Philadelphia, PA – After the last two Sprint Cup Series races have run at a record pace due to limited cautions, Saturday night's 400-lapper at Richmond International Raceway might be more action-packed than what we've been seeing lately.
Many races held so far this season have featured a low number of cautions, particularly the night event at Texas earlier this month and last Sunday's race at Kansas. The first 100 laps at Texas featured two cautions for debris before the remaining 234 laps ran under green. Kansas was slowed twice for debris and once for a single-car incident involving Clint Bowyer.
Last month, California featured only one caution -- for rain -- on lap 125. The rain intensified after four laps under caution, forcing NASCAR to halt the race 71 laps away from its scheduled distance. NACAR called it shortly after, with Tony Stewart picking up the win.
Bristol was somewhat of a lackluster race as well. A seven-car crash occurred in the early going, but the remainder of the event ran relatively incident free.
The recent low number of yellow flags has generated criticism from fans. Some competitors like five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson have also joined in the latest NASCAR debate. Earlier this week, Johnson posted on his Twitter account, "It seems like crashing to most is more important [than] racing." He also tweeted, "I'm happy to see many just want better racing and not cautions. Believe me, we are all hustling out there."
Johnson has since learned that fans really want more cautions in order to bunch the field up and create more side-by-side racing after restarts.
"I was having some fun [Monday], just trying to see what the opinions were," he said during a teleconference on Tuesday. "There are a lot of comments about how few cautions we've had over the last couple weeks on the mile and a halfs. So I sent out a conversation stimulating thought.
And I was pleasantly surprised the majority weren't after the wreck. They just wanted things bunched up at the side-by-side racing. Still it's a slippery slope and tough to understand, because we go to some tracks that were known for crashes, like Bristol, and we run side by side, lap after lap, and that doesn't win the fan appeal as well."
Known as "The Action Track," Richmond, a 0.75-mile racetrack, might provide fans with something they haven't seen in a while -- a lot of cautions.
"I love short tracks first of all and think we need more," Johnson said. "Short tracks I think really draw the fans and create the excitement that we need in the sport."
After winning at Kansas, Denny Hamlin returns to his home track with a lot of momentum. Hamlin, who hails from nearby Chesterfield, VA, claimed his second victory of the season. His first win came in February at Phoenix. He is currently fifth in the point standings.
If Hamlin wins at Richmond, it would be just the second time he has scored back-to-back victories. He won the Pocono and Michigan races in consecutive weeks in June 2010.
"I love going to Richmond, but anytime you can go after winning the previous week, it makes it a little more exciting," said Hamlin, whose 19th career Cup victory came at Kansas.
Hamlin is a two-time Richmond winner, with his victories there coming in the 2009 and '10 fall races.
Kyle Busch, who is Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, has won the last three spring events at Richmond. Busch is currently 13th in points. His most recent Sprint Cup victory came last August (21 races ago).
"Denny and I really feed off each other an awful lot in Richmond," Busch said. "We use each other a ton there just to be sure we can beat the rest of the competition. We do similar setups there, unlike other mile-and-a-half tracks or two-mile tracks where we don't run very similar setups. Richmond is one of those places where we both know what it takes to get around, and we're both similar to one another that we both run well."
Busch led a total of 226 laps in the 2010 spring race at Richmond. He ran in front for 235 laps in last year's event there.
Greg Biffle enters this race with a 15-point lead over Martin Truex Jr. Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, is 17 points behind, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. trails by 21 markers.
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Capital City 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, April 28. Race: Capital City 400. Site: Richmond International Raceway. Track: 0.75-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m.(ET). Laps: 400. Miles: 300. 2011 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.