RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — They are calling it "Track Takeover" at Richmond International Raceway, and track President Dennis Bickmeier hopes allowing fans onto the racing surface a few hours before race time on Saturday night will not only improve their experience at the 0.75-mile oval, but bring more of them, or bring them back.
"This is a way to give people that access and let them kind of see the sport up close, or a little closer," Bickmeier said Thursday. "This sport defined access, and we've got to keep that going."
At a time when most agree the racing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series has been better than in several years, tracks are always looking for ways to bring fan support back up to the days when it sold itself.
In those days, Richmond was like most other places, selling out 18 consecutive races.
"They focused on selling the Friday night race," Bickmeier said. "We're not there."
Richmond has opened the front-stretch before, but only for a section off the front stretch. On Saturday night, fans will be able to walk the entire surface, take in live music, tour a NASCAR hauler and pose for pictures at key spots in the track's history. They also are encouraged to share those pictures on social media, a vehicle the track has used to try and highlight its status as an enjoyable place to visit.
Bickmeier, with a little prompting from Dale Earnhardt Jr., on Twitter, even used that vehicle to land Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as Saturday night's honorary starter. Earnhardt suggested RG3 as Grand Marshal, Bickmeier offered honorary starter and Griffin was more than willing.