Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – RICHMOND, VA – Richmond Raceway’s first event of the 2018 NASCAR season saw the XFINITY Series regulars duke it out for a win and a possible $100,000 bonus and the stars of NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series tackle the 3/4ths mile D-shaped oval for a 400 mile slug fest… or so we thought.
Christopher Bell won Friday night in the XFINITY series, while Kyle Busch won Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 300 from Richmond Raceway in what turned out to be one of the cleanest short track events in recent history. The fan attendance however, was not such a welcomed site.
Let’s take a look at Richmond Raceway’s spring race weekend by looking at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Christopher Bell’s win Friday night in the XFINITY Series event was one he had to earn. First time starter Noah Gragson was a young man on a mission. Only one driver can win but both drivers saw their stock rise sharply after their hard fought battle to the finish.
Gragson, Bell and others like them need these opportunities to win trophies and increase their name as a winner in NASCAR more than ever. NASCAR was smart to start limiting Cup driver participation in the lower series so these young drivers aren’t instantly demoralized when a cup driver beats them every weekend of the season.
As important as seat time against experienced talent can be, so are confidence and momentum.
Kevin Harvick’s hat trick of wins was followed up this past Saturday by Kyle Busch as he took his third victory in the last three races Saturday night. I’m certainly not one to say that a certain driver winning a race is a bad thing however, two drivers have won six of the first nine points paying events in 2018.
This is a bad thing for the sport in general. When two drivers have this kind of stranglehold on the series, it can turn fans away for the remainder of the regular season. Other teams will need to step up to the plate or else it will simply be who finishes better between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
We’re only nine events into the 2018 season and somehow it feels like we already know who the top two in the Championship will be in November.
No one can deny it. There was more empty space at Richmond than anyone hoped or expected there would be and we don’t mean the currently empty infield. There was a distinct lack of attendance both Friday and Saturday night for the NASCAR weekend and although most shrugged Bristol off for the dodgy at best weather, there were no excuses at Richmond.
Beautiful weather, great racing action both nights and yet it went largely unnoticed in the race fan’s world.
There is definitely a problem here. The solution? People far smarter than I can’t find one and I don’t pretend to have one myself. The fact remains something big needs to happen to get the fan back to the race track. Whatever that is, NASCAR needs to find it sooner than later.