CONCORD, North — Carolina -- Josh Richards is ready to battle for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship.
The 21-year-old sensation from Shinnston, W.Va., tuned up for his World Finals showdown with Steve Francis in fine fashion on Thursday night, repelling a late restart challenge from Scott Bloomquist to capture the postponed 50-lap Hungry Man Showdown at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Richards remained four points behind Francis in the WoO LMS standings because the special event, which was rescheduled to the end of the World Finals qualifying night due to difficult track conditions and the late hour on Wednesday, offered only show-up points. But with a powerful performance, Richards picked up plenty of momentum in his pursuit of a first career tour title.
“This is definitely a big confidence booster,” said Richards, who registered his series-leading eighth victory of the 2009 season. “We're still second in the points and I know it's gonna be tight for the rest of the weekend, but this gets the whole crew pumped up.”
The triumph was Richards's first since July 16 at Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, S.D., and was worth a cool $12,750, including a $2,000 ‘passing bonus' for winning from the second starting spot. It was his 20th career WoO LMS victory, moving him out of a tie with Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and into sole possession of second place on the tour's win list since 2004.
In an A-Main that was run with conventionally-bodied cars after officials decided to scrap the planned ‘topless' format following the postponement, Richards raced off the outside pole to grab the lead from Francis on lap 12. He built more than a straightaway lead before caution flags on laps 47 and 48 – the only slowdowns of the event – allowed Mooresburg, Tenn.'s Bloomquist to mount a last-ditch bid.
Bloomquist, who turns 46 on Nov. 14, appeared primed to overtake Richards one circuit after the lap-47 restart, but another caution flag on lap 48 stopped the challenge. Richards then dominated the ensuing restart, steering his Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car away from Bloomquist's Team Zero machine to beat the 2004 WoO LMS champion by 0.844 of a second.
Francis, who led laps 1-11 after starting from the pole position, settled for third place in Dale Beitler's Reliable Painting Rocket. He lost the runner-up position to Bloomquist on the lap-47 restart that followed a caution flag for the stopped car driven by Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del.
Defending Showdown winner Chris Madden of Gaffney, S.C., finished fourth and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., placed fifth after his advance from the 11th starting spot stalled over the final 22 laps.
Richards was both hindered and helped by the late caution flags. The first nearly cost him the race, and the second likely saved it for him.
“My right-rear tire gave up with about seven (laps) to go,” said Richards, who recorded his second career WoO LMS win at The Dirt Track. “I was leaning on it pretty hard trying to get by lapped cars because I didn't know how much of a lead I had. Then all of a sudden it just died – like instantly. I was just skating around. It felt like I fell off a half-second.”
After Richards saw his huge lead wiped out by the caution flag on lap 47, Bloomquist charged around Francis on the restart and had his car outside of Richards's machine heading down the backstretch on lap 48. But the circuit wasn't completed because Eric Jacobsen of Sea Cliff Beach, Calif., spun on the homestretch to bring out another caution flag, and Richards powered away when the green flag returned.
“I just ran it harder and wider after the last restart,” said Richards. “I figured I was either gonna win or just kill the tires. I gave it all I had and it worked out.”
Richards credited his successful run to his crew members, who scrambled to get his No. 1 machine ready for the A-Main after he ran into trouble during his World Finals second-round qualifying laps a short time before the Hungry Man Showdown.
“I let off the gas at the end of my second (time trial) lap and about knocked the whole front end off the car,” said Richards. “All the guys at the trailer worked hard to fix what I did. We barely got it ready for the feature.”
Austin Dillon of Welcome, N.C. – the 19-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress – scored a WoO LMS career-best finish of sixth. The run earned him the $500 WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks' cash for being the highest-finishing driver who had never won a tour A-Main and wasn't ranked among the top 12 in the points standings.
Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., slipped backward from the fourth starting spot, finishing seventh. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., finished eighth, followed by Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., and Randle Chupp of Troutman, N.C.
Missing from the Hungry Man Showdown starting field was WoO LMS regular Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who was sidelined for the weekend after suffering a facial injury in what he called “a freak deal” during the event's first heat race on Wednesday night. A blow to Frank's helmet from a flying clod of clay left him with a badly swollen and bruised right eye and cheekbone.
After being treated and released from a local hospital, Frank was back at the track on Wednesday night before the A-Main was postponed. He said doctors found some cracks and fractures in the bones under his eye and in his cheek; he plans to see a specialist for further evaluation when he returns home.
Frank's absence from Thursday's Showdown lineup marked just the second WoO LMS A-Main since 2004 that he has not started. The only previous A-Main he did not start was on March 14, 2004, at Atomic Speedway in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Jeff Cooke of Spartanburg, S.C., who suffered facial injuries in a separate incident during Wednesday night's first heat, remained at a North Carolina hospital on Thursday undergoing treatment.
The World Finals continue on Friday and Saturday at The Dirt Track, with hot laps scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. and racing set to take the green flag at 6:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com or www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Hungry Man Showdown' (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (2) Josh Richards/50 $12,750
2. (3) Scott Bloomquist/50 $5,000
3. (1) Steve Francis/50 $3,600
4. (5) Chris Madden/50 $2,500
5. (11) Earl Pearson Jr./50 $2,000
6. (9) Austin Dillon/50 $2,200
7. (4) Brady Smith/50 $1,900
8. (8) Jonathan Davenport/50 $1,300
9. (6) Jeep VanWormer/50 $1,200
10. (12) Randle Chupp/50 $1,200
11. (16) Rick Eckert/50 $1,550
12. (15) Ray Cook/50 $1,000
13. (22) Darrell Lanigan/50 $1,550
14. (7) Jeremy Miller/50 $900
15. (10) Dennis Erb Jr./50 $850
16. (21) Chris Ferguson/50 $800
17. (18) Eddie Carrier Jr./50 $770
18. (17) Eric Jacobsen/50 $750
19. (13) Gregg Satterlee/50 $730
20. (19) Dennis Franklin/49 $700
21. (20) Tyler Reddick/49 $950
22. (23) Jimmy Owens/49 $700
23. (28) Russell King/49 $1,200
24. (24) Dan Schlieper/46 $700
25. (14) Austin Hubbard/45 $700
26. (27) Clint Smith/20 $1,200
27. (26) Shane Clanton/14 $1,200
28. (25) Tim Fuller/14 $1,200
* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 22 Mins., 53.100 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.844 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 2 (Laps 47, 48)
Lap Leaders: Francis (1-11); Richards (12-50)
Provisional Starters: Fuller, Clanton, C. Smith, King
Rookie of the Race: Tyler Reddick ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks' Winner: Austin Dillon ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Matt Barnes (Richards)
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:
* Arizona Sport Shirts ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in B-Mains): Jordan Bland, Donnie Moran, Mike Gault
* Champ Pans ($50 product certificate to ‘Bonus Bucks' winner w/decal): Austin Dillon
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to A-Main winner w/decal): Josh Richards
* Crane Cams ($100 cash award to 10th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Randle Chupp
* Crane Cams ($100 product certificate to Heat 3 winner w/decal): Brady Smith
* Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner w/decal): Dennis Franklin, Tyler Reddick, Chris Ferguson
* Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash award to fast qualifier w/decal): Josh Richards
* Quarter-Master ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner w/decal): Josh Richards
* Quarter-Master ($50 product certificate to fifth-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Earl Pearson Jr.
* Quarter-Master ($25 product certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main w/decal): Dennis Erb Jr.
* Super Clean ‘Start of the Race' (one case of product): Josh Richards
* VP Racing Fuels ‘Nice Jugs Award' (two free VP five-gallon containers to fastest qualifier who does not make the A-Main if decal is displayed): Shannon Babb
* Wrisco Aluminum (three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Josh Richards
2009 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Nov. 5 – 38 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Steve Francis 5148 (-0)
2. Josh Richards 5144 (-4)
3. Darrell Lanigan 5056 (-92)
4. Tim Fuller 5000 (-148)
5. Rick Eckert 4942 (-206)
6. Shane Clanton 4910 (-238)
7. Chub Frank 4868 (-280)
8. Brady Smith 4749 (-399)
9. Clint Smith 4656 (-492)
10. Russell King 4204 (-944)
11. Jordan Bland 4056 (-1092)
12. Brent Robinson 3832 (-1316)
13. Dustin Hapka 3497 (-1651)
14. Tyler Reddick 3317 (-1831)
15. Vic Coffey 3167 (-1981)
16. Austin Hubbard 2948 (-2200)
17. Matt Lux 1817 (-3331)
18. Gregg Satterlee 1781 (-3367)
19. Dan Stone 1601 (-3547)
20. Tim McCreadie 1546 (-3602)
FOLLOW THE ACTION ON TWITTER: Fans can now keep up-to-date with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series online and through text messages on cell phones via the Twitter, the internet's fast-growing social-networking and micro-blogging website. Updates are provided to Twitter ‘followers' of the WoO LMS throughout each race night, and fans also receive breaking news and interesting notes from the tour.
To sign-up as a WoO LMS ‘follower' on Twitter to receive updates anywhere at anytime, visit http://twitter.com/WoOLateModels.
LISTEN ONLINE: If fans can't get to a track to see the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, they can experience the excitement of the nation's premier tour live on DIRTvision.com through the DIRT Radio Network.
To listen to the free audio broadcasts, log on to www.dirtvision.com and click on the DIRT Radio Network logo.
Listeners will need Windows Media Player 9 or higher to listen to the DIRT Radio Network. For technical support or questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Crane Cams (Official Valvetrain), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Fusion Energy Boost (Official Energy Boost), SuperClean (Official Cleaner-Degreaser) and VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel); in addition to contingency sponsors Champ Pans, Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tires, Integra Shocks, Jake's Custom Golf Carts, Ohlins Shocks, Racing Electronics, Quarter Master and Wrisco Aluminum; Crane Cams Engine Builder's Challenge participants Cornett Racing Engines, Custom Race Engines and Pro Power Racing Engines; and Chassis Builder Challenge participants Rocket Chassis and Team Zero by Bloomquist.