The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Circuit City 250 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday May 4, 2006

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Race Trax: Circuit City 250

Amy Henderson · Thursday May 4, 2006

 

On Track
The Circuit City 250 is the eleventh race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway twice in 2006; they’ll return in September for another Friday Night go-round at the short track. RIR has hosted the Busch Series each year since 1982, and Tommy Houston was the first NBS winner at the track, while Mark Martin leads in all-time wins with five. The track is a flat, D-shaped oval track with just fourteen degrees of banking through the turns. The backstretch has just two degrees of banking, while the frontstretch has eight. The field will include 2005 polesitter Kasey Kahne and race winner Carl Edwards.

50 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, with the Top 30 in 2006 car owner points guaranteed a starting position. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team’s time. The entry list includes fourteen full time Nextel Cup drivers. The Busch Series qualifying record at RIR is 129.348 mph, set by Kyle Busch in 2004.

The points battle in the Busch Series is still a rather lopsided affair in favor of Kevin Harvick, who holds one of the widest point margins in series history over second-place Clint Bowyer, a 274-point cushion. The rest of the top five includes Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and J.J. Yeley. The top Busch Series regular is Paul Menard in sixth place.

What To Expect
Fans who tuned in to the Talladega race last week can expect almost its polar opposite this time around. Cars can and will use their bumpers as a friendly (or not-so-friendly depending on whose seat you’re in) reminder that passing at RIR is not easy and sometimes calls for more patience than is to be had. That said, a few dents here and there won’t hurt a good car’s chances in the least, and cars will lean hard on one another for an advantage. Aerodynamics might not be the key to winning at RIR, but patience and well-timed assertiveness – not to be confused with aggression -both are.

Who to Watch
The Buschwhackers have run strong at RIR, but so have a couple of notable Busch Series regulars. In addition to Carl Edwards’ win, his Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle ran well at RIR last spring-this year should be no different. Kasey Kahne is also looking to rebound after a Nextel Cup crash last weekend left him sore but otherwise unhurt. Kevin Harvick is strong everywhere in a Busch car right now, and this week should be no different.

For the first time this year, though, the Busch regulars may well have something to say about this one. Johnny Sauter has a win and was in the top five at RIR last spring. Kenny Wallace has three wins, 17 Top 10s, and has completed more Busch Series laps at Richmond than any other driver. Lastly, while he may not have the top-funded car, Jason Keller returns to the track in the #34 Cicci-Kelly Chevrolet ready to prove that he can still win. Keller has won at RIR in the past, and his benchmark 400th start in the Busch Series will make him only the second driver in series history to reach that mark.

Did You Know:

  • Kenny Wallace once led 246 of 250 laps in a romp to victory at Richmond in the fall race of 1996. In contrast, Mark Martin led just two laps to win the very next race at RIR in the spring of 1997.

  • Speaking of Martin and Wallace, each also has a whopping 17 Top 10 finishes at RIR.
  • Eight times, the winner at Richmond has started on the pole, but on one occasion the winner started 30th, about a half-lap disadvantage at the beginning of the race.

You Don’t Say"¦
"It really is a little of both. But I think you have to go in with the short track mindset. There is more contact at Richmond than you have at a bigger track. I think sometimes drivers use the short track as an excuse to beat and bang, but as tight as the racing is there, it’s hard to not have incidental contact." driver Kevin Harvick on whether RIR is a short track or a speedway

"This weekend’s schedule will present some challenges we have not seen this year, but we might as well get used to it because we will run it several times before the year is over. We don’t plan to do anything different with the team, other than making sure our mechanics, who are over the wall guys, are getting rest when they can. With the short practice sessions, time is crucial and I don’t want to upset the chemistry we have with our normal setup guys. We have also tried to rest those guys during the week, to make sure they are fresh for the busy day on Friday." *Dave Rogers*, Crew Chief for Denny Hamlin, on RIR and the schedule

“I think everybody likes going to Richmond. It’s always a good race because it’s such a racey racetrack. The bottom is where you qualify and you race in the middle to the top. You kind of race against the cushion because there is grip there. You can get a couple different grooves going, but up against the cushion is the fastest way to pass. I think everybody likes the night racing, too. We had a good test there, and Phoenix was a good race for us; what we learned there and in the test, we just keep building on.” Busch Series rookie John Andretti on RIR

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