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NASCAR At Richmond International Raceway: Joe Gibbs Racing Looks To Dominate - Again

In the aftermath of this week's tragic storms that rolled across the Southeast, it's hard to think of anything less meaningful than a stock car race, but the NASCARSprint Cup Series is back in action with the running of Saturday evening's Crown Royal Presents The Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 at the Richmond International Raceway (7 p.m Eastern on FOX). Once nicknamed "The Action Track," and aptly so, the .75-mile short track provides some of the best racing all year. The wide, slightly-banked surface allows for multiple grooves of racing, but there are always plenty of bent fenders - and plenty of bent tempers to go right along with them - at the end of 400 laps of racing.

As we do every race week, SB Nation Atlanta will take a look at some notes of interest leading up to the event and provide in-race coverage. For further coverage of this race and all things NASCAR, check out SB Nation's NASCAR hub and NASCAR Ranting and Raving.

Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last four races at Richmond, including consecutive Crown Royal 400 victories for Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin, who as recently as 2004 was a fan in the stands at his home track dreaming of his shot at the big time, has won the last two September races.

For their careers, Busch and Hamlin each have impressive numbers at Richmond. In 12 races, Busch has 10 top-five finishes including his two victories. Hamlin, meanwhile, has finished in the top-five in half of his 10 starts, with one more top-10.

All told, Joe Gibbs Racing has seven Sprint Cup victories at Richmond, second among active teams to Hendrick Motorsports (10). Tony Stewart had three victories as driver of the team's No. 20 car, including his first Cup win in September 1999.

Some other notes on Saturday's event:

  • The Crown Royal 400 will mark the 110th event at Richmond International Raceway, which held its first race on April 19, 1953. Lee Petty won the event on what was then a half-mile dirt track. The surface was paved following David Pearson's March 1968 win, with Richard Petty winning the first race on the asphalt surface (one of his 13 Richmond wins) that fall. After the late Neil Bonnett won the February 1988 race, the track was reconfigured to its current .75-mile D-shaped layout. Davey Allison won the first race held on the larger configuration.
  • Among active drivers, Mark Martin is the leader with 50 starts at Richmond. He has scored 27 top-10 finishes at RIR, but his lone victory in February 1990 resulted in perhaps his lowest point professionally. His car failed post-race inspection, and though there was no evidence that the infraction created a performance advantage, NASCAR docked Martin 46 points. He ultimately would lose the championship that year to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points, his first of five runner-up finishes in the title race. Martin has never won a championship.
  • Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers with three victories apiece at Richmond. Both Stewart and Earnhardt won as rookies in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Stewart added victories in May 2001 and 2002, while Earnhardt won in May 2004 and 2006. Johnson, meanwhile, swept the season in 2007 and outdueled Stewart to win in September 2008.
  • Jeff Gordon has only two wins - yes, for Gordon, that counts as only two wins - at Richmond, but he is 88 laps led away from reaching 1500 at the track. Only one other driver - Denny Hamlin - has more than 1,000 laps led at Richmond.
  • Along with Stewart, Kasey Kahne(May 2005) and Kyle Petty (February 1986) are among those who have scored their first-career Cup win at Richmond. Petty's win was particularly spectacular. Running fifth on lap 398, he was the beneficiary of a Dale Earnhardt/Darrell Waltrip duel for the lead gone awry. As Earnhardt hooked Waltrip's car head on into the guardrail and spun as well, Joe Ruttman and Geoff Bodine also spun, clearing the way for Petty to take the No. 7 Wood Brothers Ford to the first of his eight-career Cup wins.
  • Notable drivers who recorded their last career victories at Richmond include Cotton Owens, Dave Marcis, and the late Davey Allison. Owens, perhaps better known as a car owner, had nine wins in what is now the Sprint Cup Series. He won on Richmond's dirt in September 1964. Marcis, meanwhile, was an independent competitor for most of his career, scoring five wins including a rain-shortened race at Richmond in 1982. Though he last competed nearly 20 years later, it was his final win. Allison, who had won the first race on the .75-mile layout, recorded his 19thand final Cup win at Richmond on March 7, 1993, just over four months before his death.
  • The race is officially named the Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400. Since 2007, Crown Royal has held a contest for the naming rights to the event, with fans submitting essays explaining why they should have their name on the race. This year's contest was limited to military personnel. Matthew, a Staff Sergeantin the United States Marine Corps, paid tribute to his late twin brother by having the race named for both of them. Daniel Hansen was killed while on duty in Afghanistan on February 14, 2009.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.