Richmond Raceway’s $30 million renovation debuts to ‘star-struck’ fans

September 24, 2018

Standing in victory lane after Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, as the celebration wound down after Kyle Busch’s victory, track president Dennis Bickmeier said he felt positive about what took place in the infield.

Minutes earlier, fans crowded around victory lane with their phones in the air, working to get a glimpse as Busch drove his car in and celebrated his seventh victory of the season. Throughout the weekend, fans got access to the garage area that they had never gotten before, via the new walkways in the track’s new garages.

That access came as part of the track’s $30 million infield renovation project — Richmond Raceway Reimagined. This race weekend marked the first for the completed project. Bickmeier said it went the way he imagined.

“Really positive feedback, from fans, from people in the industry,” Bickmeier said with fans still scattered outside victory lane. “What I’ve said to a lot of people is, the vision that we set out for, to immerse the fans in the sport, I think we got that piece of it.”

The garage area seemed to be a hit. Fans could use the walkways to stroll feet away from the cars, and the crew members working on them.

Kyle and Cailin Schultz, of King William, spent time in the infield before Saturday’s race and were among the fans standing outside victory lane afterward. Cailin said that the garages were the favorite part of her experience in the infield.

“I’ve never been to a race before, so this is my first time, so being that close on my first time, [I] was actually pretty star-struck,” she said.

Bickmeier said one fan told him Saturday the interaction with some of the crew members was appreciated. Some fans were able to ask questions.

That aspect of the experience — the information and education — could be a next step.

“I think that made us think a little bit about, ‘How do you educate the fans a little bit more on what they’re seeing?’ Or, can you actually host like some Q&As in the garage while that’s going on, which I think would be pretty cool,” Bickmeier said.

During the race, one viewing option for fans with passes was watching from the infield. Some could be found under the various pavilions, which featured TVs displaying the action. A bar area nearby was one more place to watch from.

Another viewing option for certain fans was atop the roof of the new Victory Lane Club, a hospitality area. That was the plan for Chad Bartelson of New Kent.

“It’s fantastic,” Bartelson said of the club. “It’s one of the best guest experiences I’ve ever had. The food’s good, the views are good.”

On the track, fans saw this season’s wins leaders each finish in the top three — Kevin Harvick (second place, seven wins) and Martin Truex Jr. (third place, four wins) were behind Busch.

Truex and Busch remain 1-2 in the standings, with Harvick third, heading into Sunday’s elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, when the playoff field will be cut from 16 to 12.

At Richmond Raceway, Bickmeier said last Wednesday he felt a bit of excitement and a lot of relief when the ribbon was cut on the infield project.

On Sunday, after the trophy was handed out to Busch and the weekend began coming to a close, Bickmeier felt another sense of relief.

“Anxious to get started on next April,” Bickmeier said. “I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Man, you’ve been walking around with a big smile on your face for a while, all weekend long.’ So that’s a good feeling.”

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