And more, if it isn't working, is the average Joe about to blow an entire week's wages to buy ONE ticket to a race at Bristol? I don't think so.
Bruton has promised the racing at Bristol for August's night race will be, once again, outstanding. Kevin Harvick doesn't agree. Happy has never hesitated to offer his true opinion. He does't beat around the bush, just calls it like he sees it. He sees crap. He said that Bruton doesn't care about the guys who actually drive on the race track, instead, he talked to DW. Darrell Waltrip doesn't drive a car in any series any longer. Rather, he sits up in a booth and offers an opinion. Normally, I think DW offers great insight, simply because he did once sit in that drivers' seat. However, in this case, I have to agree with Kevin. DW hasn't been in one of the new cars on that track and has no clue how those cars are going to run. Relying on his "expertise" was a mistake on Bruton's part. The track isn't being returned to the Bristol of old. Instead they are making more changes to the top groove, the area DW apparently identified as being problematic for close racing.
I imagine we will just have to wait and see what happens at Bristol in August.
In the meantime, I am anticipating decent racing at the 3/4 mile track that is Richmond tonight and tomorrow. I know, I know. I've said that a lot this year and we've been disappointed. We might be disappointed again, but I certainly hope not.
ESPN in the US and TSN2 in Canada are showing the N'wide race tonight, while FOX has the rights for the Sprint Cup tomorrow night.
Sorry for the length of this article. I had a lot to get off my chest today.