The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are running under the lights this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.
Sprint Cup Series
Toyota Owners 400 - Richmond International Raceway - Richmond, Va.
Springtime has been the right time for Kyle Busch at Richmond International Raceway lately.
Busch has won the last four spring races at this 0.75-mile racetrack. This Saturday night, he'll attempt to make it five in a row in the capital city of Virginia.
In 16 Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond, Busch has an average finish of 5.438, which is tops among all active drivers. He has also finished on the lead lap in every one of his races here except last September, when he placed one lap behind in 16th. His four wins at this track are the most among active drivers as well.
"I love Richmond," Busch said. "It's one of my favorite racetracks and one of my best racetracks. I love being able to go there, and of course, we put on some pretty good races there. We've won four in a row with the last four spring races, and I would love to make it five this time around. It's a neat racetrack, and it's certainly an excitement track."
Busch is hoping to bounce back at Richmond after a frustrating weekend at Kansas Speedway. He finished 38th in last Sunday's race there after being involved in a wreck with his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Joey Logano, just before the halfway point. Busch also crashed his primary car on the first day of practice at Kansas and had to switch to a backup car for the race.
Prior to Kansas, Busch had been on a hot streak, posting five consecutive top- five finishes, including victories at Texas and Fontana, Calif. He is currently seventh in the point standings (-54 behind leader Jimmie Johnson). Busch was second in the rankings before the series competed at Kansas.
His only victory in Sprint Cup last year came in the spring race at Richmond. He did not make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, coming up just three points short of a playoff spot.
"We'll see how Richmond goes, but I love going to Richmond, for some reason," he said. "I've just kind of taken to that place. I know what I need in my car to run well there. The guys have done a good job making good adjustments through practice, and sometimes we try to dial ourselves out, but we get honed back in on what we know works there."
This will be the first time NASCAR's new Sprint Cup race car, the Gen-6, runs at Richmond. Since the car made its competition debut at the start of the season, the track qualifying record has been broken at Bristol, Martinsville, Texas and Kansas. Busch won the pole at Bristol and Texas. He's the only driver with multiple pole victories in the series this season.
"We've seen the testing speeds from Richmond being quicker than in years past, and I think that's just these new cars being a little bit lighter," Busch said. "They are also carrying a little more downforce than what they had in years past. That's good, though, and that's fun when the cars drive well and you can run side-by-side a little bit more and race a little bit more and put on a good show."
Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Toyota Owners 400.
ToyotaCare 250 - Richmond International Raceway - Richmond, Va.
Jeffrey Earnhardt driving for his uncle's Nationwide Series team this week at Richmond International Raceway will be a big career boost for him.
Earnhardt, the son of Kerry Earnhardt and grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt, will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide race at Richmond. His uncle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and aunt, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, are part owners of JRM.
The 23-year-old Earnhardt is scheduled to make his 16th career Nationwide start but his first for JRM. He has five starts this season, driving the No. 79 Ford for Go Green Racing. His career-best finish in NASCAR's second-tier series is 19th, which came in the July 2011 race at Daytona.
"Just being here at Richmond and having this opportunity with JR Motorsports is more than exciting to me," Earnhardt said.
In addition to his racing career, Earnhardt is a mixed martial arts competitor. He has been in the MMA for almost a year now.
The Earnhardt family has 12 NASCAR national touring series victories at Richmond, including three Sprint Cup Series wins for Dale Jr. and five for Dale Sr.
"To be a part of something so great is a huge honor, and I hope that I can carry the Earnhardt name as well as I possibly can," Jeffrey Earnhardt said. "It is pressure, but it seems like over the years, it's something that I've been able to deal with a lot better than I would have thought.
"Everyone always expects you to come to the track and be one of the fastest or to win the race. It's not always like that. I'm out here learning just like everyone else."
The 250-lap Nationwide race at Richmond is scheduled for Friday night. Teams practiced here on Thursday, with Earnhardt posting the 13th fastest lap.
"I feel we're capable of being a top-10 car, if not a top-five car, by the end of the race tomorrow night," he said.
Forty-six teams are on the entry list for the ToyotaCare 250. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this event. Busch has won four of the first six Nationwide races this season.