- Mark Ashenfelter, NASCAR
- 0 Shares
Clint Bowyer simply needs to get through Friday night's Emerson Radio 250 Busch Series race unscathed to experience the biggest night of his racing career come Saturday.
Simply needing to take the green flag Saturday night to clinch a berth in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, it's easy to envision a scenario in which Bowyer treads lightly in the Busch race. Betting on that, however, wouldn't be wise.
Bowyer won at Richmond in May and is bringing the same Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to the track. Predicting a win might be a stretch, but not much of one.
"It was a lot of fun. Anytime you can beat Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton for a win, you're having fun," Bowyer said. "Hopefully, we can back that up. I know we're taking the same ... Chevrolet that won us the race in May, so I have a lot of confidence going in. Richmond is a lot of fun and it's one of those races that I always look forward to."
It's hard not to look forward to the races if you're driving for RCR in the Busch Series. While Kevin Harvick will be in the No. 33 Chevy he owns instead of the No. 21 that will see Tim McCreadie behind the wheel, Scott Wimmer will look to extend the No. 29 team's lead in the owners' points race as he takes over again after Jeff Burton won last Saturday at California Speedway.
RCR won't have its veterans in action this weekend, but Bowyer's had quite the season despite running just 16 of the 27 races thus far. He's 11th in points thanks to a pair of wins, 10 top-5s and an amazing 14 top-10 runs.
Of course, RCR has dominated the series; Harvick (who splits his time between RCR's No. 21 and his own No. 33 entry), Bowyer, Burton and Wimmer are all in the top 15 in points. RCR has 10 wins in the series and the three teams have 34 top-5 and 48 top-10 finishes.
RCR cars have led 1,198 of the 4,848 laps run heading to Richmond.
Those stats, though, don't guarantee anything once the green flag drops. Maybe this will be the race in which Carl Edwards gets back on track, or maybe teammate Kenseth will lead the way.
Kenseth has a staggering 10 top-5s in just 15 starts, but has yet to win there. That's not to say he doesn't think he could have by now.
"Richmond is one of my favorite tracks to race at, and we've been pretty successful here in the past. We just haven't been able to pull off a win in the Busch car," Kenseth said. "We came so close in the spring, but a mishap on pit road cost us the win.
"That was at the beginning of the year so hopefully we can pull it together now and have both a strong car and good pit stops. If we can do that then I think we can be a strong contender for the win."
Veteran Jason Keller has a win and two poles at the track and expects to make his 415th career start on Friday. That will leave him two races shy of tying Tommy Houston for the most starts ever in the Busch Series.
"I'm anxious to get back to Richmond," Keller said. "It's been a year since I've had a chance to race there and it's a track I really enjoy. There is plenty of side-by-side racing action, and if you can get your car handling correctly, passing through the field is not a problem. It's close-quarters racing at its best."
And taking another step toward the record is one of Keller's main goals.
"I want to break it when it's still the Busch Series," Keller said. "I want to be known as the driver with the most Busch Series starts. That was one of the things that is important to me. It is also important that people don't think just because I have broken this record that my career is over. I have enjoyed 16 years in this series and am looking forward to 400 more starts before I even consider retirement."
For now, though, starting at Richmond is all that matters to Keller.
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.
Clint Bowyer simply needs to start Saturday's Cup race to lock up a Chase spot. Foremost on his mind, though, is completing his Busch Series sweep at Richmond, writes Mark Ashenfelter.