RICHMOND, Va. - You could make a convincing argument that, with the exception of Kentucky Speedway, Richmond Raceway is Kyle Busch’s best track.
After all, he’s the leading winner at the .75-mile venue among active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers with five victories, and his average finish in 26 starts at the track is 7.2, second only to Kentucky (5.0 average, with a much smaller sample size of eight races).
There’s only one problem. Busch does his best work at Richmond in the spring. All five of his Richmond wins have come close to his May 2 birthday, including a string of four straight spring races from 2009 through 2012 and, most recently, the Apr. 21 event this year.
Until this season, the fall Richmond race has been the cutoff event for the NASCAR Playoffs. In 2012, Jeff Gordon edged Busch for the final spot in the postseason by finishing second to Busch’s 16th in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
This year, Sunday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is perhaps even more important as the second event in Round 1 of the NASCAR Playoffs. Busch is at a loss to explain the discrepancy between his performance in the spring versus the fall.
“I have no clue,” he said on Friday at the new Richmond Raceway media center. “Certainly, the fall time is the more important time to be good here, but we just haven’t quite been able to pinpoint that and put our finger on that. Overall, we certainly have had good results here at Richmond. We’ve been good here in the fall. We’ve had good runs. We just haven’t been able to close the deal.
“Certainly, I would like to be able to do that here this weekend and not have to worry about next week at all (at the Charlotte road course), but with everything we’ve had going on so far this year, we’ve been contenders and we’ve been strong each and every week through this entire season. So we just need to get our strength back and be ready for every week.”
ISRAELI ALON DAY HOPES TO IMPRESS IN FIRST NASCAR START ON AN OVAL
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 brings another first for Israeli driver Alon Day, who already holds the distinction as the first driver from his country to compete in any of NASCAR’s top three touring series.
Day will make his oval-track debut in the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race when he drives the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
A road-course specialist and the reigning NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion, Day finished 32nd in his only other start in NASCAR’s premier series (last year at Sonoma). His objective on Saturday is simply to finish the race.
“I don’t expect for any result — top 25, top 30 or whatever,” Day said. “I’m more trying to focus about surviving the race, finishing the race without making major mistakes, learning as much as possible, being obviously approved for the next tracks. Yeah, I’ll do my best.”
Day’s career goal is to race full-time in a NASCAR series in the United States, but for now, he has to settle for an occasional race that doesn’t conflict with his NWES title defense.
“First of all, I would love to do the Roval (Charlotte road course) next week,” Day said. “That’s who I am. I come from road courses. I know I’m good at that. That’s the best opportunity for me to show what I’m capable of doing.”
Day also said he’s trying to work out opportunities to race at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final two events on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Trying for his fourth straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, Brad Keselowski showed no letup in speed in Friday’s practice at Richmond Raceway. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford was 14th on the speed chart in the opening session and fastest in Happy Hour, turning a lap at 120.224 mph. The last driver to win four straight races at NASCAR’s highest level was Jimmie Johnson in 2007, the second of his seven championship seasons ... GoBowling will return as the entitlement sponsor for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opener next year, Richmond Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier announced. “GoBowling’s strong presence in motorsports continues to grow, and Richmond Raceway is a big part of the strategy to share their message,” Bickmeier said. The GoBowling.com 250 is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2019.
—Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media