Nascar At Richmond: Saturday Night – Under The Lights

Rusty NormanTo me, there’s just something special about racing on Saturday night and something even more special about racing under the lights. Racing on Saturday night is what I grew up on and I always look forward to these night-time races. Nascar returns to the roots of racing tonight at Richmond International Raceway. To top it off it, RIR is basically a short track at high speed with plenty of excitement and lot’s of drama.

One statement I find interesting about RIR (and several often repeat it) is, Richmond is a short track that thinks it’s a Super Speedway. I can’t say I’ve ever thought of it that way, (at least, I don’t think so.) The thing I like about Richmond is it is a track that has multiple grooves for just plain good racing. It is a fast track with fourteen degree banking in the turns and a difference between the front and back straights that makes for plenty of excitement all night long.

The Toyotas and Chevys seem to have a bit of an advantage this weekend, at least as far as qualifying times tell us. A quick look at the top twelve qualifiers shows the Chevys with six, the Toyotas with five and the lone Dodge of Brad Keselowski. I know I’m always harping on the fact that we can’t put a lot of stock in the qualifying times, but this week, I’m inclined to think they might have something to say about what the end result will be. The practice speeds do somewhat line up with the qualifying and I do think this will be a race that could depart from the norm, (and I do admit, “norm” is a relative term.)

I’m sure many fans can’t wait to see if Jeff and Jimmie have really put the incidents of the last couple of weeks behind them. I mean, sayin’ it is one thing; doing it is quite another. (Just as a side note, did anyone notice where they are starting in the lineup?  Yup, that’s right… they’re starting in the second row, right next to each other.) I know they are both competitive in nature, but I don’t expect either one to do anything to upset the other, at least at the beginning of the race. Now… when we get nearer to the end… well, that could be a completely different story, (and one possibility many fans are looking forward to with great expectation…)

I’m not sure that we will get to see them tradin’ paint, but, one thing is certain, (at least from this fan’s view), if the finish comes down to a shootout between the two, look out because I do think some sparks will fly and it will definitely be one of those situations that anything – and I do mean anything – can happen.

Since this is basically short track racing, this is definitely a night that anyone could win and it may have nothing to do with the drivers we normally expect to win. This could easily be a night we have a totally unexpected winner taking his time in Victory Lane. It could be that David Reutimann takes the victory for himself and Michael Waltrip Racing, but it could also be a night that Martin Truex does, also.

If anyone would like to win tonight and break his winless streak, I think that would almost have to put Juan Pablo Montoya and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the top of the list. Those are some of the more noticeable names that come to mind. Let’s not forget Kyle Bush and Joey Logano; (I mention them more because of the victories of Denny Hamlin in recent races rather than the length of time since their last win in cup.)

With the strength of the RCR teams this season, I don’t see how I could not expect to see a strong performance from any of those three. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer are probably the hungriest since Kevin Harvick won last week. (Now, don’t misunderstand, that doesn’t mean Kevin Harvick isn’t still hungry to win…)

If I had to pick a winner for tonight, (which I don’t), I’d probably have to pick one of the Hendrick cars, whether it be actual Hendrick owned cars or Hendrick associated ones like those of Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart. I still think they would like to show they aren’t ready to give up their strong performances for an also-ran place in the finishing order.

The racing tonight will be fast and furious for the most part and I do believe track position and pit strategy will play a gigantic role in who ends up in Victory Lane. It will also be interesting to see how much of a role the double file restart will play along with the green-white-checkered possibilities.

So, will it be, Kyle or Kurt? Yeah, could be… or could it be Mark or Dale Jr? Yes, it could be any one of them. In all honesty, I’m not going to rule out anyone in the top 35 simply because this is Richmond and this is Nascar and anything can happen. Personally, I think the race will come down to strategy on the last pit stop and at what point the final caution falls.

Will it be interesting? Undoubtedly; Will it be dramatic? Probably so, but I’m still hoping for that “perfect storm” possibility of a lineup for the final green-white-checkered trophy dash finish of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Bush, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano. If it did happen that the final lineup included all of these at the front, what do you think the outcome would be?

Hey… I’m just sayin’, “What if…”

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© May 1, 2010 – all rights reserved

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