- Published on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 18:35
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NASCAR racing returns to the local area this weekend with three nights of racing at Richmond International Raceway. Hometown favorite Denny Hamlin, fresh off his Sprint Cup win last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, kicks off the activities as part of a double header Thursday night. Hamlin teams up with the speedway to host the fifth annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at the nation’s premier short track. The Short Track Challenge will be followed by The Blue Ox 100 for the NASCAR K&N Pro series East cars.
Friday night the Nationwide Series 250 will pit young up-and-coming drivers, wily veterans, and several Sprint Cup series stars, all battling it out around the 3/4 mile
high banked oval. With children admitted free to the general admission section with a paying adult, Friday night is a great time to bring out the whole family.
Saturday night, is the main event - 400 laps of fender-banging short track racing at its finest as the stars of the Sprint Cup Series duke it out in the Richmond 400. Kyle Busch is the defending race winner. Teammate Denny Hamlin finished second, 1.85 seconds behind Busch for a one, two finish for Joe Gibbs Racing in last April’s Cup race. Juan Pablo Montoya sat on the pole with a qualifying speed of 128.989 mph.
Are you getting a bit blasé with the last two Cup races at Texas and Kansas that were run in record times with very few caution flags? Expect a return to some typical slam-bang, temper-flaring, short-track action at Richmond. Last year’s spring race included eight caution flags.
It has been pretty much a given that the team to beat every weekend is Hendrick Motorsports. With a current roster of drivers that includes five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kasey Kahne, Hendrick has 199 Sprint Cup wins, second most in NASCAR history. Only Petty Enterprises with 282 wins has more. The team has 200 win hats at the ready. There is much good natured rivalry among the teams drivers, each vying to be the driver to get team owner Rick Hendricks his 200th win.
Fourteen races have now passed since a Hendricks Motorsports driver has won a race. Their last win was the fall race at Kansas Speedway in October of last season. The current winless streak is the team’s longest since the end of the 2002 season and the early part of 2003 when Hendricks went 15 races without a win.
Six teams have won at least one race since Hendrick’s last win, including Red Bull Racing, which is not racing on the Cup circuit in 2012. Current Champion Tony Stewart’s team Stewart Haas Racing, which gets engines and chassis from Hendick, has five wins since the last Hendrick victory. Since their last win Hendrick has been close, the team has 4 runner-up finishes, and 15 top 5.
The team placed all four drivers in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago for the first time since Talladega in April of last season. Last weekend at Kansas was the team’s 3000th start, becoming the first team to reach that milestone.
Rick Hendrick founded All-Star Racing in 1984 and fielded a single car team in what was then the Winston Cup Series out of a 5000 square foot facility. The team was composed of 5 employees and driver Geoff Bodine. The team was rechristened Hendrick Motorsports a year later. Today the organization is headquartered on 140 acres of North Carolina property straddling Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties. The 430,000 square foot facility houses complete engine and chassis building areas to support their four full time Sprint Cup Teams.
Meanwhile they continue to keep a stiff upper lip, it’s a foregone conclusion that they will get their 200th win, it’s not a matter of if but when the win will come. Meanwhile the team continues to carry that box of hats from track to track.
You may reach Pete Barber at talkinracing.com