Thursday, July 29, 2010

Richardson Jr. Talks ORP, Iowa and Elvis

With a little more than half the season behind him, Robert Richardson, Jr. is finally riding high.

The driver of the No. 23 Chevrolet is fresh off a career best finish at O'Reilly Raceway Park. And he's hoping the momentum his team gained there will turn the tide on what's sometimes been a frustrating 2010.

"To be able to come away with a top 15 finish and my best finish of my career is definitely a booster," Richardson said when we caught up with him today.

"It makes everybody in the shop work a lot harder, it gets their spirits up and makes them more eager to get back to the race track to see if we can incorporate what we learned from last week’s race and put that into this weekend’s race coming up at Iowa."

In truth, Richardson and his R3 Motorsports crew have had their challenges. Prior to ORP, his best finish this season has been 20th. 

And, like other teams in the Nationwide Series, they've struggled to find consistent backing. Even the car they ran so well last week wasn't sponsored.

Not to mention, the NASCAR-imposed testing ban hasn't made it easy for this relatively young team to nail setups week in and week out.

"Any racer wants to get that advantage over the other guy, and not being able to test, you really don’t know what you’re bringing to the race track other than the traditional setups like what you’ve had in the past," Richardson explained.

So what can a driver like Richardson do to run well at Iowa, a track where he's never raced - nor tested- before?

"I’ll try to get with as many veteran drivers as I can and other guys that have been there and tested there and things of that nature to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible," he said.

In fact, he'll likely pick the brains of Steven and Rusty Wallace, Brendan Gaughan, Michael McDowell and a few other folks in the garage.

"They'll tell me what their car is doing and we'll compare it to what my car is doing and what kind of setup they have on their car versus what we have, and kinda just bat the ball back and forth," he said.

Even with the ups and downs 2010 has presented so far, Richardson gives his team high marks overall.

"They’ve been working their tails off all season long, thrashing to get these cars put together and ready to go to the race track," he said. "We don’t have the hundreds of employees like the major Cup teams do that may have seven or eight guys that do just setup plate and fabricators."

"Everybody’s got their own little niche in the Cup shops whereas at R3 Motorsports, each guy is well-rounded in every bit of racing. Our fabricator may be an over-the-wall guy and also help with the setup plate work. They're just well-rounded mechanics."

Perhaps Richardson can take some encouragement from his favorite entertainer - another guy who started out as small potatoes, but ended up with a super-sized career - Elvis Presley.

An Elvis fan since childhood, Richardson has been to Graceland several times. And he has also paid a visit to The King's childhood home in Tupelo, Miss.

"It’s neat to see how someone can come from having nothing at all to having everything in such a short time," Richardson said.

So true. 

And maybe, just maybe, some of that Elvis Presley magic will rub off on Richardson Jr.

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