Greatest Richmond Moments from NASCAR's Chase Era
2008 — Junior wads up Busch
In the June 2008 Richmond race it was coming down to fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. against the heel, Kyle Busch. Kyle got in a little hot and wrecked Junior, leading to a mob uprising not seen since Mr. and Mrs. Mussolini were strung up. In the fall version, Junior got a little payback.
2004 — The Big One: Contenders spin
The 2004 Nextel Cup season was the first utilizing NASCAR’s Chase format — and was arguably the best battle to date, eventually coming down to six drivers with a shot at the title. The Richmond race leading up to it was arguably the best last-chance qualifier as well, with this mess involving several contenders. Mr. Excitement lights off the wreck, while Mark Martin executes a perfect Jim Rockford J-turn to escape missing the wreck — and missing The Chase. Jimmie Johnson, though, wasn’t so fortunate.
2004 — Jamie McMurray: To be or not to be?
Jamie McMurray seems to always come to life when his career is on the line — but Chase qualification has always been elusive. Heading into this race in 2004, he’s outside the field and needs a win to get in (as has been the case in every year he’s had a look at making the playoffs). In 2010, he missed out after having a career year when he won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. In 2005, he came up short by just 17 points (four positions at any point throughout the season). And here, in ’04,he comes up just shy once again.
2003: A hood-stompin’ good show
The fall Richmond race calmed a bit during the middling years of the late 2000s; after all, the No. 48 team was going to win it all anyway, right? But prior to that, it was typical short track fare, with flared tempers and this hood-stomping fiasco in the pits. Kevin Harvick wasn’t too “Happy” with Ricky Rudd, and in an odd post-race confrontation in 2003, his team stomps on the hood of Rudd’s No. 21. I’d have been more worried about holding back Pat Tryson than the 5’9” Rudd; after all, Pat played linebacker in college and couldn’t have been too happy about the show of disrespect.
2011 — Paul Menard is a team player
Before things really got out of hand in 2013, check out this “Secret Squirrel” radio exchange between Paul Menard and crew chief Slugger Labbe. Possibly the worst attempt at conveying a veiled message since Hans told Karl to, “shoot the glass” in Die Hard. Gordon came out on the short end of the stick on this one too, but NASCAR would pay up in 2013.
2011 — Kurt vs. Jimmie (and Jenna)
Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch had a great rivalry going just a few years back, and it climaxed in 2011 during Richmond fall date. In it, Johnson tries to dump Busch, which kind of backfires, while Busch coins an awesome blast on him (mid-spin). In the post-race presser, Busch has an equally entertaining exchange with journalist Jenna Fryer. Everything about it is great, from the calmness to the comically large bottles of champagne everyone is toting about.
2004 — Mayfield’s magical moment
NASCAR’s most famous flat top was a pretty fair driver during his prime in the Sprint Cup Series. Before Jeremy Mayfield was being indicted on criminal charges and resurrecting his image on YouTube, he could have been labeled the original “Closer” — long before Kevin Harvick claimed the handle. The only way he could really get into the inaugural Chase was to win at Richmond — and he did just that, steering his No. 19 Evernham Dodge into victory lane in as clutch of a performance as the sport has seen in some time.
2013 – Bowyer’s itch is Truex’s trial
You know who suffers when you lie? Everyone. Just ask Martin Truex Jr., who was racing for his Chase life at Richmond in 2013, but needed a little help from a teammate. Itchy elbows, tight handling cars and a lazy spin exiting Turn 4 with just a couple of laps to go — while another teammate, Brian Vickers, was receiving complimentary pit instructions — set off the craziest controversy the sport had witnessed in years. NASCAR’s response? Truex was yanked from the Chase and NAPA, in turn, yanked its name off Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 56, which then folded the team 10 weeks later.