Q and A With... Robert Richardson Jr.
Photo by Wesley Daniel / TheRacingExperts.Com
Robert Richardson Jr. is expected to make his 100th Nationwide start at Daytona next month.
By Dominic Aragon
The Racing Experts:
At first, you were a college
quarterback. How did your journey to NASCAR get started?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “Well, you think about the similarities between playing football and auto racing. Obviously you have the teamwork aspect of it… and the competitive nature of both sports. It’s a very easy transition to go from one sport to another, although the fundamentals of auto racing and football are very different as far as physical tolls on your body.
“You think about big hits in football and things of that nature, concussions, and things like that. The hits you take in a racecar are ten times harder than the ones you would receive playing football.”
The Racing Experts: You’ve driven most of your career for your dad, so what’s the pressure like compared to when you drove for Jay Robinson Racing?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “The pressure I put on myself is no different when I’m racing for my day or for anyone else. I’m very competitive and want to be competitive. I try to push myself the best I can behind the steering wheel. But I’d say it’s harder driving for my father than it was for Jay Robsinson. One, he’s my biggest fan but at the same time, my worst critic. He’ll point out things if I’m doing [them] wrong, [or] if he sees me driving a little bit more rough than I should early in the race. He’ll come on the radio and chew me out, but for the most part, he just lets me drive and let me do what I need to do to finish the race.”
The Racing Experts: Back in 2009, you made your Sprint Cup debut for Tommy Baldwin Racing… How did that deal come together?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “At the time, I sent in an application to NASCAR to race some Sprint Cup Series races. I had always talked about running the Daytona 500 and [I] had to do what was necessary to [satisfy NASCAR’s eligibility requirements]. They approved me to run Talladega, and based on how I did there we would run next year’s Daytona 500.
“So we looked around and we talked to a couple of different teams to see who had a spot available to run Talladega. Tommy Baldwin had an opening in his program so we worked out a deal to run the Talladega race and get some experience in the Cup Series.
The Racing Experts: Following that opportunity, you had the chance to run two Daytona 500’s in 2010 and 2011. Now both certainly didn’t end the way you wanted, but what was it like to run those races?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “It’s awesome. I mean, any racecar driver out there loves to even have an opportunity just to run the Daytona 500. The hype in that weekend itself is like what everyone compares it to, to the Superbowl. There’s a lot more media hype, there’s a lot more festivities, a lot more fans, and more TV viewership than at any other race we go to during the year.”
The Racing Experts: This year you made your first Cup start at Talladega for your dad’s team. Describe the feeling of running much of the race in the first pack with many of the sport’s icons.
Robert Richardson Jr.: “We were out there running around and I’d pull behind Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, or Dale Jr. and I’d say ‘man, this is surreal.’ It’s almost like everyone who sits at home and plays their videogames running with those guys.”
The Racing Experts: You’ve run seven races thus far in the Nationwide Series. How many races do you plan to run and when’s the next scheduled race for you?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “I’ve got 15 races scheduled this year, and Daytona will be my next race and Indianapolis after that.”
The Racing Experts: Will we see you pilot the No. 23 car in Daytona next Saturday night in the Cup Series?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “We’ll make an attempt to qualify for the race. And based off whether we qualify or not, we will race the entire race if we make the show.”
The Racing Experts: For the fans that may not know about the cost of running races, how important is sponsorship to the efforts of any team?
Robert Richardson Jr.: “It’s imperative! A lot of teams are struggling right now trying to find funding and sponsorship, and we’re no different. We’re very thankful for the sponsors that we do have this year. That’s what this sport is all about; it’s about the relationships you create with people and various corporations. Get them involved in the sport and get them the exposure to what NASCAR’s all about. Everybody wants to know how they can brand their company with NASCAR… and help them get extra advertising compared to their normal advertising budget. So it’s up to the teams to be more creative. ”