Hamlin, Busch, Harvick look for Richmond success
Momentum figures to be big this week: Denny Hamlin won for the second time on Sunday at Kansas Speedway and has a pair of Richmond victories (fall 2009-10). Kyle Busch has won three consecutive spring races at the track but remains winless through this year’s first eight races. Kevin Harvick is the most recent Richmond winner last September en route to a third-place championship finish.
Several questions loom: Can Hendrick Motorsports finally get its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory? Will Martin Truex Jr., second in Kansas and enjoying his best points ranking (second) ever, break a winless drought of 175 races?
Richmond’s 400-lap, 300-mile race can be seen on FOX (live, 7:30 p.m. ET).
The NASCAR Nationwide Series roars back into action in Richmond on Friday (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET) with action sports star Travis Pastrana making his long-awaited debut. Virginia native Elliott Sadler is the series points leader by four over defending champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. NNS points eligible competitors hope to snap a wins drought dating to the spring of 2004.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors begin a count-down to the May 18 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. James Buescher became the season’s second first-time winner on April 21 at Kansas Speedway and trails standings leader Timothy Peters by four points with four of 22 races complete.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Denny Hamlin Returns Home On A Roll
Denny Hamlin, a Chesterfield, Va. Native, returns to Richmond a winner and will attempt to win back-to-back races for only the second time in his career. (He won the Pocono and Michigan races in consecutive weeks in June 2010.)
He has two wins at his home track and is looking forward to going home. "We've got a lot of stuff leading up -- we have our big Short Track Showdown coming up on Thursday, so we've got a lot of planning. I obviously need to go to Richmond early to get some stuff done and schmooze some of our sponsors for that race for a few days. We're excited. I love going to Richmond anyway, but any time you can go after winning the previous week, it makes it a little more exciting. I'm excited about it. It's a big weekend for us next weekend, and obviously this is a great step to trying to get some promotion for that."
Hamlin, who nabbed his 19th career win last week, looks to become the fourth Virginia native to record 20 or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories, joining Joe Weatherly (25), Ricky Rudd (23) and Jeff Burton (21).
A second local connection for the No. 11 team – crew chief Darian Grubb. Grub, from Floyd, Va., earned an engineering degree from Virginia Tech.
Speaking of Darian Grubb…
A rivalry of sorts is blossoming between he and former boss Tony Stewart. On the wins ledger, both have two on the young season.
Sprint Cup Stars Aid Hamlin’s Foundation
Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown is part of a Thursday night doubleheader that also features the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100. Sprint Cup stars who’ll compete in the foundation event include Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.
Richmond Could Jump-Start Kyle Busch’s Season
Kyle Busch has won the last three spring races at Richmond and is tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart for most wins among active drivers. It's the fourth anniversary of Busch getting into Earnhardt Jr. and allowing Clint Bowyer to slide through for a win. These four drivers with three wins apiece trail five NASCAR Hall of Famers and one NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee on the all-time list: Richard Petty (13), Bobby Allison (7), David Pearson (6), Rusty Wallace (6), Darrell Waltrip (6) and Dale Earnhardt (5).
Busch ranks 13th in the standings 31 points out of the top 10. Busch’s last victory came last August at Michigan International Speedway, 20 starts ago.
Martin Truex Jr.’s Amazing 2012 Continues
Martin Truex Jr. didn’t break his winless streak in Kansas. He did everything but, finishing a close second to Hamlin after leading 173 laps – the most in any race since his 2007 victory in the fall event at Dover International Speedway. Truex heads to Richmond second in points – his best ranking ever – with a career-best five consecutive top-10 finishes. The New Jersey native has a single top five at Richmond – fifth in the spring of 2008. His best Richmond finish with Michael Waltrip Racing, seventh, came in the spring of 2010.
The secret behind Truex’s resurgence? Well, there are plenty of reasons, but one might be his ability to stay out of trouble. Truex has run 7,142.37 miles since the last time he was listed as being part of an accident or spin that brought out a caution. Of those 7,142.37 miles run, 6,142.876 were on the lead lap. Both figures are best in the series.
Hendrick Motorsports #200Wins Watch
Rick Hendrick leads all active owners with 10 wins and trails only Richard Petty (15) for most wins at the track. Hendrick and Petty are the only owners with double-digit victories at the Virginia short track. His last win at the .75-mile oval came in the fall of 2008 with Jimmie Johnson. Johnson swept both Richmond races in 2007. Johnson finished third in Kansas and continues to strengthen his bid for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr., a three-time Richmond winner (most recently in spring 2006), is a riding a four-race top-10 streak.
Newman Continues 50 Coors Light Poles Watch
Ryan Newman has one pole at Richmond, starting in the top spot for the fall 2004 race. His 11.1 average start at Richmond is 13th-best at the 24 tracks on the circuit. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five poles, trailing NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison (8), Richard Petty (8) and Darrell Waltrip (7). There hasn't been a repeat pole winner back to 2006.
NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
Finally, Go-Time Is Here For Pastrana
Like the old ketchup commercial, there’s been plenty of anticipation surrounding Travis Pastrana’s NASCAR Nationwide Series debut. Originally scheduled to make his first start last July at O’Reilly Raceway Park, Pastrana’s bid was thwarted due to injuries suffered in an X-Games stunt the night before. Now after injury rehab, plenty of testing and a couple of runs in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – including Thursday night’s Blue Ox 100 – the action sports icon is finally set for his big-stage NASCAR moment Friday night at Richmond. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Pastrana as well. He’s a native of Annapolis, Md. Almost a year to the day (April 28, 2011) after making his K&N East debut at Richmond, Pastrana is set to embark on a NNS schedule that encompass at least seven races in 2012. Pastrana will compete in the NNS for RAB Racing as that team and Michael Waltrip Racing last week announced an alliance between the organizations that will feature RAB equipment and MWR technical and marketing support. The No. 09 Toyota now becomes the No. 99.A little quieter perhaps but another debut to watch is that of Ryan Blaney, 18, son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney. He’ll try to make his first start for Tommy Baldwin Racing. In only four starts in the K&N Pro Series East and West, Blaney has a win – last November at Phoenix – a runner-up finish and two other top-10 results. He’ll also run Thursday night in the K&N East race.
Is Superman a Regular Guy?
Since the fall 2004 race, Richmond has been kryptonite to NNS regulars. Robby Gordon, then a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular, won that race and in the races since, double-duty drivers have dominated Victory Lane at RIR. Virginia’s own Denny Hamlin, last week’s Cup winner at Kansas, comes home with confidence and also is the defending winner of this race. Although Friday night’s entry list is stocked with double-duty RIR dominators in addition to Hamlin – Kevin Harvick, who’s tied with Mark Martin for most NNS wins at Richmond with five; Brad Keselowski, the winner of this race in 2010; Joey Logano, he of three top-10 finishes in three series races at RIR; along with Kasey Kahne – it very well could be a NNS regular who is favored to win. Consider the regulars’ strengths: Another Virginian, Elliott Sadler, leads the standings and has two wins this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the reigning series champion, has chipped away at Sadler’s advantage and sits only four points out in second. Stenhouse also has two victories this season, winning last time out at Texas. Although receiving driver championship points in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, James Buescher is certainly a threat, having won the season-opener at Daytona among his scheduled 14 NNS races this year. Since last November at Texas, series regulars have won seven of the last nine races.
NNS RIR ETC:
Austin Dillon, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader, has come a long way since his NNS debut in 2008 at RIR where he finished 26th. Dillon, the 2011 Camping World Truck champion, is third in the rankings, 20 points behind Sadler. He’ll get some work in at Pocono on Wednesday at the Goodyear tire test where he’ll test in a truck before heading to Richmond. Friday also marks his 22nd birthday. … Steve Wallace will make his return to the NNS at Richmond. He’ll drive the No. 4 Chevrolet, which lists his father, NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Rusty Wallace, as owner. Steve Wallace hasn’t run in the series since the 2011 season finale at Homestead-Miami. … Tanner Berryhill, 18, who had seven K&N East starts in 2007, will attempt to make his series debut for Vision Racing at RIR. … Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas swept the RIR races last year, but the competition at the 0.75-mile track has been wide open over the last four years. Each manufacturer as at least one win since the 2009 fall race. … Kurt Busch is making his second consecutive start for Kyle Busch Motorsports, but this will be his first in the NNS at Richmond. His owner and younger brother, Kyle, will provide great notes as a four-time NNS winner at RIR.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Buescher Makes It Back-To-Back Wins For Turner Motorsports
It took Turner Motorsports 134 starts to visit victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and only one more to earn their second. James Buescher – who finished in the runner-up position four times in his career - finally captured the elusive truck series victory at Kansas after leading an impressive 103 laps. Buescher currently sits four points behind Timothy Peters in the series championship standings. He is slated to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Richmond International Raceway this weekend in the No. 30 entry for Turner Motorsports.
Peters, White Head Home To Virginia In Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown
Virginia native Jason White and points leader Timothy Peters (who lives in Danville, Va.) return to their short track roots with fellow Virginian Denny Hamlin in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway. The showdown, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model division race, will kick of the weekend’s festivities at the famed 0.75-mile track. Peters currently leads the NCWTS standings following the first four events.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on Friday, May18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the N.C. Education Lottery 200. At least two former winners, Matt Crafton (2008) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (2009) are expected to compete.