Two of NASCAR’s three national divisions — the Xfinity Series and the Sprint Cup Series — head to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway this weekend for short track and night racing. It’s the third short track race in the last four race weekends for the Sprint Cup Series. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series continues to enjoy an extended vacation.
The Xfinity Series will open the weekend of racing action with the ToyotaCare 250 Friday night, with the weekend culminating in Saturday night’s running of the Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup Series race.
For some of NASCAR’s finest, though, racing in Virginia this week has already begun, with a handful of NASCAR stars competing in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown charity race at nearby South Boston (Va.) Speedway. The race was won by Truck Series driver Timothy Peters. Drivers who are expected to be racing in Richmond didn’t fare so well, though. Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan finished 16th, while other two Cup drivers Jeb Burton and event host Denny Hamlin wound up outside the top-20, Burton in 28th and Hamlin 31st. Hamlin fell out of the race after 69 laps, due to engine problems. Reigning Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott also wound up outside the top-20 in 22nd.
By running Hamlin’s event, this weekend will be one of triple duty for Elliott, or at least he hopes it is. If he can qualify for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race, Elliott will make his second-career start in the series.
"“I’ve been looking forward to Richmond for quite some time,” Elliott said. “We have to take this weekend step-by-step. First, we need the weather to cooperate to be able to practice in order to qualify Friday night, so we’ll position ourselves the best we can in the situations we can control. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity Mr. Hendrick (Rick Hendrick, car owner) and his organization is giving me.”"
Other Sprint Cup drivers got some seat time at RIR earlier this month, thanks to a Goodyear tire test at the track. Those drivers include Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, Casey Mears and Austin Dillon.
"“I thought the test a few weeks ago went well, but there are always things that we will work on and try to improve,” Gordon said. “This event always presents challenges, since we practice during the day and race at night.”"
Matt Kenseth heads to Richmond as the most recent winner on the Sprint Cup circuit, winning the rain-delayed Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway.
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, who were both caught up in a wreck early at Bristol last weekend, were winners at Richmond in 2014. Logano won last year’s Toyota Owners 400, while Keselowski was victorious at RIR on the most recent visit to the track last September.
Sprint Cup regulars Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch won the two Xfinity (then-Nationwide) Series races at Richmond last year.
Here’s a look at the Richmond weekend on-track schedule (courtesy of NASCAR.com):
All times Eastern
8:15-10:25 a.m. — Xfinity Series final practice
11 a.m.-12:25 p.m. — Sprint Cup Series practice (FOX Sports 1)
1-2:25 p.m. — Sprint Cup Series final practice (FOX Sports 1)
3:45 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (FOX Sports 1)
5:45 p.m. — Sprint Cup Series qualifying (FOX Sports 1)
7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (FOX Sports 1)
7 p.m. — Sprint Cup race (FOX)
WEATHER (courtesy of Accuweather.com):
Like last race weekend at Bristol, rain may play into weekend activity for the Sprint Cup Series. Skies are expected to be clear on Friday, practice and qualifying day for both series. There is a slight chance of rain, 10 percent, for Friday night, race night for the Xfinity Series. The skies aren’t expected to luck as good on Saturday, though, with a 67 percent of showers forecasted during the day and dropping only one percent to 66 percent for Saturday night, the night of the Toyota Owners 400. Temperatures are expected to reach 63 degrees on Friday before dipping to an overnight low of around 40. The temp is expected to rise to 56 degrees on Saturday before an expected low of 45 degrees Saturday night.
Follow Stock Car Spin on Twitter @SCSblog or like Stock Car Spin on Facebook. Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner