SHINNSTON, W. Va. – Feb. 26, 2013 - Josh Richards didn’t merely kick off his 2013 dirt Late Model racing schedule with the best Georgia/Florida Speedweeks performance of his driving career, he authored one of the most successful season-opening swings through the Southeast in the full-fender division’s history.
After hoisting the unique bronze gator-shaped trophy he received on Saturday night (Feb. 23) for claiming the Late Model points championship of the 42nd UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., Richards finally had an opportunity to sit back and reflect on a three-week racing odyssey that exceeded even his own lofty expectations.
“We worked really hard all winter to come down here with hopes of starting the season on a strong note,” said Richards, who is returning to regular dirt Late Model competition in 2013 while continuing to pursue opportunities in the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he competed last year. “We jelled right off the bat and just kept building momentum the whole trip. It’s all about working hard and making the right decisions, and for the most part we were able to do that and were successful because of it.”
Richards, 24, put up some spectacular statistics over the past three weeks behind the wheel of his Valvoline-sponsored/Roush Yates-powered Rocket Chassis machines. In 11 events spread over three tracks, he registered four A-Main victories – winning at least once at each speedway he visited – nine top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. And buoyed by a $20,000-plus triumph in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Super Sunday Showdown on Feb. 16 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., his earnings for the stretch totaled $63,650.
In addition, with eight of his appearances coming in WoO LMS shows, his pursuit of a third career championship on the national tour is off to a great start. He won two A-Mains (Feb. 9 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and Feb. 16 at BRP), recorded seven top-five finishes (worst outing: seventh place), earned three fast-time honors and won six heat races – and, of course, headed home sitting the atop the WoO LMS standings by 18 points over Shane Clanton.
“It feels real good to come out of Florida with a bunch of good runs under our belt, especially in the Outlaw shows,” said Richards. “When you leave here and you’re struggling, it’s hard to get built back up for the rest of the year.
“The start we’ve had definitely gives us confidence. Obviously, Darrell (Lanigan), (Shane) Clanton, (Tim) McCreadie and (Rick) Eckert had some great runs too and they look like they’ll be tough all year. But they’re always fun to race with, so it looks like it’ll be a fun year. We just have to go out there and do what we can to try and beat them to accomplish our goal of winning the World of Outlaws championship.”
Richards capped his southern excursion by standing in the spotlight following Saturday night’s UNOH DIRTcar Nationals by Summit finale at Volusia as the mid-winter racing meet’s points champion. He clinched the crown with a hard-fought second-place finish to Lanigan after starting 12th in Saturday’s 50-lap WoO LMS A-Main.
“It’s an honor to win the DIRTcar Nationals championship,” said Richards, who beat out McCreadie for the points title. “There’s so many great drivers in the pits (at Volusia) and you do so much hard racing for six straight nights, it means a lot to end up as the guy with the most points when everything’s all over.”
Richards started the DIRTcar Nationals with back-to-back $7,000 triumphs in DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned 30-lappers on Feb. 18 and 19. After his only truly forgettable evening of the month – he was involved in an opening-lap crash in the Feb. 20 DIRTcar UMP finale and was credited with a 22nd-place finish – he strung together WoO LMS finishes of fifth (Feb. 21), seventh (Feb. 22) and second (Feb. 23).
Richards did admit, however, after the final checkered flag fell at Volusia on Saturday night that he was looking forward to heading home and taking some time to regroup for the season ahead. After all, he left West Virginia with his team on Feb. 2 to get in some practice down south before the WoO LMS opener at Screven.
“It’s a long time on the road,” Richards said following the completion of Volusia’s week of competition. “We’ve spent one night out of the truck in the last 22 days and had a real shower.
“There were times during the trip when things got stressful, but being that we were successful made it easier and definitely made the time fly by. We’re definitely ready for a break, though.”
Richards’s next scheduled action is a tripleheader WoO LMS weekend on March 22 at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark.; March 23 at Whynot Motorsports Park in Meridian, Miss.; and March 24 at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.
Josh Richards’ No. 1 team carries support from Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Ernie D’s, Ace Welding, Petroff Towing, Sallack Well Service, Tony Stewart Racing, Rocket Chassis, Roush Yates Engines, Hoosier Racing Tires, Sunoco Racing Fuels, Keyser Manufacturing, Integra Shocks, Sweet Manufacturing, Slavic Custom Tee Shirts And Graphics, Brown and Miller, Brazwell Carburetors, Bazell Racing Fuels, ButlerBuilt Seat, Beyea Headers, Performance Rod and Custom, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Frankland Rear Ends, Simpson Safety Equipment, J E Pistons, Strange Oval, Wrisco Aluminum, R2C Filters, Aurora Rod Ends, Snap On Tools, Scott Wires, Trick Carbon Fiber Drive Shafts, Five Star Bodies, Jones Racing Products, Howe Racing, Performance Bodies, Turbo Start Batteries, Brinn Transmissions, Eagle One, Car Brite, ATL Fuel Cells, Dohm’s Cycles, Weld Wheels, Barnes Oil Systems, Tel-Tac, MSD Ignitions.