Robert Richardson Jr. has started 161 races across NASCAR’s three national series, but he wasn’t sure he’d run another one.
He’s been working his ranch in Pilot Point — and since early December caring for his newborn son, Robert Thomas.
But today Richardson is in Daytona Beach, Florida, preparing to qualify for the Daytona 500. The McKinney native and former Southern Methodist University quarterback said he will drive the No. 26 Toyota for BK Racing.
Most of his races have been in the Xfinity Series, and mostly for his family-owned team. His most recent start was the Nov. 1, 2014, Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“When we sold R3 Motorsports [last year], I pretty much faced the fact I was never going to get a shot at driving a race car again,” Richardson said this week as he prepared to leave for Daytona International Speedway. “I really didn’t expect to get that phone call.”
Richardson ran several Xfinity races in 2013 and ’14 with sponsorship from Stalk It and CornBoard, which is used to make Stalk It surfboards, skateboards and snowboards. Stalk It’s founder is Lane Segerstrom.
“I was actually out mowing my pasture [about two weeks ago] when [Segerstrom] called and asked me if I’d be available to run the Daytona 500,” Richardson said. “I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to drive a race car again, much less in the Daytona 500.”
Richardson will have three teammates at Daytona. BK has announced plans to field full-time cars for Daytona winner David Ragan and returning driver Matt DiBenedetto. For the Feb. 21 season opener, the team added Richardson and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip.
On Tuesday, NASCAR announced a franchise-style charter system that guarantees starting positions to 36 established Sprint Cup Series teams. Richardson and DiBenedetto are expected to have to compete with several drivers for the four remaining spots in the 40-car field.
The front row for the 500 will be set by Sunday’s pole qualifying, with the rest of the field decided at the end of Thursday’s twin qualifying races.
“You have to really rely on people to draft with,” Richardson said. “It is what it is — where all the chips fall.
“Daytona is basically a coin flip on whether we make this race.”
Saying it’s “unbelievable” he’s getting a shot at his ninth Sprint Cup start and third Daytona 500, Richardson added that he is thankful for support from D&L Farm and Home and Dean MacElroy, owner of the D&L feed stores in Aubrey and Sanger.
After the last-minute offer to drive for BK, Richardson went about the business of renewing his NASCAR license and getting ready for the biggest stock car race of the year.
“It’s been an interesting week,” he said.
MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.