75th Anniversary Feature: Richmond Raceway has delivered some great memories

Richmond (Va.) Raceway has gone through seven name changes and hosted 133 NASCAR Cup Series races in its storybook 70-year history on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty is the all-time winningest driver with 13 victories – including a remarkable nine wins in a 10-race span in the early 1970s. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and inevitable NASCAR Hall of Famer Kyle Busch is the current winningest driver with six trophies.

As the NASCAR Cup Series arrives in Virginia for Sunday’s Cook Out 400 (3 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) it’s evident how the sport has embraced the captivating beginnings at the three-quarter mile Richmond oval and the modern-day drama of a facility so rightly nicknamed: ‘The Action Track.’

The sport’s biggest stars – including three generations of Pettys; Lee, Richard and Kyle – have hoisted trophies there. The historical list of winners includes Speedy Thompson, Junior Johnson and Cotton Owens. Hall of Famers such as Bobby Allison (7), Dale Earnhardt (5) and Rusty Wallace (6) combined for 18 victories.

And there has been a respectable modern-day addition to the Richmond winner’s lore from six-time winner Busch to veteran Kevin Harvick and Virginia-raised Denny Hamlin, who have earned four trophies each there as well.

The track has tended toward veterans in recent years with only one “first-time” winner in the last 10 races – Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman in 2021. The Richard Childress Racing driver Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. have won half the races in that span – two and three races, respectively.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will be making his 45th and final start at Richmond this weekend. A victory would be the first of his farewell season and break that tie with Hamlin in the all-time record books. Interestingly, he has led the most laps in only one of his four wins – 202 of the 400 laps in 2011 thriller with Carl Edwards.

Harvick is the defending winner of this weekend’s Richmond 400-miler, beating JGR’s Christopher Bell last summer. He finished fifth at the track earlier this season and boasts the most top-five (18) and top-10 finishes (30) among active drivers. Harvick’s had top-five finishes in three of the last four races there. And his seven wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track is most all-time.

“Richmond falls into that flat-track category, and we’ve always been really good at the flat-track stuff,” said Harvick, who is the top-ranked driver in the Playoff standings still without a win on the season.

“As I’ve gone through the years, Richmond has just been one of those places that’s been really good. I know it’s not [crew chief] Rodney’s [Childers] favorite race track to go to, but it’s one of my favorites to go to and I’m glad we finally got to Victory Lane because we’ve had some good nights and some good cars there and to be able to pull that off last year was good for everybody.

“Richmond is just a good short track.”

His championship rival Kyle Busch would agree. Not only does he boast the most wins among active drivers, but he also boasts an amazing statistic at Richmond. Busch has been running at the finish in all 35 NASCAR Cup Series races he’s competed in at the track and completed all but a single lap in that span – 14,208 of 14,209 laps possible. That equals 10,521 miles or 21 round trips from his Richard Childress Racing shop in Welcome, N.C. to Richmond Raceway.

“I have had a lot of success at Richmond Raceway, and I enjoy going there,” Busch said. “It’s a fun place.”

“Fun” may explain the unmistakable trend of multi-race winners at the track. NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart, who earned his first career win at the track, has long considered Richmond to be his favorite venue. And the record books indicate once a driver finds success at the three-quarter miler, he enjoys lots of it.

There is a distinctive trend of multi-race winners. Since 2005 – a span of 36 races – there have been only two drivers to win one time at Richmond. Kasey Kahne won the 2005 NASCAR Cup Series race at the track from pole position and never won again in the premier series there. Bowman is the only other driver with a single Richmond victory during that time frame – and the only one among the eight active former Richmond winners with only one win there.

Truex, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has earned all three of his career Richmond victories in just the last eight races there – admittedly increasing his fondness of the track.

“I’ve always really liked it, to be honest,” Truex said. “From the first time I raced there in 2003, I’ve always enjoyed the track. There was a long period where I didn’t have great numbers there, but I felt like I loved the track and always ran well there and had a lot of crazy things happen there throughout my career.”

Truex acknowledged before the wins were several disappointments. Six times he led at least 100 laps in a Richmond race, but he won only two of those high-performing outings.

“We had a couple of heartbreaking finishes there where we should have won the race but didn’t, and I wondered if it was ever going to happen,” Truex said. “Then we went on a streak there, so it’s been a great track and it’s a ton of fun.”