If you think about it logically, it doesn't make sense. Richmond International Raceway, which hosts the SunTrust Indy Challenge Presented by XM Satellite Radio this Saturday night, is the shortest track on the IndyCar Series schedule. So how can it also be the fastest?
First of all, in the five years that the ¾-mile facility has hosted the IndyCar Series, there has never been anything logical about seeing (and believing) IndyCars scream around the track at more than 175-mph. Drivers have simply-and perhaps accurately-described it as "insane."
But toss the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series into the equation and that's where logic completely goes out the window. Since 2001 when Richmond International Raceway began hosting IndyCars, no other oval currently on both series' schedules has had a bigger discrepancy in qualifying speeds when comparing IndyCars to NASCAR's top series.
The fastest IndyCar Series qualifying mark at Richmond International Raceway was a 176.244 mph lap recorded by Sam Hornish last season. The top qualifying NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series speed at Richmond International Raceway is 129.983 seconds set by Brian Vickers in 2004. The difference between those two laps is an incredible 46.26 mph.
The only other track that comes close to that mark is Indianapolis Motor Speedway (45.43 mph).
Perhaps just as amazing is the rise in qualifying speeds since the first SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway in 2001. That season, Jaques Lazier won the pole with a speed of 160.417 mph (16.831 seconds). Last season, Hornish's mark of 176.255 mph (15.319 seconds) topped Lazier's lap by 15.83 mph (1.51 seconds).
When asked if there is even more speed in the cars to possibly top the 180-mph mark, Hornish thought carefully. "You know, it's very possible. I think we can. We'll have to see how our test goes (this Thursday) and how much downforce we have. But it wouldn't surprise me and it sure would be something for the fans to see."