SHINNSTON, W. Va. – July 15, 2013 - Josh Richards capped an up-and-down World of Outlaws Late Model Series Wild West Tour with a hard-fought victory July 11 in his first-ever start at Red River Co-op Speedway in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Though the 25-year-old from Shinnston, W.Va., swept the evening at the three-eighths-mile Canadian oval – earning his series-leading fifth fast time of 2013, winning a heat race and leading all 50 laps of the A-Main from the outside pole starting spot – it didn’t come without some sweat equity. He fought off a strong late-race challenge from Tim McCreadie to register his seventh WoO LMS triumph of the season, tying him with friendly rival Darrell Lanigan for the lead in the that category.
After the following night’s scheduled WoO LMS event at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., was rained out and not rescheduled, Richards’ $10,650 score at Red River became the final race of a four-event Wild West Tour that was an up-and-down swing for the Mark Richards Racing Enterprises team. In addition to a solid second-place finish in the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 on July 6 at Deer Creek Speedway, Richards also tallied finishes of ninth in the Cowboy 40 on July 9 at Gillette (Wyo.) Thunder Speedway and placed 15th in the 50-lap A-Main on July 5 at Amsoil Speedway in Superior, Wis. A scheduled race on July 8 at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, S.D., was also lost to the weather.
The perfect performance on Canadian soil was uplifting for Richards, who once again showed his resilience. After a forgettable performance in the Wild West Tour opener at Amsoil Speedway threatened to put his WoO LMS points lead in jeopardy – in that event Richards relinquished his 12th-place starting spot in the A-Main because his crew mistakenly changed a tire after presenting their car in the staging area and then was involved in an opening-lap crash that cost him 15 laps before he returned to action with a patched-up machine – and a subpar run at Gillette, he came back strong at Red River.
“We were fortunate,” said Richards, whose WoO LMS points lead after the Wild West Tour sits at 38 markers over Lanigan, who overtook Shane Clanton for second in the standings with a third-place run at Red River. “We kind of hit it right from the start (at Red River). We were good in hot laps – I was a little tight, but the guys said we were fast so we just left it alone and I just tried to focus on driving a little better. Then we were able to set fast time, win our heat, and, obviously draw the number two spot for the feature.
“We had everything going for us, so I just had to do my part and try to get out there and get some open track and get through lapped traffic the best we could.
“It was a little hairy in lapped traffic,” added Richards, who registered his 46th career win on the WoO LMS. “They would dirty the track a little bit and take all the air off your car, so any little hole you got, you gotta take it. I didn’t know (eventual runner-up Tim) McCreadie was there, but I knew that he was pretty close as slow as we were going there.”
Richards, whose second-place finish at Deer Creek on July 6 came after his hopes for challenging Lanigan for the win were hampered by a broken rear bleeder that caused him to lose the brakes on his Valvoline-sponsored Rocket car, was very proud of his team’s strong comeback at Red River.
“They’ve done a great job,” Richards said of his crew that includes Mark Richards, Matt Barnes and Cody Duncan. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we’re at as far as the races we’ve won and the stuff we’ve been able to do. They’ve got all the confidence in me. Even though there’s sometimes we’re a little off, they know that I can halfway get around there.
“Hopefully we can eliminate some of the bad nights,” he added. “We just tightened the car up too much at Gillette, slipped up out of the bottom and lost some spots there. But we came to (Red River) open-minded and gave the car what it wanted and I tried to do the best I could.”
Richards will return to WoO LMS action on July 26-27 when he chases a $20,000 top prize in the 24th annual Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway. The 100-lap event will mark the first time in his career that he competes at the track.
For more information on Josh Richards, visit www.joshrichards.com and follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Richards1 and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/JoshRichardsRacing.