When a track has been around more than 70 years, it tends to earn its fair share of endearing titles and nicknames. Richmond Raceway, which opened shortly after World War II, is no exception to this rule.
Originally built as part of a state fairgrounds, on an old plot of land previously known as Strawberry Hill Farm, the venue would come to be reverently referred to as Strawberry Hill or Strawberry Hill Raceway.
Officially the venue’s title were as follows:
- Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds (1946-1955)
- Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds (1955-1963)
- Virginia State Fairgrounds (1964-1968)
- Richmond Fairgrounds Speedway (1969-1988)
- Richmond International Raceway (1989-2017).
In 2018 the “International” was removed from the name as part of a renovation called Richmond Raceway Reimagined.
A couple of modern day nicknames have popped up in recent years like “The Action Track” and “America’s Premiere Short Track” although the latter is quite often debated. Many drivers don’t consider it to be a typical short track because it’s multiple grooves and banking liken it more to that of longer mile speedways.
Richmond Raceway Key Races and Events
The track itself, with its short D-Shaped oval, has been a fan and driver favorite for decades. While it lacks the dimensions of a superspeedway, the layout and design of the course tends to yield plenty of high paced side-by-side racing that fans love to watch.
The raceway, which exclusively hosts night races, has two big NASCAR doubleheader weekends each year with both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series races coming to town.
The spring weekend, normally held in the last weekend in April, hosts both the Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 and the ToyotaCare 250 Xfinity Series race.
The second weekend is held in September and the two races are the Federated Auto Parts 400 (Cup Series) and the Go Bowling 250 (Xfinity Series).
Richard Petty has his name plastered all over both of the track’s Cup Series race record books winning them a combined 13 times. It should be noted that his father, Lee Petty, won the inaugural NASCAR “Grand National Division” race at the track in 1953 at a blistering average speed of 45.535 mph.
It should be mentioned that a new young buck on the scene, a 24 year old by the name of Christopher Bell, seems to be in the process of making Richmond Raceway his new favorite track. In 2018 he won both Xfinity Series races; the ToyotaCare 250 in April and the Go Bowling 250 in September.
There’s a lot more history to dive into but before we go any further, let’s check out some Fast Facts about the Richmond’s famous “under the lights” raceway.
- Location: Henrico County, Virginia
- Built in: 1946
- Owned and operated by: International Speedway Corporation
- Track Types: D-shaped oval 0.75 miles (1.21 km)
- Oval turns: 4; banked 14 degrees
- Frontstretch banked 8 degrees
- Backstretch banked 2 degrees
- Race lap record: 15.3197 seconds Sam Hornish Jr. with Penske Racing (IndyCar Series) 2005
- Capacity 51,000
- Major Races – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Federated Auto Parts 400, Toyota Owners 400 | NASCAR Xfinity Series: Go Bowling 250, ToyotaCare 250
Richmond Raceway History
When the track officially opened in 1946 the first race was a half-mile open-wheel event on a dirt track. Hall of Fame driver Ted Horn won the race. It would be one of his final triumphs as he died two years later at the age of 38 in a crash at the DuQuon State Fairgrounds.
After Lee Petty won the venue’s first NASCAR sanctioned event in 1953, the event was canceled the following year. When the event was reinstated in 1955, it was under new management and the track officially became the Atlantic Rura Fairgrounds.
Just under a decade later temporary lights were set up and for the first time the races began being held at night. In 1991 a proper lighting system was added to the entire complex. To this day Richmond Raceway remains one of the few venues that hold all of their premiere racing NASCAR events under the lights.
While Richard Petty holds the crown for all Cup Series racing at the track, it’s Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have been dominating modern racing at the venue.
Busch has six combined Xfinity Series wins to match his six total Cup Series wins. At one point he won four straight Toyota Owners 400 from 2009-2012 and in 2018 he took down both of the track’s Cup Series nights in April (Toyota Owners 400) and September (Federated Auto Parts 400)
Harvick has a total of seven Xfinity Series wins and three Cup Series wins.
All of the Lights
When you’re a raceway that’s famous for hosting racing under the lights, you’d better have a state of the art lighting system. In 2010, Richmond Raceway made sure its system was up to standard and beyond when they introduced a state-of-the-art video scoreboard tower.
In terms of square footage, it’s the largest LED fixture in the entire motorsports industry. At the top there are four giant high definition LED screens that reach 38 feet wide and extend 24 feet high.
The lower part of the scoreboard shows the up-to-date race running order and has the ability to rotate 360 degrees for full stadium viewing while the main screen entertains fans before and during races with race coverage and pre-produced event related commercials.
Endless Events and Activities
The raceway itself is part of a much larger 1000-acre facility called the Richmond Raceway Complex. Several special events take place annually there. The following are some of the most popular:
- the Intergalactic Bead Show
- the Virginia Golf Show, Bassarama
- the Richmond Home and Garden Show
- the RV and Camping Expo
- the Richmond Boat Show
- the Richmond Classic Sports Card Show
- the East Coast Sawmill and Logging Equipment Expo
- the Craftsmen Classic Spring and Christmas Shows
- Bizarre Bazaar Spring and Christmas Shows
There are also a plethora festivals and events that take place at the complex but in an outdoor environment. The most some of the biggest ones are:
- the 102.1 “The X” chili cook-off
- the ACCA Temple Pork Festival and concerts featuring local and national recording artists
- the Virginia State Fair
- the Richmond Highland Games and Celtic Festival
- the March of Dimes Bikers for Babies
- the K95 Country Music Festival
- the Virginia Food Festival.