Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier Is Excited For NASCAR’s Next Gen Arrivalby Hunter Thomas March 30, 2022 0 comments
RICHMOND, Va. – So far in 2022, we’ve seen NASCAR’s Next Gen car bounce off the wall and continue as well as get airborne and finish fifth. The highly competitive action has produced a different winner each weekend, and now the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series will pilot the new cars around Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400.
Richmond Raceway actually hosted the Next Gen’s first-ever test with Austin Dillon back in 2019, and last year, Bubba Wallace clocked laps around the D-shaped oval; however, the industry has yet to see how the new car will perform in competition at the Virginia short track. This season, aside from early learning curves with tires, the car has performed solidly at seven very different racetracks, producing two first-time winners (Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain) during points events.
“Well, I think that there’s some unpredictability,” Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier said. “It has been fun to see this car race the first few races of the season. Now, they’re finally coming to a short track for a points-paying race; obviously, they had the Clash at the Coliseum. I’m looking forward to seeing them. I think we are seeing the young talent grabbing some checkered flags right now as well, so it seems like it has leveled the playing field a little bit, and we’ll see what happens when they get to Richmond.”
Every driver that has won a points race this season was under 30-years-old, and at times, the veterans have seemed to be the ones struggling with the new cars. With 17 victories, Joe Gibbs Racing is the most-winningest organization in the NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond, but so far in 2022, all four drivers are winless. As an organization, they have only earned two top-five finishes, and Martin Truex Jr. who sits seventh in the standings leads the best effort with three top-10 finishes and two stage wins. Will Richmond Raceway be the track where the Toyota team can bounce back and get its season rolling?
“Joe Gibbs Racing always has a bullseye on their back when they come to Richmond,” Bickmeier said. “They’re so good here. All of them. Top to bottom. This could be a place where they can get healthy and maybe go on a run from here.”
Unlike the fall race, the Toyota Owners 400 will be run during the day, which can be tricky for drivers. The NASCAR Cup Series will get a short practice at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and then head right into qualifying at 11:15 a.m., so drivers will have to figure the new car out fairly quickly this weekend.
“I just think that it’s going to be fun to watch,” Bickmeier said. “Just a little bit of practice, and we’ll get a little taste of what we’ll see on Sunday, and then the other thing is, they’re racing in the day here. The drivers say all the time this place races differently day versus night, so that’s just another element that’s kind of thrown into this.”
Live coverage of the Toyota Owners 400 will broadcast live on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.