Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Robert Richardson at Speedweeks 2010

Bryan Davis Keith, Frontstretch: You have kind of a unique deal, two different series [Sprint Cup and Nationwide], two limited schedules. How much of a challenge is it balancing two different racecars and two different limited schedules?

Robert Richardson: Trying to adapt to the different driving styles of the cars. The Cup cars really do drive a lot different from the Nationwide Series cars. I’m really struggling right now, trying to jump from one to other, I’m much more familiar with the Nationwide Series cars. In practice it showed; we were 12th fastest in the [first] Nationwide practice. As far as the Cup cars go, running on the bump stops is something that I’ve never felt before, so it’s hard for me to call for what kind of adjustments we need to make on the car.

So I pretty much tell the crew chief over there that the car is tight here, loose here. Tracks like here at Daytona, where we get the aero push, I just tell him what the car is doing and we make adjustments from there. So far, it’s working and they’re making the right adjustments, but I can’t be as meticulous with the adjustments with these cars and the bump stops.

Keith: You’ve run a Cup race at Talladega before. How much of a difference is it driving and adjusting a plate car for Daytona versus Talladega?

Richardson: Talladega is so smooth since they resurfaced the track, there it’s all about horsepower, how much motor you can put in it. Here, it is about motor to a certain extent, but its more about handling, as rough as the track is and given the bumps we go over. It seems that every year the track gets worse and worse and worse. I think the bumps have now turned into mountains out on the racetrack. Hopefully, NASCAR will repave this place one of these days, but for now racing on this place you definitely have to have a good handling racecar.

Keith: You’ve got a deal to run three Cup plate races. You’ve got a lot more focus on plate races than other young drivers. How has the bigger plate changed the cars?

Richardson: I can definitely say on the Cup side we’re carrying a lot more speed into the corners, and a lot of guys are having to get out of the gas quite a bit to be able to not drive a push into the car when entering the corner. Usually, you can hold it wide open around here, but once the tires start giving away and the fuel burns out of the back of the car, the car starts getting lighter, it starts to free up a little bit. [Then], you’ll start to see guys feathering the gas in the turns and matting it on the straightaways. But if there’s a guy out there that can hold it wide open all day, they’ll probably win the race.

Keith: You have a number of teammates for Speedweeks, which you didn’t have with Tommy Baldwin Racing at Talladega last October. Talk about the advantages that provides.

Richardson: Obviously, I have help with setups because of it. Travis Kvapil and John Andretti have been pretty good, especially Travis, who has been coming by and talking to me. We’ve been bouncing ideas back and forth between each other on setups. It’s definitely beneficial to have a teammate to share setup notes [with], to compare what their car is doing to what my car is doing. He and I have had the same problems and we’ve been making the same adjustments accordingly. It’s definitely beneficial to have Travis as a teammate.

Keith: Your teammate Kevin Conway was originally scheduled to run the Daytona 500, then NASCAR said no. Their decision seems to be inconsistent with their licensing in the past. Do you have a take on that?

Richardson: Well, I went through the same process that he is. I was going to run the Daytona 500 last year and NASCAR said no Cup driver has ever made their first start at the Daytona 500. It made sense, but I was kind of upset at the same time. Mike Skinner ended up racing our car last year, almost made the race, but we got sent home.

This year, when we were talking to a couple of teams last season at Homestead about running the Daytona 500, we ended up working out a deal with Front Row Motorsports. This year, I’m honored to be here and to be racing in the Daytona 500.

Keith: What’s your schedule for 2010 currently look like besides the three Cup plate races with Front Row?

Richardson: Right now, just the first 18 races in the Nationwide Series. We’ll see how things progress from there. I’m confident that we’ll be able to find sponsorship to run the remainder of the season, but as far as the Cup side goes I just have the three races with Front Row on the superspeedways.

Keith: Obviously you’re going to win the Daytona 500, who’s going to come in second?

Richardson: Everyone. No, I can’t even describe what it would be like, winning the Daytona 500 in my first time out. I just want to focus on running well. We’re looking to build on what we did at Talladega last year, we finished 18th, and if I can have another finish as good as that, if not better, it’d feel as good as a win.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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