Take a virtual hot lap around Richmond International Raceway with David Reutimann as he prepares for the final race before the Chase.
Track president: 'We've got history and experience doing March races' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live For the first time since 2004, NASCAR teams won't load up and head west for the season's second stop following the Daytona 500. Instead, Week No. 2 will find teams from all three national series -- Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck -- headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coming on the heels of the season’s premier race has its challenges, AMS president Ed Clark told NASCAR.com, and weather is always a concern with an early March date in the area. RELATED: Atlanta plans SAFER barrier additions But, Clark said, "We've got history and experience doing March races. "The thing that's different about this one is that in the past, the Daytona 500 kicked the season off, we came home and had two to three weeks of outstanding interest in the sport. The day after the 500 was always your biggest ticket sales day of the year. "In this case, the Daytona 500 is over Sunday afternoon and we’re into Atlanta's race week right then." AMS hosted a Labor Day weekend race from 2010 through this past season. Up until 2010, it hosted two annual Sprint Cup weekends, the first typically falling in early to mid-March. From '82 through 2004, the second Sprint Cup race of the season was held at either Richmond International Raceway or North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham). California's Auto Club Speedway hosted the second stop from '05 through '10 and Phoenix International Raceway had been the host since '11. "It's a plus and a minus," Clark said of being No. 2 on the schedule. "We all remember the year that Cale (Yarborough) and Bobby and Donnie (Allison) got in a fight (at Daytona in '79). The printing press couldn't have printed enough tickets for the next race. … That's a bonus when it happens. The world is watching what goes on at Daytona, there's a lot of focus on the sport. Everything is new. So it's a plus from that standpoint." Weather issues early in the year aren't uncommon for the Atlanta region, however. And the long-range forecast for this year's race weekend didn't look promising. But it has since changed (and will likely again), going from a chance of snow to a 40 percent chance of rain to a 20 percent chance of rain in the span of a week, according to www.NOAA.gov. Clark is more concerned about those things his group can control instead of those it can't. "I haven't even looked at (the weather forecast) in about a day and a half," he said. "No need to. It changes. "That's the approach we've taken all along. We know how to promote races; we've done it for years. Have your plan; work your plan. When you get to race time, you don't want to look back and say there was something you could have done that you didn't do." Part of that plan included an appearance by reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick on Monday. Prior to Thursday's scheduled test session, Atlanta Motor Speedway Day will be celebrated at the state capitol. Three-time premier series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip is expected to join active native Georgia drivers from all three series for a visit with the governor as well as stops as the Senate and House chambers. "The long and short of it," Clark said, "is we've done things we typically do, no matter when the race is." In addition to normal race-weekend preparations, AMS announced Tuesday upgrades to its current SAFER barrier system will be put in place in time for this weekend's events. Camping World Truck Series teams, which haven't competed at AMS since 2012, will share top billing on Saturday with the XFINITY Series in a double-header race day that features the Hisense 250 XFINITY Series race (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 Truck Series event (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series event is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 with TV coverage on FOX. "We know we'll have a good race; we always have a good race at Atlanta," Clark said. "If we can get that first one done and all be positive, we have a whole year to work on ('16). I think that's when we will find out what the potential is for the future." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola and Jamie McMurray talk about testing at Richmond International Raceway
Take a virtual lap around Richmond International Raceway .
Bruce: Truex Jr. returns to Richmond 25th in the standings RELATED: Full coverage of "One Night in Richmond " series MORE: #MyChaseNation " Current Chase Grid It's been said that Martin Truex Jr. was simply a victim of circumstances, the one Michael Waltrip Racing driver that seemed free and clear of any wrongdoing. Yet when the dust finally settled in the wake of last year's Richmond scandal, it was Truex Jr. who found himself knocked out of NASCAR's postseason, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Five teams would eventually be penalized; two drivers would go from missing the Chase to getting a second chance. But few paid the price of Truex Jr., who went from making his second consecutive Chase appearance, and third overall, to finding himself embroiled in a controversy not of his making. MWR's actions led NAPA, primary sponsor for Truex Jr. and the No. 56 team, to eventually withdraw its sponsorship. Without funding, MWR was forced to trim its operation from three full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to two. And without a team, Truex Jr. was left to look for a ride. That isn't to say others weren't affected when NASCAR penalized MWR for attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway . Ryan Newman was initially knocked out of a Chase berth and a potential win following Clint Bowyer's spin with seven laps remaining. Jeff Gordon , battling for the one of the final points positions, fell one point shy of cracking the top-10 and earning a spot in the Chase, due in part to the actions of Bowyer, teammate Brian Vickers and what officials eventually determined was yet another act of misconduct, this one involving Penske Racing (now Team Penske) and Front Row Motorsports . And Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, was left to sort it all out, a puzzle of 43 pieces dropped in he and his executives' collective lap while fans everywhere waited to see what, if anything, would come of the Richmond debacle. What eventually happened was unprecedented. Like Truex, MWR teammates Bowyer and Vickers were docked 50 driver points. Crew chiefs were placed on probation and MWR was fined a record $300,000, a figure NASCAR President Mike Helton at the time called "the most major fine in our history in terms of a dollar amount." But Bowyer, seventh before the Chase re-set, remained title eligible. Vickers, running a split schedule in the team's No. 55 entry, was racing for NASCAR Nationwide Series points with Joe Gibbs Racing , thus earning no Cup points for his efforts. The points penalty took Truex Jr. out of the Chase picture, and put Newman back in. Then, two days before the Chase was scheduled to get underway, officials announced penalties, in the form of probation, against the Penske and Front Row organizations. They also added one more team to the Chase field, expanding it from 12 (10 based on points as well as two wild-card entries) to 13, by reinserting Gordon into the field. "It wasn't one set of circumstances that led us to this decision," France said at the time. "It's a multiple set of circumstances that any one of them could have altered and given (Gordon) a disadvantage." NASCAR also made changes to the spotters' stand, where team members are in constant communication with drivers on the track and crew members in the pits. Beginning with last year's first Chase race, teams were limited to one spotter per team on the stand, and each spotter could have no more than two analog radios, in addition to a scanner and Fan View mobile device. How much of the Richmond fallout still lingers for those caught up in the fallout? Each has moved on, some finding success, while others are still searching for it. With the Sprint Cup Series headed back to Richmond this weekend, once again with Chase berths up for grabs, two of those involved in what took place last year -- Gordon and Joey Logano -- have already secured spots in this year's 10-race playoff. Gordon, a four-time champion, has enjoyed a stellar season, winning three times and heading to Richmond with the points lead. Logano, fourth in points, has also won three times, doubling his career victory total through this year's first 25 races. The others are still in contention, and a win by Newman, Bowyer, Vickers or Truex Jr. would secure a spot in the 16-team field. Various scenarios could put one or more in, or keep them out. It had already been announced that Newman would depart Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of '13. Two days after the Richmond race, he was named to driver for Richard Childress Racing for the '14 season. Although winless since capturing the Brickyard 400 a year ago, Newman has consistently finished among the top 15 this season. Ninth in points, he stands a good chance of advancing into the Chase for what would be the sixth time in his career. MWR regrouped following the loss of NAPA, and continues to carry sponsorship from two other primary partners -- 5-hour Energy and Aaron's. But while Bowyer (12th in points) and Vickers (18th) can still make the Chase, their seasons have been far from exceptional, with only six top-five finishes between the pair. Truex Jr. eventually landed at Furniture Row Racing , one of the few single-car teams in the series but one that made the Chase with driver Kurt Busch in 2013. That likely won't be the case this season, although the "win and you're in" format certainly leaves the door open. Truex Jr. is 25th in the standings, his lowest point heading into Richmond's fall event since he began racing full time in the Sprint Cup Series. He's managed just three top-10s, including one at Richmond earlier this year. A year after the fact, and with the Chase looming, NASCAR officials don't dwell on "what-ifs." "I think we drew a line in the sand last year at Chicago, and have lived up to that in every sense," Helton said. "Once we reacted to Richmond last year, that pretty much settled it from our side. So whatever decisions we made about the Chase or anything else, that issue had been resolved and didn't play a role in that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Primary sponsor for 2015 getting a jump on relationship RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Nationwide Insurance will serve as a primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015. The company is getting a head start on its new role with Hendrick Motorsports next week in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway , where it will adorn Junior's No. 88 Chevrolet. The race weekend will allow Nationwide to preview the future paint scheme, and Hendrick Motorsports said fans can get a sneak peek at the new design over social media channels on Sept. 3. At 1 p.m. that day, the new @Nationwide88 Twitter account -- which will provide updates on Junior and his No. 88 team -- will tweet a preview. "Dale is having a season to remember, and Nationwide is excited to launch our new long-term relationship as a primary sponsor this season as he pursues the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship," said Matt Jauchius, chief marketing officer at Nationwide, in a team release. "We think fans will like the new look of the No. 88 car when they see it hit the track next week in Richmond ." Earnhardt, who has three career Sprint Cup wins at the 0.75-mile oval, worked with Nationwide on the design of his car. Richmond will be the only 2014 event with this paint scheme. "I've worked with Nationwide for years, but never as a primary sponsor," Earnhardt said. "Having them on board with Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 88 team is a big opportunity, and I really appreciate them inviting me to help design the car. I'm excited for the fans to see it and look forward to kicking off the relationship at one of my favorite race tracks." Earnhardt heads into this weekend's Atlanta race (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with three wins this season, and he's second in both the driver standings and in the Chase Grid. Earnhardt's 11 top-fives this year lead the series. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joe Gibbs Racing ride could be the start of something big Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daniel Suarez seems to have a sense of how big a leap he's about to make up the NASCAR ladder, but even then, it's still a jump that's difficult for him to grasp. One year ago, Suarez was competing on a makeshift 0.4-mile oval on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. This year, the 23-year-old driver will be stretching his legs on the full 2.5-mile layout as he opens his first full season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. "Everything is new," Suarez said last Thursday during NASCAR Media Day. "Sometimes I don't even know the level of what I'm getting into, but it's great to be learning about the best drivers, the best race teams, the best brands. It's just a great opportunity of life. I believe this kind of opportunity you get just once in life, and maybe this is mine. I need to try to work 100 percent to make something good happen from this." Suarez's superspeedway debut comes Saturday in the XFINITY season-opening Alert Today Florida 300 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), but he already has Daytona to thank in part for helping him get his big break. Last February, Suarez prevailed in the Battle at the Beach on the temporary backstretch circuit, right on the heels of a victory at nearby New Smyrna Speedway -- his second K&N win in a span of three days. Those consecutive wins -- combined with his portfolio of 10 victories in three seasons in the NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series -- helped attract the eye of Joe Gibbs Racing, which backed Suarez's XFINITY debut in April at Richmond International Raceway and will field the No. 18 Toyota for him in all 33 races this season. "I think winning is everything," said Suarez, a product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative. "I think if you win races, your name starts getting around and people start knowing more about you and people start getting interested. When I got those two wins at the start of the season, I started getting more opportunities and we started thinking and talking more about 2015. I believe that definitely was a good step to being where we are right now." Suarez moved from his native Mexico to North Carolina three years ago, not just to be closer to the hub of stock-car racing teams but to learn English as a second language. All the while, he continued to compete full time in the Mexico Series, creating a travel and logistics high-wire act with frequent trips between the United States and his homeland. His 2015 slate doesn't include any Mexico Series events, meaning visits to his hometown of Monterrey will come at a far less frequent rate. Instead, Suarez hopes his family will be able to make the trip stateside to see him race. "They're so happy and proud of all this," Suarez said. "My family doesn't come from racing, so this is kind of new for everyone. This is something new that we're exploring, so definitely it's a good experience." To help accelerate his learning process, Suarez plans to compete in 13 races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51 Toyota, primarily to gain experience at tracks where he's yet to turn a wheel. It's a hefty increase in his workload, which to date consists of just three career starts at the NASCAR national series level. Should the sharp trajectory up the NASCAR ranks continue on its current arc, the top-tier Sprint Cup Series might not be that far off. But Suarez demurs at the suggestion, saying it's too early to forecast such a plan. "I wish," Suarez said with a grin. "We can talk about that right now, but maybe it's not the time. The XFINITY Series is the most important thing right now. Definitely after we progress, after we can be competitive and win some races in the XFINITY Series, that is going to come to our team. For now, it's not in the conversations, but I believe it will come in the timing of the moment." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Six-time series champion will be in New York City on Wednesday to promote the Chase RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize MORE: Full rundown of where each driver will be for Chase Across North America Jimmie Johnson didn't compete in his foundation's triathlon Sunday morning, but that appears to be the only alteration to the schedule this week for the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Before leaving for New York City on Tuesday, Johnson said his team did find an issue that could have been related to how he felt following his eighth-place finish at Richmond International Raceway . "The team found an issue with the cooling system for my helmet," Johnson said in a Chicagoland pre-race team release. "Basically, it was blowing warm air. It's nice to have a good idea as to what went wrong and why I got so hot in the race car. It's a newer system that we've implemented, so we're just going back to our old faithful system that's worked for years and years. We should have the problem rectified." On Monday, Hendrick Motorsports officials said that Johnson was expected to fulfill his duties as one of 16 participants in this year's Chase Across North America that kicks off Wednesday. As part of the media tour promoting the 10-race Chase, Johnson is scheduled to be in New York City where he will appear on NBC's "Today" show, NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," the nationally syndicated talk show "Live! with Kelly and Michael" as well as "Power Lunch" on CNBC. The 38-year-old Johnson spent approximately 90 minutes in the infield care center at Richmond International Raceway following Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400, where he was treated for dehydration. Sunday, the health-conscious Johnson attended The Jimmie Johnson Foundation's latest wellness challenge, the Lake Davidson Sprint Triathlon. While he did not compete in the event, he was on hand to greet and mingle with the participants. Johnson, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion and a winner of three Sprint Cup races this year, finished eighth at Richmond . He climbed from his car on pit road without assistance, but was suffering cramps in his legs. "I sat in the car and was talking to my guys about the run and having a good race," Johnson said Saturday night after exiting the care center. "I started to cramp a little bit in my legs, so I figured I would just get out of the car and as I climbed out … the cramping got far worse. "Then standing outside the car I got kind of dizzy so I wanted to sit down. Once I sat down the cramping got worse." Each of the remaining 15 Chase drivers will be visiting 15 different cities (one driver per city) including Mexico City and Toronto on Wednesday for the Chase Across North America promotion. Every Chase market will feature one of the drivers, with additional appearances in San Antonio, Los Angeles, New York and Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN. This year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup gets underway Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with the running of the MyAFibStory.com 400 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET). Johnson is fourth in the standings following the resetting of points after the Richmond race. Brad Keselowski , the 2012 champion, is the points leader. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Garage renamed for late team owner; special salute coming on Lap 90 RELATED: In Memoriam: Junie Donlavey photo gallery RICHMOND , Va. -- Richmond International Raceway and Circle Sport Racing will honor a homegrown NASCAR legend this weekend with a series of tributes to the late Junie Donlavey. Circle Sport, which will field the Joe Falk-owned Chevrolet this weekend for veteran David Stremme , announced Friday that the team will change its car number from 33 to the familiar No. 90 that Donlavey campaigned for all but a few of his 863 races in NASCAR's premier series as an owner from 1950 to 2002. Falk -- a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, about 100 miles southeast of Richmond -- tweeted that the deck lid of the car will feature the names of drivers who raced for Donlavey through the years. The deck lid has all driver names Junie helped make famous — Joefalk33 (@Joefalk33) September 4, 2014 Donlavey died in his hometown of Richmond on June 9 at the age that matched his longtime car number. The 0.75-mile track has also scheduled plenty of celebrations of Donlavey's life: • The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage has been renamed the Junie Donlavey Garage with a ceremonial arch placed over the main entrance. • Ken Schrader, who ran his first three seasons in NASCAR's top division for the veteran team owner, will drive a ceremonial pace lap in a former Donlavey car before Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC). • A special salute is planned on the 90th lap of Saturday night's race with a graphic on the track's video screen. The display will also feature a video tribute before driver introductions. Donlavey's only victory as a team owner in NASCAR's top series came with Jody Ridley behind the wheel at Dover International Speedway in 1981. David Pearson, Fred Lorenzen and Joe Weatherly were among the NASCAR Hall of Famers who once drove for Donlavey. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
One year after wild ending, veteran in completely different position MORE: Full coverage of "One Night in Richmond " series RELATED: #MyChaseNation " Current Chase Grid Jeff Gordon says he doesn't believe in karma by its strictest definition. But as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Richmond International Raceway this week for the regular-season finale, he has some definite ideas about the success he's had since NASCAR Chairman Brian France granted him a 13th entry position into last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field following a controversial Richmond finish that NASCAR ruled unfairly bumped Gordon from the initial 12-driver postseason field. It's a vastly different scenario this weekend for Gordon. Instead of showing up at Richmond still needing to race his way into the Chase field, he's already clinched a Chase berth this year thanks to a three-win performance. The biggest stress Gordon has on the weekend is trying to become the series' first four-time winner and earn more bonus points to start his championship bid. "I think life has a way of balancing itself out, I do believe in that,'' said Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup driver standings entering Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400. "I believe you get back in life what you put into it, that when you treat people right, they treat you right. When you do good things, good things are going to happen. When you do bad things, then bad things are going to happen. "I think you could take the last couple years and look at those instances, whether it be the one with me and (Clint) Bowyer (at Phoenix), that was a bad judgment call on my part and in many ways I paid the price for that. "And then you could look at how we've handled that situation ever since and I think yeah, you could say that I believe handling those situations the right way and learning from them you get the rewards of that as well." However, Gordon continued, "Most of what's happening for us this year is we're committed, we're working hard and working in the right direction and we've got a good team." "Good" might be an understatement. Gordon took the championship lead April 7 following the Texas Motor Speedway race and has held the point for 17 of the 19 weeks since, only twice dropping to a second-place ranking. He started out the year scoring seven top-10s in the first 10 races. He won the 11th race at Kansas, which started a roll of six more top-10s in the following seven races in the No. 24 AARP Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. This summer, the 43-year old four-time NASCAR champ collected a historic fifth win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, won the pole at the Watkins Glen road course and then the next week won at Michigan from the pole position. While Gordon made the most of the 10-race Chase in 2013, scoring his only win of the season at Martinsville among five top-10s, he thinks while that effort was probably buoyed by high emotion of his surreal Chase circumstances, this year's results are the product of something else. Preparation and horsepower trump good karma as far as Gordon is concerned. "It's simply about this year,'' Gordon said. "Ever since the Gen-6 car came along, I feel like we've been more competitive. And the new ride height rules and spoiler rules, I feel like (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports went to work to figure that out as soon as possible to see how we're going to set the cars up and benefit from those changes. "I think they did their homework really well and it's paying off for us this year." So much so that Gordon concedes it feels a bit like his 2001 championship season -- the most recent of his four titles. "Back in the late 1990s we were winning a lot of races,'' Gordon explained. "Back in '98 it was like it was set on autopilot. We were winning races we should have won, winning races we shouldn't have won. That year there is no comparing. "That's the only year I've ever had when I'd pull into Victory Lane on that ninth or 10th win and I was like, 'I almost feel bad we won another one, this is crazy.' " "But I got over it real quick,'' he added, laughing. "I'd say in 2001, the competition was tougher, the team was really clicking, cars were good and that reminds me more what we have now. "And in some ways we're even better." Gordon is especially enthused about the depth of the team's potential. While some of his competitors have put together trophy-winning days, they have also had a lot more weekends to forget. Gordon's No. 24 team has proven it can win races and capitalize on securing good points days in between trips to Victory Lane. With a new Chase format that includes three elimination rounds in the 10-race championship stretch, Gordon is confident his team's all-around strength could be the difference. "I mainly just look at how good our team is performing not only in winning races but we're also very consistent,'' Gordon said. "And you know to be successful in this new format, either one of those can get you through to the next round. I think we have the ability to win which will get us through and I think we have the ability to be strong and consistent and get through with points as well. "Most of all I think of the strength of our team and how much we believe in one another and how we're working together, just how we're clicking. It's been a great season, just with the new format, and in the Chase it only matters what we do in those final 10 races.'' Then he added with a laugh, "Talk to me after that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule