Richmond. What a strange track that is. Cars going round and round separately, not tied together like conjoined twins, as was the case at Talladega. Oh, how will we deal with the spectacle?
[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]My guess is we’ll do just fine. So should the trio of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon. Looking back over the past three years, and six Richmond races, you could say the trio has been rather proficient in the Old Dominion. Gordon has five Top Tens, with 12th his worst over the time period. Hamlin has won twice there, including the past two fall races, while Busch has 2 wins, was the runner-up twice, a total of 5 Top Fives in his last six attempts.
Friday marks the Intimidator’s 60th birthday. Did you know that of the 62 Cup championships claimed since 1949, 34 of them went to one of just eight drivers? Earnhardt and Richard Petty had seven each, with Jimmie Johnson the past five. Jeff Gordon has four, with three each won by Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip. In case you were wondering, two remain active, two are already in the Hall of Fame, two more enter in May, and those other two should get their invitations in time to party next January.
All eight of NASCAR’s most decorated champions have had success at Richmond. The King won there 13 times between 1961 and 1975. Waltrip and Pearson were six time winners, Earnhardt had five. Yarborough and Johnson (the last in 2008) had three, with Lee Petty and Gordon (1996, 2000) a pair each.
The great ones have found a way to win at Richmond, and more than once. Along with the six mentioned above, three time winners also include such legends and current stars as Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (7 times), Rusty Wallace (6 times), Joe Weatherly, Terry Labonte, Tony Stewart (last time in 2002), and Dale Earnhardt Jr (who claimed his third in the spring of 2006). Few who win at Richmond have done so without having an impressive resume, or who are in the midst of building one. Don’t expect to be overly surprised by who shows up in Victory Lane Saturday night.
In fact, only 10 drivers have won at Richmond who did not eventually wind up with at least 15 career victories. One, ironically enough, was Tim Richmond while another is four time winner Clint Bowyer. Of the other eight, Cotton Owens and Dave Marcis won only 14 times between them, but they both won on this track twice.
As for the car of choice, Chevy leads Ford 34-26, but Toyota has won the last four races run at Richmond. Meanwhile, between 1955 and 2002, twenty-eight were won by makes no longer running in NASCAR. That last one was Tony Stewart’s third win there in a Pontiac.
Noah, Talladega, and Daytona did things two-by-two. Richmond will be a different animal altogether this weekend.