Richmond Raceway

Denny Hamlin seeks new milestones at Martinsville

Leave a comment

There’s something about Martinsville Speedway that brings out the best in Denny Hamlin.

Even though Hamlin considers Richmond Raceway his “home track,” it’s at Martinsville, nearly 200 miles southwest, that he’s enjoyed his greatest success on a single track in NASCAR.

And tonight, Hamlin seeks to move up yet another level at the famed .526-mile oval. Hamlin is going for his sixth career win at NASCAR’s oldest and still operating racetrack.

If Hamlin is able to take the checkered flag, it will mark the 40th win of his Cup career, tying him with Mark Martin for 19th on the Cup all-time wins list (he’s currently tied for 20th with Tim Flock and Matt Kenseth).

“It would be special to get (No. 40) there for sure,” Hamlin said in a media teleconference. “When we looked at all of the two-race week schedule, over the last few weeks, we really looked at the tracks and said that we should be able to win two or three of these, not easily, but easily.

“Obviously, Bristol slipped through us. We got the Darlington win, and I just feel like these tracks are really good for me. We’re good everywhere at this point. I don’t think we have any weaknesses at all, but Martinsville’s one that is special. … Those big even number wins, the 40’s, the 50’s, if I can ever get there those are going to be special moments.

“Obviously, you take wins anywhere that you can get them, but if they can fall at a track that I cut my teeth at, it’d mean a little bit more.”

Hamlin also has five wins at Pocono, but he’s overwhelmingly dominated at Martinsville. In 28 prior starts, he also has 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes, meaning he’s finished outside the top 10 in just seven races.

In other words, he has made racing on a very tough track look easy much of the time.

“Well, it’s just the technicality of it, I think similar to a road course in how technical it is,” Hamlin said. “The road courses you have to really be good using the gas and the brake.

“Your braking points – the car gets very, very light on entry there with the back tires, especially as the tires wear out. You got to really be conscious of how your braking. Your acceleration has got to be really on point. You rush the throttle and you will burn up the tires.

“So, I think it’s a driver’s racetrack in that sense that you have to be smart. You’re going to get run into at some point of the day. You can’t let that escalate and throw you off mentally, and you go an retaliate and the next thing you know you’ve got a torn-up car. It’s just a racetrack that demands no mistakes and that’s what I like about it.”

As familiar as he is with and as successful he’s been at Martinsville, tonight’s race under the lights for the first time almost presents a new track feel, Hamlin said.

“Martinsville will be different in a lot of different ways,” Hamlin said. “They’re bringing a new tire to that racetrack, that could be as big as or a bigger change than any weather change that we are going to have from history.

“You look at the dates, it’s going to be way further in the year than we’ve raced at Martinsville, way hotter temperatures. It used to be with the old tires, we used to need for it to be 60 degrees outside temperature for the tire to lay rubber.

“I know they really worked hard in the Goodyear test to try to have a tire that laid rubber down, that had fall off, because we hadn’t had fall off, and the racing had kind of suffered the last few years when we had the big spoiler and no fall off. Just really, racing suffered at Martinsville.

“That’s a track that should never – we should never be talking about aerodynamics, so they worked really hard on it. Even though we are going from day to night, I don’t think it will be as much because it is still a concrete surface that is brighter in color.

“The lighter the color the less transition you’ll have from day to night anyway. I don’t think that will be as big as of a difference as the tire change and the actual temperature.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR realigns dates for Chicagoland, Richmond, Sonoma

Photo: Dustin Long

NASCAR announced Friday that events at Chicagoland Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and the April Cup race at Richmond Raceway have been realigned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chicagoland Speedway Cup and Xfinity races have been moved to Darlington Raceway on May 17 and May 19.

Richmond Raceway’s spring Cup race has been realigned to May 20 at Darlington Raceway.

Sonoma Raceway’s Cup event moves to May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That race will be on Charlotte’s oval.

NASCAR stated that further schedule adjustments will be released in the near future.

NASCAR stated: “Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks. These decisions were made following thorough collaboration with local and state government officials from across the country, including the areas of the affected race tracks. We thank all our fans for their support, and we look forward to our return to racing.”

In a press release, Sonoma Raceway stated that “a workable time when the series could return to the West Coast given the ongoing uncertainty around large events in California could not be confirmed.”

Chicagoland Speedway stated in a press release that the track’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series races also will be realigned.

“The difficult decision to realign our race events was a combination of where we fell on the schedule, proximity to NASCAR’s teams and the safety and well-being of our community and larger NASCAR industry,” said Chicagoland President Scott Paddock in a statement. “We will miss the roar of the engines at Chicagoland Speedway this season, but we will be rooting for and supporting our NASCAR colleagues at Darlington Raceway as competition returns on Sunday, May 17.”

Richmond Raceway stated that it’s April Gander RV & Outdoors Truck race remains postponed for a future rescheduled date.

“As a sport, we continue to be united in the best interests of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, stakeholders, and track personnel,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier in a statement. “There will be brighter and healthier days ahead in the greater Richmond region when NASCAR returns to Richmond Raceway for the NASCAR Playoff Race Weekend on Sept. 11-12. We look forward to NASCAR’s best getting back on the track at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17 as we launch a new countdown to the return of racing in RVA this fall.”

NASCAR has only announced that races from May 17-27 at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR will run four Cup races, two Xfinity races and one Truck race during that time.

As for why the Sonoma race won’t be held on the Charlotte Roval on May 27, a NASCAR spokesperson tweeted a reason:

NASCAR races in Virginia likely several weeks away

Photo: Dustin Long
1 Comment

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam detailed a plan Monday for the state to reopen, but it likely means that Cup races at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway are several weeks away.

Virginia has a stay-at-home order through June 10, but Gov. Northam said during Monday’s media briefing that he plans to ease restrictions beginning May 15.

Cup races at Richmond (April 19) and Martinsville (May 9) are among the events that have been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. No makeup dates for those races have been released.

NASCAR is scheduled to have the Cup Series race May 17 and May 20 at Darlington Raceway. The Cup Series is scheduled to race May 24 and May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told reporters last week that “the goal for us” would be to have the next three Cup events within driving distance of the race teams in the Charlotte, North Carolina region.

Gov. Northam’s plan on when to ease restrictions would not permit NASCAR to include Martinsville or Richmond in that timetable.

Phase 1 of Gov. Northam’s plan to ease restrictions would prevent social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. Gov. Northam said during his media briefing that “we anticipate Phase 1 will last about three weeks.”

If so, the phase would end June 5.

Guidelines for Phase 2 include no social gatherings of more than 50 individuals. Gov. Northam said Phase 2 would last about three weeks “as long as our health data continues to support it.”

In that scenario, Phase 2 would end June 26.

“To move to Phase 3, we’re looking for no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time,” Gov. Northam said.

Guidelines for Phase 3 would remove the ban on social gatherings.

Based on the guidelines Gov. Northam discussed Monday, the races at Richmond and Martinsville would not be able to be held before late June. That timetable could change. In printed information on Phase 3 displayed during Monday’s briefing, it stated that the phase “could be 10-12 weeks away, or more.”

Gov. Northam, citing advice from business leaders, also said Monday that he decided against opening portions of the state that have fewer COVID-19 cases. Instead, he said restrictions will be eased statewide.

NASCAR set to resume racing May 17 at Darlington Raceway with Cup Series


NASCAR announced Thursday that it plans to resume racing May 17 with the Cup Series racing at Darlington Raceway. That event will be the first of seven races among three series between May 17-27 and starts the NASCAR return.

No fans will be allowed at any of those events.

Here is the schedule NASCAR announced:

May 17 (Sunday): Cup teams will run a 400-mile race at Darlington Raceway. Race will be at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

May 19 (Tuesday): Xfinity teams will run a 200-mile race at Darlington Raceway. Race will be at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.

May 20 (Wednesday): Cup teams will return to Darlington to run a 500-kilometer race. Race will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

May 24 (Sunday): Cup teams will compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Race will be at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.

May 25 (Monday): Xfinity teams will run 300 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Race will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

May 26 (Tuesday): Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series teams will run 200 miles at Charlotte. Race will be at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.

May 27 (Wednesday): Cup teams return to race 500 kilometers at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Race will be at 8 p.m. ET on FS1

NASCAR will eliminate practice for all events between May 17-27, as well as qualifying for all events except the Coca-Cola 600. Each event will be a one-day show.

“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community.

“We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”

Adjustments NASCAR return will make

In accordance with CDC, OSHA and state and local government recommendations, NASCAR stated that nearly every aspect of how the event is conducted will be significantly modified, including:

# Use of personal protective equipment throughout the event.

# Health screenings for all individuals prior to entering the facility, while inside the facility and exiting the facility.

# Social distancing protocols throughout the event.

# Strict limits on the number of individuals who are granted access into each facility.

NASCAR did not provide details about any other races beyond the Darlington events. Darlington Raceway announced that the Southern 500 will still take place Sept. 4-6, meaning that Darlington’s races in May will replace other events. 

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a statement about Darlington hosting NASCAR’s return: “As our nation restarts, I can think of no better place for NASCAR to drop the green flag than at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Team South Carolina stands ready to help NASCAR restart the season at Darlington Raceway with three races next month that can be enjoyed by fans from home on television, radio, and online.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated Tuesday that “unless health conditions go down,” the state will allow Charlotte Motor Speedway to host the May 24 Coca-Cola 600.

“I’d like to thank Gov. Cooper, NASCAR and all of our state and local government and health officials who have worked so hard with us to make this happen,” said Speedway Motorsports President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith in a statement. “This has been a proactive effort to put our motorsports industry back to work and boost the morale of sports fans around the world, while at the same time keeping the health and safety of all who will be on site the top priority.

All-Star Race date is still TBD

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced that the All-Star Race has been postponed to a yet-to-be determined date. Smith said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “the plan” is for Charlotte to host the Roval race in the playoffs as scheduled.

NASCAR last raced March 8 with the Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway. NASCAR postponed races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced that Coca-Cola 600 and NASCAR All-Star Race weekend ticket holders on file may choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price. The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, infield tickets, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. The 120-percent event credit can be used during the remaining 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any Speedway Motorsports owned track, subject to availability.

Winners and losers from virtual Richmond Raceway

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

William ByronThe Hendrick Motorsports driver won his second Pro Invitational Series race in a row. Had Timmy Hill not done a bump-and-run at virtual Texas, it could have been three in a row for Byron.

Timmy Hill — Scores runner-up finish at virtual Richmond. Unlike virtual Texas, Hill did not get to the rear bumper of Byron this time. Even so, in four Pro Invitational Series races, Hill has finished third, first, third and second.

Parker KligermanHis third-place finish was his first top five in the Pro Invitational Series.

Landon CassillHe was not originally one of those invited to compete in Sunday’s Pro Invitational Series race but after some issues were raised, organizers added a last-chance qualifying race for four drivers to advance to the main event. Cassill came through the qualifying race and then went on to finish fourth in the main event.

Kyle BuschHe continues to adapt quickly to sim racing and scored his first top-five finish in the Pro Invitational Series on Sunday.



Drivers in incidents — With no fast reset, anyone in a crash Sunday had to go to pit road for extended repairs before returning to the race. In some cases, that was multiple minutes (and multiple laps). If this is for fun, wouldn’t it make sense to allow drivers at least one fast reset per race? With the series heading to a virtual Talladega next weekend, probably would be a good idea to allow drivers at least one fast reset for that event. William Byron suggested Sunday that drivers should have a couple of fast resets for Talladega.

Christopher BellTalk about bad luck. Bell opened the real Cup season by finishing no better than 21st in the first four races and had an average finish of 29.0 before that type of racing was paused. In the four Pro Invitational iRacing Series run, Bell has finished no better than 12th and has an average finish of 24.0, matching his finish in Sunday’s race. This from a driver who has been very involved in iRacing for a number of years.

Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan PreeceMultiple incidents led iRacing officials to removing DiBenedetto from the race. DiBenedetto said that things started when Ryan Preece came down on him and Preece spun after the contact. Preece then spun DiBenedetto, according to DiBenedetto, because of the earlier contact. DiBendetto said he then paid Preece back and wrecked Preece. That’s when iRacing officials removed DiBenedetto from the race.