When the Sprint Cup schedule comes out, teams always circle the races they know will be huge on the schedule. The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Darlington, and Bristol are some of those races that stand out the most.
But, since 2004, the second race at Richmond has become one of the biggest races of the year.
How can it not be? It's the finally opportunity for teams hoping to make the Chase to get in, as well as those who are on the bubble to secure their spot. Some teams that are locked in can go for it all in a quest for victory, while others decide to play it safe and protect their position.
We all know the top 12 gets reset once this race concludes, so why exactly is it a race that all teams mark as a big race on the schedule?
It's simple...it's Richmond.
The motto of this track is "Racing Perfection" and it rightfully deserves that. Look at what Richmond has to offer: Speeds are fast, as if you were racing in Atlanta or Texas; Then you have sweeping corners like Michigan; Finally, when you add in that the track is less than a mile, it brings out the attitude and aggression as if it were Bristol.
This 3/4-mile, D-shaped track has provided some of the most intense—and most heated—battles in history.
Who can forget Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace in 1998, or Kevin Harvick and Ricky Rudd in 2003? It's those kinds of battles that fill the stands every year at Richmond.
This year, the battle to get into the Chase is not as exciting as the gap between positions 12 and 14 is large. It would take a lot of effort to change those who are expected to be in the Chase and those on the outside looking in.
But, heading into Richmond, everyone had their eyes set on the Chase, while others focused on victory. That said, here are my race and Chase reactions from Saturday night's Air Guard 400.