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Trip Rewind Virginia: A NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway

Richmond NASCAR race
NASCAR race Richmond Virginia

Tropical Storm Hanna had finally moved on and we were ready for a Sunday full of NASCAR racing at Richmond International Raceway. Except the problem was that we had little information about when the race was actually going to start and once we headed to the track we got the pleasure of waiting in traffic way longer than anticipated. Uh oh… 

While waiting in the car impatiently I observed how this “gentleman” with the beer bong passed his time. I am not sure why he was running this operation solo as the other 3 Nimrods with him could have lent a hand. Perhaps they were busy helping the 4th guy in the back of their truck. He was grilling up their snacks. You read that correct, they were operating a grill in the bed of their truck. Sometimes you just gotta tailgate, even if it is in traffic.

Richmond NASCAR race
“must tailgate”

We finally got to the parking lot and rushed over to the track. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress. Shoot! We had already missed an hour of the race, or about 100 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr was in the lead, which I was pleased with but my favorite driver Bobby Labonte was already a lap down (meaning Dale Jr had completed one more lap than Labonte). Not a big surprise but still come on Bobby – I had come ALL the way from Idaho to see you!

We got to our seats which turned out to be quite awesome right on turns 3 and 4. Although there was a slight snag, I was seated next to a group of three Kyle Busch fans. For anyone who does not follow NASCAR just trust me here we’re not fans of Kyle Busch. I had to contain my excitement when Busch crashed out right in front of us (thanks Dale Jr for helping spin him out there). The three fans I was sitting next to did not stop the other 100,000 fans from cheering however. See we are not the only ones who do not like Kyle Busch.

Richmond NASCAR race
Kyle Busch spins out

As the race continued and the cars jockeyed for position the most magical thing happened. I saw a man walking towards us along the chain-link fence. He had a familiar face, a face I had not seen since February 18th 2001. That big bushy mustache, dark sunglasses, the famous Goodwrench fire suit – it was unmistakable. My heart skipped a beat… could this be… an IMPOSTOR? That SOB was not carrying a Budweiser!

Richmond NASCAR race
Dale Sr LIVES! Or maybe not?

Granted Dale Earnhardt Sr would have had to come back from the dead to be walking in front of me at that moment but seriously if you are that much of a fan of The Intimidator – get the right beer buddy.

Richmond NASCAR race
The actual Dale Earnhardt

Image Credit: Darryl Moran Photography

I am sure if it was the real Earnhardt Sr he would have been carrying a Budweiser as they were Dale Jr’s primary sponsor for 7 years and if we know anything about NASCAR drivers and their sponsors – they are loyal… well as long as the money is coming in. But come on, we can cut the sponsors some slack – it costs around $800,000 USD per race to be the primary sponsor for Jr and there are 36 races a year… so let’s see almost $29 million for the year.

While you try to wrap your head around that price tag keep this in mind that is just for the primary sponsor. That is the logo on the hood of the car. Take a look at their cars, they are covered in stickers and logos, even the drivers suits are covered.  EVERY ONE of those logos and stickers are paying for some part of the race team.

Richmond NASCAR race
This is an old photo I know – but this still proves my point of all the different logos and stickers

Granted not all teams have the hefty price tag of $800K USD per race, it is Earnhardt Jr we are talking about after all. The heir of a legend. As of 2013 Jr has been driving in the Sprint Cup for 13 years and has only won 19 times with no championships. Not the best odds. Compare him to Jimmie Johnson at 11 years with 63 wins and 6 championships.  That obviously is much better, but still does not make me like him though. The amount of wins and championships do not matter however as the fans love Jr and sponsors know it. Sponsors will pay that price tag to get Jr’s fans allegiance. Hell I have even started thinking about drinking Mountain Dew because they sponsor Jr and I detest Mountain Dew.

Now that I have probably overwhelmed you with a bunch of NASCAR statistics that probably only I find fascinating I still recommend going to a NASCAR race. Sure you can watch a race on TV but it in no way compares to seeing it live. Watching the cars skate around the turns, hoping their rear ends don’t step out on them, snapping them loose, tossing them up in to the marbles, only to cut a tire down, pancake the wall and then take out ½ the field when they cut back down across the track (and you thought I overwhelmed you before with the NASCAR jargon).

I am sure you are thinking (insert your whiny voice here) ‘But Brittany, it’s boring. It’s just drivers going around in circles turning left’… yeah well wait until one of those drivers turns right and wrecks out most of the field.  Then some driver that you have never heard of from the back of the pack comes shooting through the carnage and wins the race. It’s the survival of the fittest. It’s not always the best car that wins. It’s strategy, being at the right place at the right time and ultimately being lucky. To quote Lefty Gomez, a pitcher for the Yankees in the 1930’s “I’d rather be lucky than good” and I bet it would be hard to find any NASCAR driver to disagree with that statement.

Richmond NASCAR race
Home Depot (orange) and Lowes (blue) fight for the win at the 2008 Richmond Race

The race ended with the two home improvement store cars duking it out for the win. The Lowes car driven by Jimmie Johnson and the Home Depot car driven by Tony Stewart. Lowes won much to my dismay but it was still a great race and it could have been worse, Kyle Busch could have won. I’m telling you guys, we don’t like him.

This is my favorite track as it is a mile track that normally runs at nighttime under the lights. Due to the storm I was not able to see the race at night, but I will one day!

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2 replies on “Trip Rewind Virginia: A NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway”

Just commented on your other post and saw that you’d been to Richmond! I’ve not gone to a day-time race, but definitely liked being under the lights. The temperature is more bearable, and it’s just a neat experience.

Gonna have to disagree with you about Jimmie Johnson’s win on that race, though, because I generally cheer him on!

I am hoping to make it back to Richmond one day for a night race. I love watching the races under the lights on TV but I bet it’s even better being at the track!

As for JJ – he just wins so much – that’s why I have a hard time rooting for him 🙂 I’m probably just jealous because my favorite drivers don’t win often 🙁

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