WWS: Fontana: Kevin Richards - NASCAR spotlight

Richards hopes to keep title run on track at California Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2003) - A year ago Kevin Richards (No. 85 Monaco Enterprises/Jerry Springer Chevrolet) turned in his best performance in six visits to California ...

Richards hopes to keep title run on track at California Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2003) - A year ago Kevin Richards (No. 85 Monaco Enterprises/Jerry Springer Chevrolet) turned in his best performance in six visits to California Speedway - leading late in the race and finishing second. It's no wonder Richards and his Spokane, Wash.-based team are anxious to return.

They will get the opportunity when the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series travels to the beautiful 2-mile superspeedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday, April 26, for the Pontiac Wide Track Grand Prix 200.

The race, which features $226,814 in posted awards and prize money, will be televised to a national audience on the SPEED Channel cable network on a tape-delay basis. It is scheduled to air Monday, April 28, at 8 p.m. ET.

Richards attributes last year's performance to a different suspension setup on the Gene Monaco-owned entry. "It really suited the way that I drive," Richards said of the change. "It's important to get the body out of the air and seal the car off to the racetrack. It really helps the way the car drives, because air is everything at the speed that you're going at that track."

"I think that is the key, to get the profile of the car down on the track," Richards explained. "Once you get it sealed off and the air isn't getting underneath the car, the car drives so much better. It feels like it's digging into the racetrack. If you have a car that does not get down, it feels like the air is steering it more than you."

While the crew uses a different approach in setting up a car for a superspeedway - compared to a short track - the driver must also adjust, according to Richards. "Going to a superspeedway, you've got to keep your focus," he said. "You've got to be so much smoother, because one little mistake could cost you a racecar. You can make a little mistake on a short track and usually catch the car. On a high-speed track you're definitely going to tear something up if you make a big enough mistake."

Although three of his four career wins came on tracks a mile or more in length, Richards declines to say he is more suited for racing the longer tracks. "I would say it's more that I respect them and I know that I have to be smooth," he emphasized. "We have always had pretty good bodies on our racecars. We had good aero packages with our bodies and I think we'll have the same for California Speedway."

Performing well at California Speedway is important to all the Winston West Series teams, Richards pointed out. "I think there's a couple of reasons why," he explained. "One is that you have all the Busch and (Winston) Cup teams there, so you're trying to look like they need you as a driver or as a team to support their testing or their program in some way. Seriously, you are showcased in front of a lot of people and a lot of team owners in the upper leagues. The other thing is that it is the biggest track that we go to. It's our Daytona and it usually pays the most to win." Richards knows about big purses. As the winner of the Winston West Series championship race in Motegi, Japan, in 1999 - he won a series record $83,470.

In addition to the competing against each other at California Speedway, Winston West Series drivers have had to contend with Ken Schrader and other NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars in this event. Schrader won the race the first two years and finished second in 1999 and 2000. After failing to crack the top five in 2001 and not competing last year, he will be back in action with the series this week. "I enjoy racing with them," Richards said of the Winston Cup competitors. "You can learn so much, if you're just behind those guys, about things to do when you're driving a racecar - as far as how you want to drive it into the corner, where you want to turn and how you do in traffic. That's what they do every week."

After suffering through a sub-par year in 2001, Richards and the Gene Monaco team turned things around last year - notching a top-10 finish in every event and finishing second in the championship standings. Richards is hoping for even better results this season. "I actually feel that bringing (crew chief) Chuck Carruthers with us and some of the other people we have added to our race team, along with some of the other things we're doing, that this is the year you will see the Monaco Enterprises/Jerry Springer Chevrolet win the championship," he predicted. "We're unloading fast. We're not struggling at this point. If I do my job right and everybody doesn't make a mistake, I think we've got a shot at this thing."


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Drivers Ken Schrader , Kevin Richards