How Far Is Richmond Motor Speedway? [Expert Guide!]

The Richmond International Raceway or “RIR” as it is more commonly known is located in the Central Virginia region of the United States. The track gets its name from being located in Richmond, which is now home to the National Museum of the American Indian. RIR opened in 1970 and was originally a 1.25-mile concrete oval, which was later extended to 1.9 miles in 1973. The track is currently owned and operated by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), who also own and operate the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Pocono Raceway. One of the most historic races on the schedule is the Night Race, which is named after a legendary former driver named Louis Meyer, who died in 2015 after driving the race for over 70 years. Meyer was arguably the greatest night racer of all time, winning nine world championships before passing away.

Richmond has a long and rich history in the sport of motorsport, which began in earnest on Memorial Day in 1919, when the first race was held in a city park. Two years later, in 1921 the Richmond Speedway was constructed and has remained the home of stock car racing ever since. In fact, the track is still owned by the same family that originally built it. In 1947 the track was first televised, which gave the sport of cars and motor racing a huge boost and laid the foundation for its current reputation as the home of stock car racing in the United States. Over the years, the race track has gone through several transformations, including moving to a dirt surface in 1973 and then to a concrete surface in 1978. However, the biggest transformation has taken place in the form of grandstands and seating areas. Since the beginning, the only thing that has remained constant at RIR has been its connection to Louis Meyer, the founding father of night racing and a man who helped make motorsport what it is today.

Track History

In order to better understand where Richmond stands among the other tracks owned and operated by ISC, one needs to go back to the very beginning. The history of RIR is intertwined with that of the founders of modern motorsport, John and Frank Zimmerman. Both were sons of a wealthy businessman named Otto and were taught to value integrity and sportsmanship from an early age. After graduating from college, the two brothers decided to establish a race track of their own and purchased the rights to a 1.25-mile dirt oval in Richmond in 1919. The plan was to make the track a public meeting place for stock car enthusiasts, who were growing in number thanks in part to the advent of the automobile and the new sport of stock car racing.

Things did not go according to plan. Despite public support and interest in the project, the project did not generate enough revenue to cover its expenses, so the brothers were forced to sell their stake in the track to a group of businessmen, led by Louis Meyer, in 1924. At the time, Meyer was referred to as the “Colossus of Creations”, having created and patented the process of plastic injection molding. With his new found wealth, Meyer was able to purchase the remaining shares in the track and rename it the “Richmond International Raceway”, after which it became an international race track. In 1927 Louis Meyer entered a team of specially modified Model T’s (which were known for their durability at the time) in a race, which he referred to as a “sidehill massacre” due to their superior traction on icy roads. That same year, Louis Meyer became the first person to officially start a night race at a conventional track. The race was initially a 500-mile non-championship event, which was later elevated to a championship race in 1931 on a dirt surface, with the first asphalt surface being laid down in 1935. That same year, Louis Meyer became the first person to officially start a night race at a conventional track.

In 1937, Meyer was involved in a deadly accident during a dirt surface race. This was arguably the most tragic moment in the history of Richmond International Raceway, which was not rebuilt and returned to its pre-1937 configuration (with the exception of the three turn concrete oval). After that accident, Otto Zimmerman, the owner of the track, had a change of heart and decided to make the track safer for the drivers and the fans, which led to the reconstruction of the entire track. However, the construction of new grandstands and ancillary buildings was not finished until the early 1950s, which was a huge part of why the track did not see many changes until then. The new asphalt surface, while making racing on the track more enjoyable, also made it safer. One of the biggest safety advancements was the reconfiguration of the track so that it was no longer a partial clay track. Since then, the track has been completely reconfigured and extended to 1.9 miles in length.

Track Layout

Now that you know a little bit about the history of RIR, it is time to take a look at the track layout. The track is set up in a fashion similar to other ISC owned and operated race tracks with a three-quarters configuration (3/4) of the track being used for the longer races and the remaining quarter being used for the shorter races. Like all ISC owned and operated race tracks, RIR features two distinct banking sectors. The first is a 10-degree banking sector on the front stretch, while the other is a 20-degree banking sector on the backstretch. These banking sectors provide a strategic advantage for the drivers, as it makes driving on the straightaways more challenging and helps keep the drivers in their proper place on the track.

Further extending the challenge of the drivers, RIR also has rough terrain in the middle of the backstretch, which is home to the famous “Bull Run”. This is a long, straight piece of road that leads to the back straightaway, which in return, leads to the finish line.

At the time of this writing, the International Speedway Corporation owns and operates the following tracks:

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway ((ind) ISC)
  • Pocono Raceway ((poc) ISC)
  • Martinsville Speedway ((mart) ISC)
  • Texas Motor Speedway ((tex) ISC)
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway ((atl) ISC)
  • NASCAR Championship races (nascar) NASCAR)
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races ((me) NASCAR)

Attendance

One of the most important numbers regarding a race track is the number of cars and people who attend the races. This is particularly relevant for tracks that cater to a niche audience, like Richmond International Raceway, which caters to stock car racing enthusiasts. For context, attendances at the four other ISC owned and operated tracks are as follows:

  • 1.51 million (mil) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (ind)
  • 1.22 million (mil) at the Pocono Raceway (poc)
  • 840,000 (mil) at the Atlanta Motor Speedway (atl)
  • 726,743 (mil) at Texas Motor Speedway (tex)
  • 1.11 million (mil) at the Martinsville Speedway (mart)

To put this in perspective, consider that these four tracks account for about 7.4% of the total acreage of all the tracks owned by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). That being said, consider that the Atlanta Motor Speedway, named after the famous sports team of the same name, is the only track that is located in the state of Georgia, which has an area of about 2.14 million people. This makes the Atlanta Motor Speedway the most geographically isolated track of the six, accounting for about 0.28%, which is less than one quarter of one percent of the entire ISC network.

Facilities

As a racing fan, one of the most important considerations when planning on going to a race track is the facilities, including the restrooms. Since the beginning, the only facility available at RIR was a single restroom located near the paddock. At this point in time, the track does not have any corporate-owned or -operated restaurants or hotels, but does have several convenient public locations, including the Red Diamond Grocery and Restaurant and the Jack London Lounge, which is located within walking distance of the track. The nearest gas station is about three-quarters of a mile away. This brings us to our next point.

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