BUSCH: Richmond news and notes 2006-02-07

Richmond International Raceway News and Notes Week of February 5, 2006 NASCAR Test Dates Set: Nearly all NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers are expected to participate in important test sessions leading into the May 5-6...

Richmond International Raceway News and Notes
Week of February 5, 2006

NASCAR Test Dates Set: Nearly all NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers are expected to participate in important test sessions leading into the May 5-6 doubleheader weekend at Richmond International Raceway. NASCAR Busch Series drivers will visit Richmond's ¾-mile oval on March 28-30, while NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers will test on April 11-13.

Under NASCAR's new testing guidelines set for this season, Richmond International Raceway is the only short track where NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series drivers are permitted to test. Overall, only six NASCAR NEXEL Cup Series tracks and four NASCAR Busch Series venues will host official test sessions. Teams are still permitted to test at tracks that are not part of their respective series schedules.

The tests will be crucial for the teams, especially since Richmond International Raceway hosts two NASCAR weekends each season, including the 26th race of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. After that race on Saturday, September 9, only the top 10 drivers and those within 400 points of the series leader will be eligible to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship. Those drivers will battle it out against a full field each week over the last 10 races in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

"Being included in this testing policy just reinforces how important and prestigious of a stop Richmond International Raceway is on the NASCAR schedule," said track president Doug Fritz. "I am also very pleased that this test should greatly assist our area media in their advance coverage of our NASCAR races. Not every track will have this opportunity, so we feel fortunate that being included as part of this policy will help the drivers, the fans and the media."

Details regarding the grandstand hours for fans and specific times the drivers will be available for media interviews will be announced shortly.

Gordon Films Richmond's TV commercial: Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Richmond International Raceway winner Jeff Gordon took time out of his hectic pre-season schedule to film the track's 2006 television commercial last week. The spot is based on the track's tagline and ongoing "Racing Perfection" campaign. The commercial will be used to promote the track's events on Friday of its May and September NASCAR race weekends, which will feature NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice and qualifying, along with a NASCAR Busch Series race. The track anticipates again selling out both of its NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races in 2006. The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 on Saturday, September 9 would become the track's 30th straight sellout.

New Sponsors Coming for May NASCAR Races: Matthew Becherer, the track's Senior Director of Marketing and Sales, says the track is close to signing title sponsors for its NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday, May 5 and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Saturday, May 6. "We should have something to announce in the next few weeks, perhaps even before the Daytona 500," Becherer said. "We are just dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" on the Busch deal and the NEXTEL Cup agreement is nearly finished as well."

Car of Tomorrow at Richmond in 2007: In case you missed it, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams are scheduled to use the "Car of Tomorrow" in 16 events in 2007, including both events at Richmond International Raceway. More venues will be added in 2008 before the car is fully integrated to all races in 2009.

The basis of the five-year long project led by Gary Nelson at NASCAR's Research and Development Center is safety. The Car of Tomorrow is four inches wider and two inches taller than current NASCAR race cars. The driver compartment, or "roll cage," has been shifted three inches to the rear. The driver's seat has been shifted four inches to the right, allowing more protection from a driver's side impact. More "crush-ability" is built into the car on both sides, ensuring even more protection. The Car of Tomorrow exhaust system is another safety innovation. It runs through the body, diverting heat away from the driver and exiting on the right side.

In other industry news, NASCAR also recently announced that Toyota will compete in the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series. The manufacturer has spent the last three seasons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Richmond-Area Media Members Win Awards: Last month, four media members with ties to Richmond recently won prestigious awards in their respective fields. Nate Ryan, who covered NASCAR and Richmond International Raceway for the Richmond Times-Dispatch before taking a similar motorsports job at USA Today in early January, received three National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) awards. His awards included a first place in Spot News/Daily & Internet category and a third place in the Race Coverage/Daily & Internet category. Ryan also shared the George Cunningham Award as Writer of the Year with David Poole of the Charlotte Observer. Separately, Ryan collected a fourth honor, the Miller Lite Motorsports Journalism Award of Excellence for his piece on Ward Burton, "Call of the Wild."

Also at the NMPA convention, longtime Richmond racing advocates Joe and Ruth Kelly won a third place award in the Short Form Feature Television category for their piece on Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon. The Kelly's biweekly show "Motor Racing Digest" has been a mainstay on a Richmond public access channel for 10 years.

In addition, Greg Burton of Richmond CBS affiliate WTVR Channel 6 and ESPN Radio 950 AM WXGI won the Virginia Sportscaster of the Year. Burton is a sports anchor/reporter for WTVR and also hosts "The Drive" Monday through Thursday afternoons on WXGI. The award is given by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and a writer and sportscaster from each state wins the award. David Teel, who has covered Richmond International Raceway events for the Daily Press won the writer's category.

Wood You Believe It? Legendary NASCAR team owners Glen and Leonard Wood will be inducted into the 2006 Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest continuously operating team in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition, with 97 series wins, including victories at Richmond International Raceway by Speedy Thompson (1960) and Kyle Petty (1984). The Wood Brothers team has featured many top-name drivers including A.J. Foyt, Cal Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Kyle Petty and Ricky Rudd. They are also credited by many as the inventors of the modern pit stop. The Class of 2006 will be inducted during the Hall's 35th annual awards dinner in Portsmouth at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center on April 22.

Calendar Quirk: Don't forget, the way the calendar falls in 2006, Richmond International Raceway will host its first event weekend prior to Mother's Day this season. The NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stop at Richmond International Raceway Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6. Both races, like all events at Richmond International Raceway, will be held "under the lights."


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Drivers Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Kyle Petty , Dan Wheldon , A.J. Foyt , Tim Richmond