Fast Thoughts for Sept. 27: Bell’s celebration gesture at Richmond a winner; previewing the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville
1 Here’s hoping Christopher Bell’s gesture of giving away the checkered flag after his Xfinity win at Richmond Raceway becomes NASCAR’s newest postrace tradition. The fact that Bell won at Richmond was no surprise, as he completed a season sweep at the track and tied Justin Allgaier with five series wins this year. The bigger shock was seeing him giving away the checkered flag afterward to a young fan. “We get trophies, we get all sorts of trophies,” Bell said in Richmond’s new victory lane. “Hopefully (the checkered flag) means a lot to that kid.” That kind of connection is exactly what Richmond Raceway was trying to create with the new access in the garage area, and Bell put an exclamation point on the theme with a perfect postrace gesture. Burnouts are fine, but celebrations such as Bell’s or climbing into the crowd as Carl Edwards did will go a long way to getting fans invested in today’s product.
2 Could one more trip to a Virginia short track be in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s future? The two-time Xfinity Series champion wasted no time showing he’s still got moves behind the wheel Friday night at Richmond Raceway, leading 96 of 250 laps and finishing fourth in his first NASCAR start since last season. “I’d love to race a Late Model one more time, somewhere,” Earnhardt said in Richmond’s media center after the race. “I’d love to take Elliott (Sadler) wherever he wants to go in one of our cars.” Junior is the team owner of JR Motorsports, where Sadler drives the No. 1 Chevrolet and will be retiring after this season, and Earnhardt owns a Late Model team. “I got a car in the shop now that I need to build. Me and him can just goof off and maybe run a couple races a year, for as long as he wants. We certainly would have fun doing that.”
3 Local spotlight: The ValleyStar Credit Union 300, NASCAR’s most prestigious Late Model race with a $25,000 first prize, will take place Saturday under the lights at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Philip Morris is tied with South Boston Speedway track champion Peyton Sellers atop the Virginia Late Model Stock Car Triple Crown standings, and a $10,000 bonus will go to the Triple Crown winner. An autograph session will begin at 1 p.m., followed by three 25-lap heat races and a 25-lap “last chance” heat race to set the field. The 200-lap feature will begin at 8 p.m. and will be streamed on FansChoice.TV, with radio coverage by the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Get more information at martinsvillespeedway.com.