Race Weekend Central

A Richmond Doubleheader? Let’s Give It a Shot

Where did you attend your first race?

For me, it was at Richmond Raceway. My grandfather had tickets to the then-named NASCAR Nationwide Series race for the 2008 spring event.

These weren’t just any tickets, though. You could imagine my amazement as a little kid when I learned that we would be watching the race from the suites. That’s right: a buffet, air conditioning, and seats alongside my dad and grandfather made for one of the best first-race experiences I could imagine.

From there, I fell in love with Richmond. It is my home track and a place where I have shared many memories with family, friends and recently, colleagues. For years, it was the only track I had witnessed NASCAR races at.

But as sentimental of a track Richmond is to me, its two dates have come into question in recent years. After serving as a classic short track for years, Richmond seems to have lost its luster with childhood fans. The days of multiple crashes and attrition have appeared to have gone by the wayside.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: The Cup Playoff Fan Survival Guide

Now, as the NASCAR Cup Series enters the playoffs, you may ask why I am discussing Richmond? With the 2024 schedule release likely just around the corner, whispers in the garage have stirred an interesting development.

On this week’s episode of Door, Bumper, Clear, the subject of a potential doubleheader came up, with Richmond being named as the likely location.

If the doubleheader were to happen, it is uncertain whether it would be a mid-week/Sunday combination or similar to what Pocono Raceway did from 2020-2021 with a Saturday/Sunday show. Of course, the elephant in the room concerns television ratings.

Mid-week races were disappointing in the ratings department, while the Pocono doubleheader TV performance wasn’t great either.

However, it was a credible attempt at trying something new, and doing it at Richmond would have its benefits as well.

With just one off weekend on the Cup side this year, a doubleheader opens up the potential for drivers and teams to have another week with their families. Plus, Richmond is a manageable, four-hour drive from the team shops in Charlotte, N.C. With the 2024 summer Olympics occurring next year, it presents a window for a Richmond doubleheader to happen.

Some have also argued that the Richmond races are too long, with both featuring 400-lap events. A doubleheader would likely shorten those races, and with track position critical at Richmond, the stakes are higher with less time to get to the front.

That also brings us back to mid-week races.

In a pandemic-ridden 2020, Wednesday and Thursday night races certainly did not perform as expected. However, look at what the Superstar Racing Experience has done with a smaller market. As a Frontstretch colleague made note of, SRX has the second-youngest audience outside of Formula 1. Racing has a potential for mid-week slots.

See also
Only Yesterday: When Cars Become Toys

What is intriguing is the prospect of race times. No matter how the doubleheader works, some fans who have grown up with Richmond have expressed a desire for the night race to return. For a track that hosted night racing for so many years, a doubleheader presents the opportunity to host both a day and night race.

Of course, there would be arguments against it, as well as many unanswered questions if it were to happen. The concern of TV ratings weighs heavily on such decisions, and adding a night race or mid-week race are two things the sanctioning body has moved away from in recent years. There are also certain restrictions within the city NASCAR would have to work around if such an event were to happen.

But perhaps the largest conundrum is if the path of Richmond’s placement in the schedule points towards a lost date. Once the host of the Cup regular season-finale, the .75-mile track’s second date was moved into the playoffs. After four seasons, it was moved to the summer in 2022. If you live in Virginia, especially in the Richmond vicinity, that can be downright miserable (the heat index on Saturday this year was 112 degrees).

Similar actions with other tracks have migrated into a one-race slot. Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway and Dover Motor Speedway are notable tracks who have lost a second date.

It wouldn’t be a travesty, as those tracks have seen strong attendance and racing with the Next Gen car, something Richmond has not consistently had lately. But in a sport where “more short tracks” appears to be a focus of the sanctioning body, what would Richmond losing a date say? It would be fine if that meant the sport visits more tracks, but that would likely cost other tracks a date too.

Given the lack of excitement with the Next Gen car on short tracks in particular, Richmond has arguably had the best short track racing. Multiple lane options have opened up, there has been an increased emphasis on tire strategy and there is hard racing throughout the field. But as TV ratings and attendance have shown, as well as the Richmond of old, that won’t guarantee a second date.

So, what’s the message here? If it takes a doubleheader for Richmond to have two races, then it’s worth a shot. The track’s history, potential Next Gen improvements and synonymity with NASCAR’s direction leaves a door open for the track to return to its former glory.

If it fails, then there was at least an attempt, and there are still opportunities open, such as co-hosting a weekend with the NTT IndyCar Series or having one weekend in an optimal spot. For such a historic track on the schedule, it deserves as much effort as possible.

About the author

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kevin in SoCal

The only acceptable replacements for Richmond, in my opinion, is a race at North-Wilkesboro, or Iowa Speedway.

Share via