NASCAR has needed a jolt after the rather dull opening of the season and the last three races have provided just that.
Phoenix, Talladega and Richmond have been just what the doctor ordered and if the sport can continue its run of compelling story lines and good racing through the month of May the talk of the bad economy, slumping ticket sales, sagging television ratings and boredom should subside for a while.
Short track racing like what was on display at Richmond Saturday night brings out the best in the sport. Tight racing and high emotions are usually the order of the day - or night - when the circuit hits the three tracks less than a mile long and Richmond may have moved to the top of the list of that category.
The resurfacing of Bristol has given the track multiple grooves and an opportunity for side-by-side racing but something is missing from the last four or five visits to "Thunder Valley." The full contact aspect of racing at Bristol has vanished and although the drivers and many others (including me) like the fact that actual passing can happen without body damage, I must admit the calmness that replaced the previous ramped up fever does not provide the same atmosphere.
Martinsville has been great since the advent of the new Cup car although 500 laps at the paper clip layout does get a little tedious at times.
But Richmond seems to provide excitement from the drop of the green flag and as the race goes on that level rises.
We didn't get a dramatic finish Saturday night but there was enough racing to please most fans and Mother Nature was nice enough to let us get in all 400 laps.
Let's see if NASCAR can keep things rolling next week in Darlington.
o Love him or hate him you have to respect the talent of Kyle Busch who continues to win in whatever kind of car or truck he drives. Bushc became only the third driver in history to sweep a Richmond weekend with his Cup-Nationwide checkered flags Friday and Saturday.
o Tony Stewart has an appointment with victory lane any week now and proved why Richmond has always been one of his favorite tracks with another runner-up performance Saturday night. I see Smoke standing with the checkered flag by June at the latest.
o The up and down trend for Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued Saturday night with the 88 car never a contender for the win and involved in an incident with Jeff Burton that looked a lot like the Junior-Kyle Busch tangle from last May's Richmond visit. Earnhardt apologized to Burton's team on the radio but that was the least of his problems on another night the team looked off its game.
o Burton's comeback from that spin to finish third was impressive and at least gave the Virginia fans something to cheer about. There wasn't much from home state hero Denny Hamlin, who once again had a dominant car at his home track only to have problems - this time a mseed up pit stop for a tire change - take away any chance at winning.
o Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson, two drivers with Richmond victories on their resumes, were mired in problems all night long. Johnson was four laps down at one point by my count with a series of brake problems, spins and pit road speeding penalties while Kahne was spinning and bouncing around pretty much from the drop of the green flag. Johnson's track record tells me he'll be back soon after his two miserable weeks in Talladega and Richmond. Kahne I'm not so sure about.