Richmond is rich with history going all the way back to the pre-NASCAR years. A track that started at a half-mile dirt Atlantic Fairgrounds that saw the purchase by the Sawyer family and Joe Weatherly yet Weatherly’s interest would be bought out within a year and full control of the track taken over by Paul Sawyer.
Over the years Sawyer tended to the track, paving it, and eventually reshaping the track into the current three-quarter mile D-shaped oval, with the final half-mile race taking place in the spring of 1988 with Neil Bonnett taking the checkered flag. By the fall, the track was converted into a three-quarter mile oval.
Richmond throughout the years was a tough ticket to get, packing in over 100,000 fans every weekend while battling Bristol for the toughest and longest sell out streaks in the sport. Some people waiting years in a lottery for their name to be called and when your name was called it was like getting a Wonka golden ticket.
The legacy of the track and the history that has taken place there over the years is hard to sum up in one piece, yet when Ricky Rudd a Virginia native taped his eyes open the week after wrecking in Daytona or Dale Earnhardt Sr. seen wiping his own windshield while halfway out of a car driving all under caution.
Rudd known as “Rooster” was one tough customer for sure, battling Kevin Harvick in both 2001 and 2003, beating and banging that saw Rudd go to victory lane in 2001 and Harvick wrecked by Rudd in 2003.
In a post-race encounter that saw Harvick jumping on the hood of Rudd’s car on pit road the ended with a fight ensuing between the crews and Harvick. Rudd that night was asked what Harvick said to him to which he responded with “He's got that little yap yap mouth:”
Years later Rudd would tell Corey Lajoie he “regretted” not fighting Harvick. Richmond was the action track for sure and one could see why it was a tough ticket to get each year. Honestly, something that has been lost over the years.
Richmond like many tracks last year shifted dates and when they could return to racing hosted no fans. The track this year is being allowed to return with up to 30% of the capacity, yet with social distancing it might not be possible based on the combination of tickets being sold.
“It’s been since 2019 since we’ve had fans here. The fans bring the energy to the track and its great to have the fans back. We’ve trying to do as much contactless as we can with digital tickets at the gate with cashless concession stands.” Said Dennis Bickmeier
With 2021 seeing the 75th season at Richmond the track is ready to explore its long history in the sport.
“Its interesting to group the moments based on the track configuration, the half-mile dirt era is different then the half-mile oval era and the three-quarter mile configuration. It’s cool this facility has evolved in the racing surface and the size of the surface.” Continues Bickmeier
Over the previous several seasons Richmond moved from strictly night racing into a day race then back to night. This season will see a return of day racing for the spring event at the track.
“This race was scheduled to be a day race last year before it was canceled due to COVID. The biggest thing is working with out partners on the broadcast side and the NASCAR schedule makers in trying to change things up a bit. There’s a lot of change that went into the schedule for 2021, this was one of those even though it was scheduled to happen in 2020”
NASCAR returns to the Richmond Raceway for the Saturday, April 17th at 1:30 p.m. ET for the ToyotaCare 250 Camping World Truck Series race and the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series return to short track racing a week after Martinsville in the Toyota Owners 400 scheduled to kick off at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX with Martin Truex Jr. starting from the pole over Hamlin, Elliott, Byron and Logano.