07 Sep One Last Race to Make the Chase – History of Richmond International Raceway
Clint and the 5-hour ENERGY® Racing Team are revved up and ready to go for this weekend’s race! Before the green flag waves at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, we thought you may want some background information on America’s Premier Short Track. Virginia’s Richmond Raceway Complex is home to a variety of events throughout the year, but this weekend fans are gearing to see which drivers will make the Chase.
Richmond International Raceway (RIR) has a long history, with its racing roots dating back to the 1940s. On October 12, 1946 the inaugural race at this location was held. Ted Horn won the first race at this historic track while driving an open-wheel car. What was then known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairground offered racers a half-mile dirt track. Horn’s victory kicked off a long and rich racing history at Richmond International Raceway.
Racing firsts at the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairground continued with Lee Petty winning the first NASCAR Grand National Division Race April 19, 1953, driving at an average speed of 45.535 miles per hour. Racing grew more and more popular at the fairgrounds which caused the spring and fall races to be lengthened from 100 miles to 125 miles between 1961 and 1962. Fall races were lengthened again in 1962, going from 125 miles to 150 miles which, at RIR was the equivalent of 300 laps.
On September 9, 1973 “The King” of NASCAR, Richard Petty won the longest race in Richmond history, the Capital City 500, which lasted a whopping 4 hours, 13 minutes and 17 seconds. Shortly after, in 1974, NASCAR shortened several of its races by 10 percent to help offset a national energy crisis. This reduced RIR’s race from 271 miles to 243.9 miles. In 1976, the race was shortened one final time to 216.8 miles, which is the 400 lap distance that Richmond International Raceway uses today.
Richard Petty, son of Lee Petty, holds most of RIR’s Sprint Cup Series records, including the most wins (13), the most top five finishes (34), the most top 10 finishes (41), the most starts (63) and the most laps led (5,136). Other driving legends have had memorable races and finishes at RIR as well. In 1984 Ricky Rudd raced just over a week after sustaining serious facial injuries in a crash at Daytona and finished 16th. In 1985 Dale Earnhardt earned his first victory at Richmond, beating out Geoff Bodine by a mere 0.3 seconds and in 1989 Rusty Wallace won the first of six races at Richmond on the .75-mile configuration.
When you combine the exciting atmosphere produced by the lights of the track with the short track length, a great race is guaranteed. To make at things even more exciting this weekend, this is the last race for those drivers attempting to make the Chase! Even though 5-hour ENERGY®’s Clint Bowyer has already sealed his spot in the 2012 Chase, a win at Richmond would provide some nice bonus points!