RICHMOND, Va. — NASCAR fans in Richmond will see two significant changes to the 2018 schedule for Richmond International Raceway after the full season schedule was officially released by NASCAR.
The spring racing weekend will now feature two night races once again in both the Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup Series. While NASCAR does not release attendance figures, last month’s Toyota Owner’s 400 run on Sunday afternoon had one of the lowest attendances of any regularly scheduled Cup series event in recent history.
Unseasonably high temperatures were part of the problem, but the track also never saw fans warm up to the idea of Sunday afternoon racing.
“For 18 years, we did all night racing” explained RIR President Dennis Bickmeier. “We made a change. We tried something different. We’re going back to (night racing). It’s part of the iconic experience that Richmond International Raceway has become for fans.”
Richmond will host the Toyota spring race weekend on April 20-21, 2018, and return in the fall with its first Monster Energy Series and NXS playoff race weekend on September 21-22, 2018.
The change to the fall racing weekend was a long time request of drivers, most notably Chesterfield’s Denny Hamlin, and teams who wanted more diversity in NASCAR’s playoff schedule.
This year, 8 of the 10 races that make up NASCAR’s playoffs will be run on tracks that are 1.5 miles in length and have essentially become exercises in fuel mileage. Adding RIR to the final 10 events of 2018 not only gives drivers another short track in the playoffs, but gives Virginia two of the 10 events that will eventually determine the Cup series champion.
“We’re the place where the fans meet the sport.” Bickmeier said. “So much of the feedback about our spring race was driven by the fans. They should be excited about the September race as well because the drivers are excited about getting another short track into the ten race playoffs.”
“Richmond has always been a tremendously supportive market for NASCAR,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. “Adding it to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, along with the return to Saturday night racing, only will enhance the competition at the track as fans continue to enjoy the iconic Richmond racing experience.”
“Hosting a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race is a testament to the importance and impact of Richmond to the sport,” Bickmeier added. “Richmond will now have the same feel as any playoff host city for a professional sport. With the fall’s Monster Energy Series race being the second in the playoffs and NASCAR XFINITY Series race being the first of the playoffs, our September weekend will play an even more important role in determining the champion in each series.”
Bickmeier also said that in the future, more qualifying and practice sessions could be held at night in response to driver and team requests to hold those events under conditions more similar to race conditions. While such changes won’t happen for this fall’s racing weekend, they are under consideration for the future.