NASCAR Week hits Richmond with different feel

NASCAR Week hits Richmond with different feel
Denny Hamlin navigated through multi-car pile-ups to win the Daytona 500 in overtime Sunday.

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Raceway is usually alive and well on and off the track. From races to trade shows to conventions, the venue is a popular spot for events; but COVID-19 has wiped out most of the 2020 schedule, and that includes NASCAR.

The sport makes its return to the Action Track this week. Not since September 21, 2019, have engines started and laps been run at Richmond. April’s scheduled Xfinity and Monster Cup races were canceled, as was June’s scheduled Indy Car action. This week finds four races taking the D-shaped oval.

Thursday night, the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series kick off the action, the first time the trucks have raced at Richmond since 2005. Green flag drops at 8:00 for the final race of the regular season.

A double-dip of Xfinity racing is on the docket, as the series holds a race Friday at 7:00, then returns on Saturday at 2:30 for an encore performance.

The weekend culminates with the Cup series race on Saturday at 7:30, the second leg of the playoffs. Kevin Harvick won the first playoff event this past weekend at Darlington and enters with eight victories on the season.

Unfortunately, fans will have to resort to their televisions to see any racing, as spectators will not be permitted for any of the events. Richmond Raceway still plans on doing a handful of virtual festivities this week to keep NASCAR faithful in the spirit. That includes a virtual start/finish line signing.

“Myself and some of the other staff will actually go out and write their names on the start/finish line,” said Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier. “We’ve got a virtual race program, we’re doing a virtual midway, we’ve got a musical performance, so we’ve got some things lined up to make sure we keep everybody entertained this week.”

2020 has forced NASCAR to make some changes to its operations, and part of that is limiting the time that teams spend at the track. None of the races will have practices or qualifying prior to them, adding a different element than in years past.

“There’s definitely some fun and excitement that comes with the schedule,” said Bickmeier. “No practice, no qualifying. It is old school. It is line ‘em up and let’s go racing.”

Chesterfield native Denny Hamlin comes in ranked second in the Cup standings. He’s won six races this year and is looking for his first championship. The six victories tie last year’s total for the 11 teams and are the most since he won eight races back in 2010. Hamlin has won three times in 27 starts at the Action Track and has posted 13 top-five finishes.

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