SHINNSTON, WV – June 4, 2013 - Josh Richards might have only finished sixth in last Saturday night’s 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main at Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y., but the 25-year-old from Shinnston, W.Va., and his Mark Richards Racing Enterprises team showed championship mettle to earn that placing.
After registering the evening’s second-fastest lap in time trials and finishing second in a heat race, Richards was scheduled to start sixth in the feature. But mechanical trouble that was discovered in his Valvoline-sponsored Rocket Chassis No. 1 prompted the team to pull out their backup car, forcing Richards to start last in the 24-car field due to a car change.
Despite barely getting the backup machine – a brand-new Rocket Chassis that had not yet seen a lap of competition – ready in time for the start, Richards made his way steadily forward to claim a sixth-place finish that kept him atop the WoO LMS points standings by 34 points over Shane Clanton, who the A-Main at Stateline, through 18 events.
“We broke a valve spring (in the engine) in the heat race and we thought we could get it changed,” said Richards. “But then right at the last minute, my dad said he just couldn’t get it done. So two minutes before the horn (to line up the A-Main) blew we had to roll the other car out.
“We got under the car, moved a couple bars, made a couple little changes – just basically threw everything at it as quick as we could in a couple minutes. We didn’t even really have time to warm the motor up. We just went out and tried to get what we could get.
“It wasn’t looking good at the beginning – it was just hard to clear guys because it was dusty and dirty starting so far back there. But once the track cleaned up at the end, our car got way, way better. We started picking guys off and almost got to the top five. I wish the race was longer.
“The car could’ve still used some tweaks to be better, but we’ll take what we got. We all worked together well to salvage a night that could’ve been real bad. That’s what you gotta do to win a championship.”
Richards also scored a sixth-place finish in last Thursday night’s WoO LMS Fulton Bank 50 at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del. It was an unusually quiet performance for a driver who has won in the past at the half-mile oval.
“Our car was a little off the whole night, and then we just picked the wrong tires in the feature and that put us behind,” Richards said of Delaware, where he started seventh. “That’s the worst I felt all year, but it was just bad decision-making. We had to put that night behind us and move on.”
Next on Richards’ agenda is the richest dirt Late Model race of the season: the 19th annual Dirt Late Model Dream Presented by Ferris Commercial Mowers this weekend (June 6-8) at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. A $100,000 top prize will be on the line in Saturday night’s 100-lap feature event.
This weekend will mark Richards’ ninth attempt at the Dream, which has been expanded to three full nights of racing this year. Drivers will participate in multi-car time trials on both Thursday and Friday nights, with their best time from the two sessions used to line up the Dream heat races on Saturday. The qualifying times will also be used to split the field into two groups on Thursday and Friday, with both groups competing in preliminary programs of heats, B-Mains and 25-lap A-Mains that pay $2,500 to win on Thursday and $5,000 to win on Friday.
Richards plans to enter the Dream in the new car he brought out at Stateline. He’ll have another new car in his trailer as a backup.
“We’ve been really, really good at Eldora in the past, and there’s been a couple (big) races that I feel like we were good enough to win,” said Richards, whose best finish in five career Dream 100 starts is a sixth in 2010. “But it’s so hard at that place – you never know what can happen. You think all year long about what you’re gonna do for Eldora, and then you go down there and it’s hard enough to win a heat race to get yourself in position to start up front in the feature. Track position is huge – and once you get track position, it’s still hard to figure out what to do.”
Richards is anxious to experience the new Dream format.
“I think it’s cool,” said Richards. “Racers want to race, so running full shows on Thursday and Friday is better than sitting around there for a couple days for inspection and time trials before you race. I’m anxious to see how it goes.”