KEN SCHRADER A Tale of Two Richmonds CORNELIUS, N.C. (Sept. 3, 2008) -- Has it really been 20 years? Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (RIR) marks the 20th anniversary...
A Tale of Two Richmonds
CORNELIUS, N.C. (Sept. 3, 2008) -- Has it really been 20 years?
Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (RIR) marks the 20th anniversary of the Miller High Life 400 won by the late Davey Allison, the first Sprint Cup race on the newly configured race track at RIR.
Just hours after the late Neil Bonnett won the Pontiac Excitement 400 on Feb. 21, 1988, the transformation began. Richmond, which had been a half-mile track, first as dirt and later as asphalt, was turned into a .75-mile track in time for the September race that was won by Allison. RIR would ultimately become one of the premier tracks in the United States.
Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry for Hall of Fame Racing, is one of six drivers entered in this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race who have raced on both the old and current configurations. Schrader is joined by Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, Bill Elliott, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip.
Schrader had three top-15 finishes in seven starts on the half-mile configuration and has one pole and 12 top-10 finishes in 37 starts on the current configuration.
Has it really been 20 years? To put it in perspective, Joey Logano, who will attempt to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at RIR, wasn't alive when the half-mile track existed.
KEN SCHRADER, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry:
You are one of six drivers entered in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 who have competed on the old and new configuration at Richmond. Which track layout did you prefer?
"No question, the new one. The old track, they started it in whatever year and it was fine. But when Richard Petty went out there on the bulldozer right after the spring race and they tore up part of the concrete, I thought, 'Wow, I would have never believed this.' When we went back there in September, we had an open test on Thursday and they were still putting stuff up. They were working flat out to get the facility done when we pulled in. To see what Mr. (Paul) Sawyer (late owner of the track) did and the amount of time he did it in, was impressive. You know, we're not talking about a bunch of engineering firms out there. We're talking about Mr. Sawyer getting out there and telling them what he wanted. He knew what to build and it's been a fan and participant favorite ever since. There are not many facilities where we go to where you can see them run (USAC) Midgets, (USAC) Silver Crown cars, Indy cars, Nationwide cars and Sprint Cup cars -- and suit each one of them. He wanted something where he wasn't just hooked into Cup cars two days a year. He wanted something that opened up some options. He built a class facility."
Joey Logano, who wasn't even alive when the old configuration was around, will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut this week. You will attempt to make your 725th start. At the pace of 36 races a year, it would take Logano more than 20 years to get to 725 starts. What advice would you give him looking forward?
"By all indication, he could possibly be starting his first race of what could be a stellar career, if things work out the way they're predicted to. I just hope that if he elects to run 20 years, that he ends up enjoying it as much as we do."
You departed immediately after the Pepsi 500 at Fontana Sunday night and flew overnight to the DuQuoin (Ill.) Fairgrounds for the Southern Illinois 100 ARCA RE/MAX Series event on Labor Day. You finished third. What were your thoughts on the race?
"It went well. We had a good run, obviously, but could have been a little bit better. I slept pretty good Monday night. Sunday night, I only slept about and hour and a half."
What are your thoughts heading into Richmond for this weekend's Chevy Rock & Roll 400?
"It's one of the best race tracks on the circuit. They have a couple of grooves and you always like to have options to move around on the track. There are 46 cars on the entry list, so we'll have to qualify our way in. There are some good cars there, so we'll have our work cut out for us, but we'll be ready. We hope to give the DLP Toyota a good run."