Before its multi-million dollar renovations, Richmond Raceway was basically a slab of concrete with a guard rail around it.
The old Richmond track was the site of Kyle Petty’s first Cup win. That wouldn’t have been possible if not for an intense battle between Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip that ended with three laps to go with contact in Turn 3 and a vicious multi-car wreck.
This is also the race where Earnhardt famously cleaned his own windshield while on the track.
GORDON vs WALLACE X 2 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway is synonymous with the names Earnhardt and Labonte.
But Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace have multiple Bristol entanglements in their history.
April 13, 1997
Their first run-in came on the final lap of the spring race, with Gordon giving Wallace the bump-and-run in Turn 3 and sneaking by for the win.
Aug. 24, 2002
This time it was under the lights.
With flames on his hood instead of a rainbow, Gordon gave Wallace the boot with three laps to go and went on to snap a 31-race winless streak.
THE INTIMIDATOR STRIKES BACK – Bristol Motor Speedway, Aug. 28, 1999
Earnhardt was up to it again.
Four years earlier, Bristol hosted the first round of The Intimidator vs the Ice Man, as Earnhardt wrecked Terry Labonte coming to the checkered flag. Labonte won and pulled an obliterated No. 5 Chevrolet into Victory Lane.
Earnhardt wasn’t having any of that this time.
The seven-time champion spun Labonte as they entered Turn 1 on final lap and slipped by to earn his 73rd Cup win.
“I ran with (Alex Bowman) and (Kyle Larson) and (Austin Dillon) and somebody else, and … you would you have thought we were all racing to save our lives,” Busch said. “It was nuts. It was pretty crazy how hard those guys were running.”
Joey Logano wasn’t shocked that there were few cautions at Richmond.
“There’s race tracks that are just like that,” he said after his 14th-place finish. “A lot of times if you go to high-wear race tracks, tire wear, it kind of lends itself that way.
“There was a lot room to race and move around. People were trying to save their tires, they’re racing the race track more than they’re racing the other cars. That kind of makes it to where there are just long green-flag runs.
“There (also) are not as many, for lack of better word, junker cars out there that used to blow up or blow right front tires from overheating beads. Those cars aren’t out there anymore and that’s where a lot of your cautions used to be generated from, and then we would race hard because there was a caution and we were all bunched up. Just the nature of the beast these days. That’s not a bad thing.”
This is not to say that accidents don’t happen at short tracks. The Bristol race in April had 13 cautions and the August race had nine cautions — the highest totals at short tracks this year.
Still, the trend is noteworthy. Here is a look at average number of cautions for short track Cup races in recent years and how it has declined in recent years
2018 — 7.0 average cautions *
2017 — 9.6
2016 — 10.2
2015 — 11.2
2014 — 10.5
2013 — 11.0
2012 — 7.8
2011 — 11.3
2010 — 9.0
* Through five short track races (one remains this season). All other years are average over six short track races.
Change is coming. It just takes time.
That’s the message from Rob Kauffman, chairman of the Race Team Alliance.
Some change coming soon will be the 2019 rules package. Car owners are expected to vote on it this week.
Other changes will take longer. Among the key items for team owners are controlling costs and increasing revenue.
The decision by Furniture Row Racing, the reigning championship team, to cease operations after this season was a shock to the sport. While there were many contributing factors, having a major primary sponsor announce in July that it wouldn’t be around after this year showed how vulnerable teams can be to when a sponsor decides if to stay or go.
5-hour Energy’s decision left minimal time before the end of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, a calendar many companies go by. That made it more difficult to seek the million of dollars the team needed from companies to remain competitive next year.
“It shows that even billionaires can get tired of writing checks,” Kauffman told NBC Sports, although Visser is not a billionaire.
“The sport needs a sustainable model and a better balance of league revenue vs. third-party revenue to run a competitive car. In defense of NASCAR and some of the other teams, no one tells you to spend more than you get. It’s like any business, it’s up the owners of the business to match their revenues with their expenses. No one is forcing anybody to spend more than you get.”
While it’s easy to say give the owners more money, that won’t solve the issue if they increase spending based on the extra money they receive.
“To try to remedy the situation probably requires a combination of things,” Kauffman said. “It requires a better balance of contractual revenue with third-party sponsorship and then also some sort of cost management that is sort of like other sports that keeps you from spending an infinite amount of money to go faster because teams will do that.
“If the top guys are spending $35 million and the bottom are spending $5 (million), that’s not going to provide a good show.”
It’s just a matter of how to enact the changes.
“Everyone agrees that we need to address the issue,” Kauffman said. “It’s not a consensus of how to do it. There are certainly some advocates of a cost cap, then there’s equally people saying how do you enforce that, how do you monitor that, is that really the solution, we should be looking at revenue instead of expense. There’s different voices. That’s one reason why it hasn’t bubbled out yet. It’s still in the formation phase because it’s big.”
With the 2019 rules package expected to be approved by owners this week, it appears that teams will run a package that has some similarities to what was run in the All-Star Race.
One change is that the engines are expected to have a tapered spacer instead of a restrictor plate. The goal is to give drivers more throttle control than they had at the All-Star Race so drivers just don’t have the accelerator pressed to the floor throughout a whole lap. This package is expected to be used in several races next year.
Kyle Busch has been outspoken about taking horsepower away from drivers and nothing has changed his mind.
“I’m not a proponent for the change,” he said Monday during a break in testing at Kansas Speedway. “Just have to take what happens and what comes to us and deal with it.”
Stage points are already making a difference after the first two races of the first round.
Ryan Blaney holds the final transfer spot to the second round heading into Sunday’s playoff race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC). Blaney has 2,060 points.
But Blaney has scored only three stage points in the playoffs. That’s left him in a precarious position.
Stage points have helped others against Blaney.
Alex Bowman has 2,061 points, giving him a one-point lead on Blaney. Bowman is ahead of Blaney because Bowman has 18 stage points to Blaney’s three.
Chase Elliott has 2,066 points, giving him a six-point cushion on Blaney. Elliott has 24 stage points to Blaney’s three, giving Elliot 21 extra points compared to Blaney.
Kurt Busch has 2,071 points, giving him an 11-point cushion on Blaney. Busch has scored 22 stage points, giving him 19 more stage points than Blaney.
Daniel Suarez could hold the next key in what happens in Silly Season as he considers his options for 2019.
Suarez is expected to lose his ride in the No. 19 at Joe Gibbs Racing to Martin Truex Jr., who is in need of a ride after Furniture Row Racing announced it would cease operations after this season.
Car owner Joe Gibbs is hopeful to formally announce his team’s plans soon.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Gibbs said after Kyle Busch won for JGR on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. “There’s a lot of things in contracts and everything else about what you can and can’t do, and it’s just one of those things that is hard for us. I’m anxious, too. I would like to be able to announce it, but there’s still a lot up in the air with it.”
The three most likely destinations for Suarez would be the No. 41 at Stewart-Haas Racing, the No. 31 at Richard Childress Racing and the No. 95 at Leavine Family Racing, which is expected to partner with Toyota next season. The SHR ride, based on its performance, would seem to be the most attractive option.
“I’m sure good things will come our way,” Suarez said this weekend at Richmond.
Here’s a look at where things stand in Silly Season so far (based off what has been announced):
No. 41:Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal in December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Busch said Sept. 7 he had no updates on his status.
Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Matt DiBenedetto: Said he was betting on himself by leaving Go Fas Racing and looking to race elsewhere. While he would like a full-time ride, he would entertain a part-time ride in the Xfinity Series with a winning team, following what Ryan Preece has done.
Daniel Hemric: The Xfinity driver for Richard Childress Racing was asked Aug. 17 at Bristol about his future and he described it as: “Cloudy, very cloudy.” He said then he has not signed anything for the 2019 season, adding: “I’m trying to do everything I can on the race track to prove to somebody that would be willing to put me in a car and give me a shot.”
Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.
Ryan Preece: Modified ace who has run a limited schedule in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing and had great success has not announced his 2019 plans.
RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were together again, racing side-by-side, nose-to-tail, as they raced for the lead Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
It was a juicy moment between the two combatants, known as much for their volatile relationship on and off the track as their racing acumen. Crew chief Adam Stevens said watching the two battle Saturday was “a little bit nerve-racking” as he sat atop Busch’s pit box.
“You know, they’re not going to give each other too much room,” Stevens said.
Keselowski led with 50 laps to go when Busch closed. Over the next 15 laps around Richmond Raceway, they dueled, diced and delivered tight racing before Busch got by and pulled away to win, while Keselowski fell back and finished ninth to see his three-race winning streak end.
That Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. finished 1-2-3 Saturday — marking the return of the Big 3 to dominance — will overshadow the racing between Busch and Keselowski on this night. But their battle could serve as a prelude for these playoffs, which is in search of an identity after two races.
Busch’s frustrations come from the numerous incidents he’s had with Keselowski that date back nearly a decade. Saturday night, it appeared as if the two would add another chapter to their history.
“There were a couple of times where I was to his inside and whether I was being held a little tight or sliding up … we were getting kind of close,” Busch said after his 50th career Cup victory. “In those moments, you kind of tense up and the car slides and any time the car slides you know you’re putting heat in the tires and you’re putting heat into everything.
“You try to take a step back and kind of regroup, let everything cool down again and go re-attack. I was able to do that about twice. Second time it finally paid off when he was starting to drop.”
Keselowski said he had a better car on short runs. Having won last week at Las Vegas to advance to the next round, Keselowski could be aggressive as he tried to hold off Busch.
“We were so good on the short runs and nothing was working on the long runs,” Keselowski said. “I could try to save the tires and fall back to fourth or I could try to run up front and win the race, and I went real hard and did all I could to hold him off but didn’t have enough.’’
After Busch got by, he stuck his hand out the window. Keselowski was asked afterward what he thought Busch meant.
“I don’t try to read his mind,” Keselowski said. “That’s the last place I need to be.”
Busch explained his hand signal: “When you spend 15, 20 laps trying to pass the guy and you pass him and you get run into right as soon as you pass him, it’s kind of like, ‘Come on, man, really?’ But oh, well.”
Busch could brush it off since he won and won’t have to worry about what happens next weekend at the Charlotte Roval, which will cut the playoff field from 16 to 12.
“If we would have had trouble again tonight and been kind of at the cutoff line, then obviously it would make for a very, very stressful week and a stressful Roval,” Busch said. “But right now it feels pretty good. So we can go in there with no worries and try to go and attack that place and see what we can get out of there.”