Location: Talladega, Al. Distance: 2.66-mile tri-oval (500.1 laps/188 miles) Banking/Turns: 33 degrees; Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees; Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees Race Dates: April 25 (Kevin Harvick) and October 31
From the Spotter’s Stand
It’s not just Will Ferrell who runs around Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval worrying about "The Big One." Many fantasy racing owners shrugged at Brad Keselowski’s win in April 2009, after Carl Edwards went spark-flying into the air and smacked the safety fence in front of the fans in the closing seconds of an exciting Talladega night ... well, afternoon.
Keselowski edged out Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who is third all-time in Talladega history with five wins in 21 races, behind Jeff Gordon (six in 35 starts) and his bumper-sticker-celebrated father (10 in 44 runs) — despite leading only one lap, albeit the most important one of his career.
In November 2009, Jamie McMurray coasted to a victory following — you guessed it — "The Big One," which hit in the form of a 13-car crash out of Turn 4, forcing the fifth caution flag of the race with one lap to go. Ryan Newman landed on the roof of his car to send the race three laps past the scheduled 188 circuits. In a confusing finish, Kasey Kahne attempted a pass but was blocked by McMurray, who earned his first victory at Talladega.
The April 2010 version also came with the customary "Big One" with two laps remaining when Joey Logano turned the snakebit Newman, setting off a nine-car melee. When Newman voiced his displeasure with the parameters of plate racing in a post-accident interview, it drew the ire of NASCAR, which ìsecretlyî fined him — a fact that came out months later.
As for the ending, it was a classic: Kevin Harvick glued the nose of his Chevy to McMurray’s bumper (see a pattern here?) and pushed him away from the field. As the two screamed through the tri-oval with checkers in the air, Harvick made his move, loosening McMurray slightly and slipping low for a .011-second win.
Photo by ASP, Inc.
Crew Chief’s Take
"Talladega is the track where you don't have any control, particularly sitting on pit road. So much can happen. The driver’s got to be smart, and there can’t be any lapses. Even if there aren’t, he’s just in the hands of fate out there. They call it a high-speed chess match, and that’s pretty appropriate.
"They changed the restrictor plates last fall (2009), and I think there’s a window of opportunity up front, if two cars work together, to pull away from the pack, but even that’s kind of fleeting because the caution flags tighten the pack right back up. Every ounce of horsepower is precious."
Fantasy Stall Looking at Checkers: Good luck predicting a winner here, but Jamie McMurray seems to be the newest in a long line of plate aces that factors for two or three years. Pretty Solid Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has to win somewhere before long, right? Right? Good Sleeper Pick: Quite a few, including David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Scott Speed. Runs on Seven Cylinders: Mark Martin would rather never visit this place again. Insider Tip: Finding the right dancing partner at the end is the key to winning. That, and avoiding the 25-car pileup.
Classic Moments in Martinsville
A classic late-afternoon battle on a beautiful October day is the perfect setting to watch Dale Earnhardt win his last race at a track where he won more events than any driver in history. Earnhardt makes one of the most thrilling late-race runs in memory, dodging and weaving from 17th to first in the final four laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to claim victory.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Skinner pace the 27-car pack, Kenny Wallace glues the nose of his Chevy to Earnhardt’s bumper. The two draft to the front, as Earnhardt takes the lead as the white flag unfurls.
The black Goodwrench Chevy clears the pack down the backstretch and holds off a pair of Andy Petree Racing Chevys in Wallace and Joe Nemechek in an event that witnesses 21 different leaders and a major crash after the field crosses the start/finish line.
November 2009 Race Winner: Jamie McMurray April 2010 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
April 2010 Top 10
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jamie McMurray
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Deny Hamlin
5. Mark Martin
6. David Ragan
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Kurt Busch
9. Kyle Busch
10. Mike Bliss
April 2010 Laps Led
Jeff Burton — 28
Jamie McMurray — 27
Kyle Busch — 22
Denny Hamlin — 17
Brian Vickers — 13
Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano — 9
Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan — 8
Kasey Kahne — 6
AJ Allmendinger, David Reutimann — 5
Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip — 4
13 drivers led 3 or fewer laps
Denny Hamlin claimed to have been biding his time, keeping points leader Jimmie Johnson within drafting distance and waiting to get to the second half of the Chase with its Hamlin-friendly venues. Martinsville was to be Stop No. 1 on the Hamlin Express tour, and thus far, the plan is going extremely well.
Hamlin sat on the pole, led 40 laps and had the car dialed in when it mattered en route to winning the Tums Fast Relief 500, his third consecutive victory at Martinsville Speedway. The triumph narrowed the Chase landscape, as Hamlin finds himself six points behind Johnson in the title hunt. Johnson finished fifth at Martinsville, while Kevin Harvick kept pace with both drivers by virtue of a third-place run to stay within 62 points of Johnson.
"I think it was a ‘must finish in front of’ race," Hamlin said. "I couldn’t lose points to him [Johnson], not at this racetrack. We’ve run too good here the last few years to lose points to him at this racetrack. Literally, I just kept him and the 29 [Harvick] in my sights all day long."
The win was Hamlin’s series-best seventh of the season and his first of the Chase. The Virginia native had been strong in the five previous playoff events — not having finished worse than 12th — but Johnson had managed to finish in front of Hamlin each week save one and was on a run of four consecutive top-three showings. Simply put, Johnson was winning the battle of "anything you can do, I can do better."
That changed at Martinsville, where Hamlin arrived with a swagger not seen since a regular-season finale win in Richmond, another home-state track for the fifth-year Joe Gibbs Racing pilot. The race was not without peril, though. Hamlin slid out of the top 10 at the drop of the green, battling a car that he admitted to feeling some reservations about on race morning.
Photo by ASP, Inc.
A caution on lap 49 and the 14 other yellows that followed throughout the afternoon provided plenty of time to tweak his Toyota. After the final caution on lap 398, Harvick, Jeff Burton and Hamlin cruised away from the field to settle the event amongst one another. Hamlin was able to complete the pass of Harvick with 29 circuits remaining and held on for his 15th career Cup victory.
Mark Martin and Kyle Busch separated the three points leaders — Martin finishing second after scooting by Harvick with four to go and Busch passing Johnson for fourth with 26 laps remaining.
"That’s what we have to do," Harvick said of his team’s third-place run. "Coming into this race, no one gave us a chance to even run anywhere towards the front. So it’s nice to come here, get the finishes we feel like we deserve, that we’ve run well over the last few years, [but] just hadn’t got the finishes to show for it."
"I really felt like he had a chance to win the race here," Johnson said of Hamlin going into the race. "You can’t argue with stats [and] the speed that he and that team have had here over the years.
"[Hamlin] did a good job of stepping up to all the talk. He did a great job today. For a long time I thought the 29, the 11 and us were going to finish in sequential order — we were around each other all day long. That last stop at the end, those guys found a little something and got going."
The Sprint Cup circuit hits the high banks and restrictor-plate madness of Talladega next Sunday for the race that every Chase contender fears. Harvick won at the 2.66-mile tri-oval in April in a race most agree is a crapshoot.
"I’m really trying to not be emotionally attached to [the points lead] until we get out of Talladega," Johnson said. "So much can happen at Talladega. [There are] three races left after that. If we’re close, we’ll race like hell."
It’s late October, and the cold and flu season is starting to fire up. A friend of mine on a business trip to Las Vegas had to come home early last week after she came down with strep throat. Last Saturday night in Charlotte, Kasey Kahne apparently was feeling ill, getting sick in his racecar before crashing it.
After an accident on lap 125 where Kahne collected Sam Hornish Jr., Kahne’s mangled machine was brought to the garage area. Once his car was made drivable again, Kahne refused to get back in, citing sickness, including having vomited inside the car. During the event Kahne was critical of the car’s poor handling, low power and, for the second time in three weeks, lack of brakes — not exactly comforting while entering Turn 1 at 195 mph.
When Kahne made clear his decision to not play the role of crash test dummy, he was approached by an unnamed crewman on the team, imploring him to ìstart pulling his weightî and get back out on the track. Kahne, who had likely tired of not being able to slow down reliably while at a high rate of speed, refused, and J.J. Yeley was summoned to complete the race, ending the night 120 laps down in the 38th position.
On Wednesday, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Kahne had been released of his driving duties of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford. Several mechanics who had planned to follow Kahne to Red Bull Racing in 2011 were also summarily dismissed. Kahne had driven the No. 9 car since he came to the Cup Series in 2004, driving for then owner Ray Evernham.
On Thursday, it became apparent that there was bigger trouble within the walls of RPM, extending far beyond just firing the star driver and loss of mega-million dollar sponsor Budweiser. Such as been the plight of RPM the last couple of years. From not being able to pay drivers A.J. Allmendinger or Reed Sorensen last year, to questions surrounding the financial viability of the organization before the 2009 season even began, the Jenga stack upon which this team was built has continued to have key cogs slide out one by one every few months.
The events of the past two weeks are far removed from a year ago, when Kahne’s team won races in Sonoma and Atlanta and qualified for the Chase for the Championship — albeit in what were truly Gillett-Evernham Dodges, with the King’s familiar silhouette adorning the cars and war wagon.
So how have all the King’s horses and all the King’s men gotten to this point?
Primarily due to the actions of the Humpty to their Dumpty, owner George Gillett and his son, Foster. As a major player in returning Chrysler back into NASCAR competition, Evernham sold his Evernham Motorsports operation to businessman George Gillett halfway through the 2007 season. Evernham had distanced himself a bit from the team while tending to issues in his personal life. Some may recall former driver Jeremy Mayfield calling attention to these publicly, which eventually cost him his ride, and likely led him down the path that has seen him embroiled in a legal battle with NASCAR for over a year now.
Photo by ASP, Inc.
Gillett’s purchase of the team added to his portfolio of sports franchises at the time, included the Montreal Canadiens NHL team, as well as the Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League. Gillett has been ensconced in a court fight over the soccer team, claiming conspiracy in a forced sale by the Royal Bank of Scotland at nearly half of its estimated $940 million for $470 million to New England Sports Ventures. A key member of that group happens to be John Henry, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, which just so happens to share a strategic alliance with RPM, supplying of cars, engines, and technical support.
Earlier this week RPM’s restrictor plate cars for Talladega were effectively repossessed by Roush, only to be returned on Thursday — sans engines — due to partial payment to Roush Fenway Racing. The Roush-Yates engines that are supplied to RPM were all notably down on power last Saturday night, drawing jeers and groans from every driver in that camp, not just Kahne.
I would go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps maybe these cars didn’t have the latest and greatest power plants available to the Ford teams.
Word came late Thursday night from Dave Moody of Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that RPM had fallen behind on payments to Roush Fenway Racing to the tune of about $10 million for cars, engines, and other components. Roush said on Friday that a payment system had been worked out that would allow RPM to continue its work on the Talladega cars. Kahne himself was also said to have been stiffed by the team, although he claimed they were settled up on the salary issue when asked about it on Friday. However, the buyout of his contract with RPM may have been what settled that dispute. So in addition to being asked to return to a car that may or may not be able to stop at speeds approaching 200 mph, Kahne was being asked to do so Ö for free? No wonder he threw up.
Floating around in this whirling dervish of chaos remain two very important unanswered questions:
First, what now for Richard Petty? After Petty Enterprises scuttled its operations in Level Cross, N.C., which once was the Promised Land for Plymouths and Pontiacs, his name was hung on the front door of Gillet-Evernham Motorsports as part of a ìmergerî with hopes of attracting sponsors and talent to the fledgling Ford organization. After all, better for Evernham to associate himself with the greatest driver in the history of the sport rather than a businessman who appears to be in dire straits on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
For The King to have no involvement in the sport, as well as the potential for the No. 43 car to be absent from the track for the first time in 51 years, should serve as a stark reminder and omen of how NASCAR is currently walking a tight rope over the abyss. Harsh economic realties coupled with declining ratings and the possibility of the racing’s most iconic figure potentially vanishing from the scene permanently are all signs that perhaps the formula of the past few years is broken, and needs immediate attention beyond rear spoilers and 1:00 pm EST start times.
Secondly, what of Ford Motor Company? One of the few success stories of the last three years has been the resurgence of the lone American auto manufacturer which was able to rebound on the strength of superior products and innovation, while not bowing to temptation and accepting an offer from Uncle Sam that it couldn’t refuse. Ford has recently begun to once again quietly pump more funding into their NASCAR efforts, and can ill-afford to lose four cars in the most prominent racing series in North America — let alone the group that, ironically, is the reason why Ford has gotten back up to speed in Sprint Cup by developing the front-end suspension geometry that resurrected the Roush Fenway teams this summer.
Beyond the four established Roush Fenway teams, who else does Ford have to help compete against a plethora of Chevrolets, Camrys, and a couple of Penske Dodges? The Wood Brothers run half the season with 55-year old Bill Elliott, and the Bob Jenkins Front Row (pause for laughter) Motorsports outfit has had its own issues with not paying drivers this season as well — just ask Boris Said.
If RPM is to have any chance at surviving, it just may be the Blue Oval proving substantial backing for the two RPM cars that were slated to run in 2011.
Speaking of 2011, there is that other little issue of what becomes of the drivers and teams that were slated to run next season. AJ Allmendinger has been a bit of a success story the last few months, and with backing from Best Buy, Valvoline and Wix Filters, appears to have sponsorship locked up for next year. Fan favorite Marcos Ambrose and Stanley Tools were to be in- and on-board the No. 9 next season. Are they going to end up as collateral damage from the casualties of the Gillett management?
Also lost in all of this are the mechanics and crewmen at RPM. They too have been told they can expect a paycheck this week, but beyond that, things are up in the air. No official word has become available yet from the senior leadership at RPM, with the principles George and Foster Gillett remaining mum on the situation. The more the story unfolds, the more unfortunate and desperate things appear.
There really is no positive side to this tale yet, with the exception of Kahne getting a head start on 2011 with Red Bull Racing and Aric Almirola piloting the No. 9 this weekend at Martinsville. Hopefully, for Almirola’s sake, the No. 9 team has enough parts left to put some decent brakes on the car this weekend. After all, Martinsville is the most brake-intensive track on the circuit.
He might want to think about calling in sick, too.
Location: Martinsville, Va. Distance: .526-mile oval (500 laps/263 miles) Banking/Turns: 12 degrees Race Dates: March 28 (Denny Hamlin) and October 24
From the Spotter’s Stand
The shortest track on the Cup schedule has an even shorter list of recent winners. Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have combined to win the last eight races at the half-mile paperclip, with Johnson nabbing five wins to Hamlin’s three.
Hamlin led 296 laps in the spring of 2009 before being nudged by Johnson on Lap 485 of 500. The 48 car then pulled away to win by .774 seconds on March 29 — which also happened to be the 25th anniversary of Rick Hendrick’s first Cup win as an owner.
Revenge was served in late October, however, when Hamlin (206) and Johnson (164) combined to lead 370 of 501 laps; but it was Hamlin doing the passing and taking the checkers for his second win and eighth top-10 in nine starts.
Earlier this season it was Hamlin again who took control and led a race-high 172 laps en route to his second straight Martinsville win by just .67 seconds over Joey Logano.
Jeff Gordon has hauled a few Grandfather clocks out of Virginia in his time. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins in Martinsville. He trails only Richard Petty (15), and Darrell Waltrip (11) and is tied with Rusty Wallace for the most all-time wins at the Cup circuit’s oldest track. His last wins came in 2005, when he swept both events, and the four-time champion hasn’t finished worse than fifth in the nine races since.
Crew Chief’s Take
"It’s a long day in the sun there, and you don’t win it by roaring out of the box. You can’t use up your brakes; you can’t use up any of your equipment. It’s hard to pass at Martinsville because it’s so tight. It’s not nearly as fast as Bristol, but we have as much contact at Martinsville as we do at Bristol. There aren’t as many incidents because the pace is slower. The faster you run, the more you’re on the edge of grip. When you lose grip, you make more contact. It’s inevitable, but a driver has to keep cool. The ones who don’t like to be touched don’t do well here."
Photo by ASP, Inc.
Fantasy Stall Looking at Checkers: Denny Hamlin is always up on the wheel in his home state, averaging a 6.6-place finish in Martinsville. Pretty Solid Pick: Of course, hamlin will have to go through Jimmie Johnson, who has six wins at the old paperclip. Good Sleeper Pick: Ride the momentum with Jamie McMurray, who is actually really good here. Runs on Seven Cylinders: There’s a few, namely Harvick, Ragan and Reutimann. Insider Tip: Hamlin and Johnson have combined to win the last eight races in Martinsville.
Classic Moments in Martinsville
Martinsville Speedway hosts its first race on Sept. 7, 1947, as a half-mile dirt track with its still-existing paperclip configuration. A paid crowd of just over 6,000 watches NASCAR’s first champion, Red Byron, win the 50-lap feature.
The first NASCAR-sanctioned Modified event is held the following year on July 4, making it the only original track still on the schedule. Fonty Flock wins that race, while NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. finishes eighth.
The newly-dubbed NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now the Sprint Cup Series) holds its first official race at Martinsville on Sept. 25, 1949. Red Byron again comes away the victor in front of a crowd of 10,000. Lee Petty (second) scores his first career top-5 finish. Martinsville now holds upwards of 63,000.
October 2009 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin March 2010 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
March 2010 Top 10
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Joey Logano
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Ryan Newman
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Brian Vickers
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Carl Edwards
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Greg Biffle
March 2010 Laps Led
Denny Hamlin — 172
Jeff Burton — 140
Jeff Gordon — 92
Kevin Harvick — 57
Mark Martin — 25
Kurt Busch — 19
Travis Kvapil — 2
David Gilliland — 1
“It’s tough, when you sit down and think about it; the saddest thing is that you never got a chance to say goodbye to him. But oh, how he lived.” — Kerry Cramer
One of Tim Richmond’s lifetime friends sums it up perfectly, the triumph and tragedy captured in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the NASCAR legend that could have been. It’s the story of a talented driver brought down by both the phobia and the poison of AIDS, a story in cultural contradiction between the loose-living, feel-good attitude of a man whose brash ways inevitably clashed with a conservative Southern culture. It was a tale of awkward acceptance, then ignorance and a long list of misunderstandings until it was far too late.
The story should bring you to tears, and by the end you’re certainly crying your eyes out for a life that didn’t deserve this ugly ending. But in the 50 minutes until we get there, this documentary produced by NASCAR Media Group achieves a type of even-keeled balance you rarely see, making it a must for your TV schedule once it premieres Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. on ESPN. Put together through a detailed, chronological look at Richmond’s life and career, we see the beauty of a free-wheelin’, naturally talented party animal rise and fall in a way no one in this sport had done before or since.
Through it all, in this age of earthquake-shattering declines in ratings and perception you can’t help but wonder how much NASCAR would beg to have his personality now. An excitable, always optimistic soul, he had the fashion sense employed by Manhattanites Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, a “cosmopolitan man,” as the documentary says, living in a good ol’ boys world. But while the driver got lost, even beaten down initially inside a sea of cowboy hats and one-track minds, the bright, engaging side of his personality never stopped to become a sponsor shrill. From start to finish, it was Richmond doing things his own way, the type of charismatic character brought forth in a film that leaves hardcore fans longing for a simpler time.
“Are you going to win, or are you going to survive?” a reporter asks Richmond in a clip from the early ’80s. “Win,” he says. “I don’t know how to spell survive. Win is a lot easier to spell. M-O-N-E-Y is what they call it.”
How many millions will you bet that no one inside this year’s Chase for the Championship field ever says that? In some ways, this man stood alone while in others, he served as a preview of the sweeping NASCAR changes to come during the Jeff Gordon era of the 1990s and beyond.
“He didn’t know much more mechanically about the car than your average Labrador retriever,” claims Humpy Wheeler, one of many similarities he has with Gordon and others who followed him at Hendrick Motorsports. “He just knew how to drive one naturally as good as I ever saw.”
During a time where mechanics also doubled as men behind the wheel, it was one of one thousand reasons this playboy who originally started his career in IndyCar struggled to gain acceptance. For those that think the lawsuits of the last two years are truly heinous — Mauricia Grant and Jeremy Mayfield — think back to a time in the mid-1980s where just a white boy with a northern accent would walk around the garage and get looked at like an unwanted outsider.
“The conservative, beer-drinking guys from the south, it was a tough road,” says Jerry Punch in the film. “They didn’t like him because he was different.”
“NASCAR had a hard time accepting him because he wasn’t one of those good ol’ boys,” adds sister Sandi Walsh. “And he struggled those first years.”
In a way, then, his 1986 partnership with then-up and coming businessman Hendrick was like a match made in heaven. Two industry outsiders, two new philosophies filtering into the sport, combining together to harness a talent that throughout the first seven years’ of Richmond’s career had been filled with potential — not overall performance. It was simply breathtaking to review all over again. Bring in a military-style, award-winning crew chief named Harry Hyde, and you have all the ingredients for a Hollywood story. Indeed, one of the few omissions from this outstanding production is the fact this trio provided the basis for the 1990 NASCAR mainstream movie Days of Thunder.
“One of the greatest talents that ever drove one of these cars,” said Hendrick, whose penchant for matching the perfect pairing led to a breakout season for Richmond: seven victories, eight poles, and a third-place finish in the final standings. By this point, it’s the halfway mark of the film and you’re roped into the heart of this storybook success, waiting patiently for the fairy tale ending that never comes.
Then, out of nowhere the nightmare begins, a film’s shocking transition into the dark prejudice of AIDS and resulting contraction that ultimately brought Richmond down. The national ignorance and fear within the NASCAR community is captured brilliantly here by director Rory Karpf, some shocking admissions of mistakes within a sanctioning body that usually says the words “I’m sorry” next to never.
“‘Ignorant’ is the best word you can use to describe what he was going through,” says Kyle Petty, surrounding Richmond’s downfall and resulting isolation. During the 15-month period between December 1986 and his final departure from the sport following the 1988 Busch Clash, a brief comeback gets nixed along with a second, the latter including a “failed” drug test that even Bill France Jr. admits was a mistake. One by one, the myths of a mystery disease get exposed, the tricky national controversy a then-growing sport just wouldn’t make the gamble to take on.
And that’s where this film rises bluntly to the occasion, presenting both sides in a way that you actually find yourself sympathetic to NASCAR’s tough decisions despite its cold-blooded intentions. Surely, there were missteps in a problem that, if handled differently, could have been a landmark in the fight to change the perception of AIDS. But in any relationship breakdown, it takes two to tango and Tim’s portrayal as someone who never came to grips with this deadly disease makes you understand how quickly this disaster began to snowball, allowing the phobias to strengthen by his own ignorance to accept the tragic hand that was dealt.
Still, when all is said and done it’s Richmond’s fellow competitors in the crosshairs, the deep seeds of refusal to both acknowledge and accept something different at the heart of the film’s central message.
“He was a heck of a race car driver, but I don’t know how strung out he was on something to make him that way,” Richard Petty says, speaking words that, considering the 21-year gap between Richmond’s death and the breadth of AIDS awareness now, are simply stunning. “If I was taking something, I might be a little different, too.”
“Everybody I’ve ever known that tries to play hardball with NASCAR loses,” adds Punch, a quote that sticks from a battle Richmond fought and ultimately lost to stay inside the sport as he grew sicker. “Because they own the ball and they own the playing court.”
As you might expect, that’s where Karpf heads towards the inevitable tragic conclusion steeped with the pain of personal connections that drive its point home. But keep in mind this film isn’t without some brighter moments; in fact, both the beginning and end is where you keep your eyes open for my favorite person, the hometown friend of Richmond’s who has a beard to make hippie Santa Claus proud. I’ve never been so excited to hear the words “honey” and “nice” used in the same sentence — absolutely hysterical. Stroker Ace aficionado Hal Needham is among a handful of other surprise guest who make an appearance.
Looking back at the Hall of Fame selections this week, it’s hard to quantify just how much, if any, impact a full-fledged Richmond career could have had. Considering he drove in the same era and style as one Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, you’d have to believe one, if not multiple championships, would have swung his way instead. That alone would have swayed the type of heavyweight punch to change a sport forever, Earnhardt’s absence on the first induction likely in a building that could have very well one day sported Richmond’s bust.
The fact that will never come to pass is one of the most tragic, unfulfilled potential stories in the sport’s rich 61-year history. I’m just glad there’s a perfect documentary out there to do it justice.