STP 500 – Martinsville (4-3-2016)
The weekend at Richmond International Raceway resulted in a Toyota sweep and a diverse Sprint Cup Chase field. The Xfinity Series also has their new Chase field in place.
Kyle Busch put the #18 NOS Energy Toyota in Victory Lane Friday night in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. For Xfinity drivers, the championship run will continue for: Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Brandon Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr, Ryan Reed, Blake Koch, Ryan Sieg.
Saturday night put on a good show for fans for the final race to the Chase. The race grew more tense as the laps wound down with contact, cut tires and a red light race stop that with a wild exit from a burning #14 by Tony Stewart. Several cars were damaged beyond repair with the #14 but Ryan Newman, David Ragan and one or two others were able to get back on track.
Denny Hamlin started on pole and also finished up front but over the course of the race Martin Truex, Jr. was in the lead for a good portion and looked like he might be able to bring it home for the #78 team. Cautions and restarts took their toll to put him in third at the checkers. Kyle Larson also took the lead for a bit but finished a very respectable second.
A green – white – checkered restart in overtime was a hole shot for the #11. Hamlin left the field by two car lengths at the drop of the green and drove unchallenged to the win.
Many of you may recall that Virginia International Raceway underwent a track facelift a couple of years ago. The entire racing surface plus the paddock and other areas were repaved.
All was good… But not so much…
The racing surface developed some issues which were raising concerns over the past couple of seasons. So, with IMSA and the Michelin GT coming back for 2016, the folks at VIR took a major step to insure the racing would be secure and any concerns for the surface would be behind them.
They shut down during one of their busy summer months and paved it again. All of July plus a little more was spent resurfacing the entire course. The job this time has everyone pleased. Michelin and Continental have already done tire testing on the surface in advance of the Michelin GT / Continental weekend scheduled for August 26-28. The 24 Hour Chump Car race just ran with a little speed and long hours. Connie Nyholm, VIR Owner/CEO, said they wanted any and all concerns for the track to be dealt with, shut down for a month or not, before the IMSA/WeatherTech and support races arrived.
Beyond a few stripes and race markings on the new asphalt, they are ready.
Ryan Briscoe, Chip Ganassi/Ford GT, was on hand at VIR to talk about the season so far and the upcoming Michelin GT/WeatherTech race weekend. Briscoe competes in the GTLM class with co-driver Richard Westbrook and currently sit just 10 points off the team lead and 13 points off the driver lead. This season has put the new Ford GT to a test and VIR is set to be “battle on” with Corvette Racing currently on top. Briscoe has previously raced and won for Corvette Racing, just so you know…
Now with Ganassi and in the Ford GT he and the team are pushing forward fast and VIR is set to be one to watch between the Ford and Chevy fans. Briscoe is excited to be racing at VIR, is looking forward to the surface and said whatever challenges and changes which come with a new surface will be the same for everyone. The trick will be finding the best groove before the others and making it all work better.
Ryan Briscoe seems a bit hungry to put those Corvettes behind him…
The Michelin GT/WeatherTech weekend (August 26-28) features the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona series, Continental Tire Grand Sport and Street Tuners, plus Porsche GT3 and Lamborghini Trofeo racing. There are enough practices, qualifying and racing to keep the track hot from early morning to late evening with enough Detroit muscle and international speed candy for everyone! Plus, fans are able to walk about the paddock, be out on the grid before the start and meet the teams and drivers. There will be a lot going on off the track, also, with fan engagement areas, merchandise and gear and special packages for car owners of some of the manufacturers racing the weekend.
On a slightly different note… While Ryan Briscoe was talking about the new Ford GT and racing, Virginia Senator Mark Warner was taking a lap around the track at VIR.
Why…? Well, he was there with some folks from Tesla and checking out the “autopilot” features of a Model S. Warner was taken for a ride more by the car than the folks that brought it. He said he is impressed with the technology and looking forward to growth in the industry. Not just from Tesla, mind you, but the entire automotive industry. He acknowledged the leading role Tesla has and the strides made with the autopilot systems. There is so much innovation and development around safety and efficiency he said growth and moving forward is inevitable. Cars like the Tesla are leading the way, Warner said.
He also took a moment to acknowledge the facility at Virginia International Raceway and the open vision of people like owner Connie Nyholm. He said he is glad it is here in Virginia leading the way for innovative and scenic racing while also creating an environment for development, testing and education.
In other words, if you haven’t been to VIR perhaps you see what all the fuss is about!
Photos: Ryan Briscoe of Chip Ganassi / Ford GT, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, Tesla and some VIR Club Drivers on the course!