The two-time defending series champion’s sixth win of 2011 came just two days after he pocketed $50,000 for capturing his first-ever crown-jewel dirt Late Model event at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.
Richards, 23, survived a late-race scare to top the inaugural WoO LMS event at the three-eighths-mile Independence oval. After pacing the race from the initial green flag, he slipped out of the groove off turn four on lap 36, allowing WoO LMS points leader Rick Eckert of York, Pa., to dive underneath and lead the circuit.
But Richards managed to turn back Eckert’s bid, sliding ahead through turns one and two and then maintaining a steady edge for the remainder of the distance. He drove his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car under the checkered flag 0.611 of a second in front of Eckert’s Team Zero by Bloomquist machine.
Eckert, 45, settled for his fourth runner-up finish in the last six WoO LMS events and sixth overall of the season. He maintained a healthy 56-point lead over Richards in the circuit’s standings with 11 A-Mains remaining on the 2011 schedule.
Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., finished third after advancing from the 10th starting spot in the same Rocket car that he flipped onto its roof during a USA Nationals B-Main on Saturday night. It was his third top-five finish of the season.
Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, started and finish fourth – though he ran third until being overtaken by Smith on lap 25 – in his MB Customs mount and 2010 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., was fifth in Dale Beitler’s Rocket car to tally his first top-five finish since July 15 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.
Richards, who started second and outgunned polesitter Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for the lead at the start, knew he was fortunate to escape with the checkered flag after leaving the door open for Eckert on lap 36.
“Once we found the groove (of rubber) low I was just trying to get through lapped traffic and I slipped (high off turn four),” said Richards, who made his third straight start with a Roush-Yates Ford engine under the hood of his familiar No. 1. “I pretty much almost gave the race away. If I would’ve run second I would’ve deserved to just because I slipped up out of the groove.
“Eckert came down (to the inside on the homestretch) and I knew the only shot I had was to pinch him down into one – he said he would’ve done the same thing. The track just had so much grip in the bottom (lane) from the middle to the end (of the race), and luckily we were able to get back to it and hold on for the win.”
Eckert wasn’t quite in position to take advantage of Richards’s slip.
“I was pretty good before (the surface) rubbered (near the halfway point),” said Eckert, who started fifth. “I got right up through there to second, and then it started rubbering. I would’ve liked to have a shot there at Josh before it did.
“After it rubbered I was running right there on him on, just trying to stay close in case he slipped, and then one lap I come off four and the oil pressure went to zero and the red light came on. I just eased over and left off (the gas), and then it popped back up and I wheeled back out there.
“That just happened to be the lap he drove out of the rubber off (turn) four, so I was back too far,” he continued. “If I’d have been close to him, I could’ve just drove right by him.”
Eckert still was able to charge up the inside of the homestretch and nip Richards at the start/finish line to lead lap 36, but he couldn’t pull completely ahead.
“He come left into one to get back in the rubber,” said Eckert. “I was past his number, but if I was leading I’d have come left too. I guess it would’ve been nice if the straightaway was a little longer.”
Another bridesmaid finish didn’t disappoint Eckert, who continues to march toward his first-ever WoO LMS points crown.
“If we could’ve beat him to the front, maybe we could’ve won the race,” said Eckert. “But I’ll take a second every race to the end of the year if I have to. When you’re paying your own bills, second pays better than third.
“I come to the race to win – it isn’t like we get to second and give up. I was trying hard and really wanted to win, but tonight we just we didn’t have a whole lot of racetrack left once we got to second.”
Richards, meanwhile, hopes his hot streak – two straight wins and three in his last five starts – will continue, giving him at least a shot at catching Eckert in the points standings.
“It’s obviously hard to gain points when he’s running second,” Richards said of Eckert. “He’s really running good this year, but so are we. We’re not going to give up. We’re gonna keep chasing that orange car and see what happens.”
Smith, 46, enjoyed a solid comeback from his weekend-ending rollover at Cedar Lake, ending his trip on a high note.
“We like the rubber better than anybody here, but we were actually better in the slick condition early in the race,” said Smith. “I was rolling when it was slick and got right up to third behind those guys (Richards and Eckert). We were just too tight there at the end and rolling over too much. I still could’ve run them hard, but I was afraid I would blow my right-rear tire.
“After barely getting this car we flipped ready to go on the racetrack today and starting 10th, we’ll take a third.”
Three caution flags slowed the race, all for incidents involving WoO LMS standouts. Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., slowed with a dead battery on lap four and did not continue; Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., got the worst of a lap-21 accident in turn one; and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., slowed with a cut left-rear tire on lap 22.
The incident that swept up McCreadie was the worst of the night. He was running ninth when the lapped car driven by WoO LMS rookie John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., was sent spinning in turn one directly in front of McCreadie, who slammed Lobb’s car hard. McCreadie’s Sweeteners Plus Victory Circle machine came to rest backwards in turn one, its right side sporting significant damage.
McCreadie, who was sore but otherwise injured after the wreck, was eliminated from further action. Also forced out due to the wreck was Chad Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, whose car was hit in its left side by Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y. Simpson retired immediately while Fuller ran five more laps before calling it a night.
Moyer, who ran second for the race’s first 13 laps, tumbled to sixth by lap 24 and finished in the position. Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., placed seventh, followed by 20th-starter Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., who was the event’s highest-finishing WoO LMS rookie; 19th -starter Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., who passed Fuller for ninth in the tour points standings; and Lanigan, who rallied after his mid-race pit stop.
Chad Simpson established a new track record in the 34-car Ohlins Shocks Time Trials session, blistering the bullring in 14.665 seconds. It was his first career fast-time honor on the WoO LMS.
Heat winners were Hubbard, Eckert, Richards and Feger. Frankie Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill., and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., captured the B-Mains.
Rain that fell through the morning and early-afternoon hours threatened the event, but the skies cleared abruptly and racing went on as scheduled in front of a near-capacity crowd at the fairgrounds track.
The WoO LMS is off for one weekend before returning to action with a doubleheader in Michigan, making first-ever stops on Aug. 19 at Winston Speedway in Rothbury and Aug. 20 at Merritt Raceway in Lake City. Both 50-lap A-Mains will pay $10,000 to win.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
Results of WoO Late Model Series at Independence Motor Speedway (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (2) Josh Richards/50 $10,825
2. (5) Rick Eckert/50 $5,650
3. (10) Clint Smith/50 $3,550
4. (4) Brian Birkhofer/50 $2,550
5. (3) Austin Hubbard/50 $2,550
6. (1) Billy Moyer/50 $1,800
7. (6) Jason Feger/50 $1,450
8. (20) Pat Doar/50 $2,100
9. (19) Vic Coffey/50 $1,750
10. (12) Darrell Lanigan/50 $1,750
11. (18) Chub Frank/50 $1,600
12. (16) Chip Brindle/50 $1,500
13. (21) Dennis Erb Jr./50 $950
14. (22) Ron Davies/49 $1,450
15. (24) Jill George/40 $850
16. (14) Jason Rauen/38 $800
17. (17) Frankie Heckenast Jr./25 $770
18. (8) Tim Fuller/25 $1,300
19. (7) Tim McCreadie/20 $1,380
20. (9) Chad Simpson/20 $700
21. (13) Jason Utter/19 $700
22. (23) John Lobb/19 $700
23. (15) Chris Simpson/17 $725
24. (11) Shane Clanton/4 $1,250
* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 24 Mins., 11.726 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.611 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 3 (Laps 4, 21, 22)
Lap Leaders: Richards (1-35); Eckert (36); Richards (37-50)
Provisional Starters: Lobb, George
Rookie of the Race: ($250)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: ($500)
Ohlins Shocks Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/Best Lap):
1. 25s-Chad Simpson/Mt. Vernon, IA 14.665 (NTR)
2. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 14.783
3. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 14.792
4. 25F-Jason Feger/Bloomington, IL 14.793
5. 19H-Austin Hubbard/Seaford, DE 14.834
6. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 14.838
7. 1-Josh Richards/Shinnston, WV 14.883
8. 19-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 14.892
9. 15b-Brian Birkhofer/Muscatine, IA 14.928
10. 21-Billy Moyer/Batesville, AR 14.968
11. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 15.010
12. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 15.051
13. 45-Curt Martin/Independence, IA 15.093
14. 98-Jason Rauen/Farley, IA 15.098
15. 32-Chris Simpson/Oxford, IA 15.126
16. 21B-Chip Brindle/Chatsworth, GA 15.196
17. 31-Jason Utter/Columbus Jct., IA 15.209
18. 1d-Don O’Neal/Martinsville, IN 15.239
19. 11-Pat Doar/New Richmond, WI 15.304
20. 16-Tyler Bruening/Decorah, IA 15.334
21. 99Jr-Frankie Heckenast Jr./Orland Park, IL 15.336
22. 32c-Vic Coffey/Caledonia, NY 15.340
23. 25-Shane Clanton/Fayetteville, GA 15.423
24. 78-Rick Wendling/Hazleton, IA 16.426
25. 77-Jason McBride/Carbondale, IL 15.511
26. 50-Denny Eckrich/Tiffin, IA 15.588
27. 93-Jay Johnson/Farley, IA 15.652
28. 11x-Ace Ihm/Hazelgreen, WI 15.667
29. 28-Dennis Erb Jr./Carpentersville, IL 15.682
30. 22-Jill George/Cedar Falls, IA 15.771
31. 71d-Ron Davies/Warren, PA 15.791
32. 1L-John Lobb/Frewsburg, NY 16.072
33. 15H-Jeremiah Hurst/Dubuque, IA N/T
34. 38s-Darin Sires/Cedar Falls, IA N/T
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Hubbard, Birkhofer, Chad Simpson, Utter, Heckenast, Martin, McBride, Erb (DNS) Hurst
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Eckert, Moyer, Smith, Rauen, Eckrich, Coffey, George, O’Neal
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Richards, McCreadie, Clanton, Chris Simpson, Frank, Doar, Johnson, Davies
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Feger, Fuller, Lanigan, Brindle, Bruening, Lobb, Ihm, Wendling
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Heckenast, Coffey, Erb, Eckrich, O’Neal, Martin, McBride, George, Sires (DNS) Hurst
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Frank, Doar, Davies, Lobb, Bruening, Johnson, Wendling, Ihm
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners:
Arizona Sports Shirts ($100 apparel certificate to 22nd fastest qualifier): Vic Coffey
Armor All (one case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO team in A-Main w/decal): Brian Birkhofer
Comp Cams ($50 cash to A-Main winner or next highest w/decal): Rick Eckert
Comp Cams (certificate to 10th place in A-Main or next highest w/decal): Chub Frank
Eibach Springs (one free spring to each B-Main winner or next highest w/decal): Curt Martin
JE Pistons ($50 cash to A-Main winner or next highest w/decal): Josh Richards
JE Pistons (one set of Pro Seal rings to 11th-place or next highest w/decal, redeemable w/next purchase of one complete set of rings): Chub Frank
JE Pistons (one set of Pro Seal rings to 21st-place or next highest w/decal, redeemable w/next purchase of one complete set of rings): John Lobb
MSD Ignition ($75 cash to A-Main winner or next highest w/decal): Josh Richards
MSD Ignition ($25 cash to last-place in A-Main or next lowest w/decal): Chris Simpson
Ohlins Pole Award ($50 cash to fast qualifier or next highest w/decal): Rick Eckert
Quartermaster ($100 product certificate to A-Main winner or next highest w/decal): Rick Eckert
Quartermaster ($50 product certificate to 5th-place or next highest w/decal): Pat Doar
Quartermaster ($25 product certificate to 15th-place or next highest w/decal): Jason Rauen
R2C Performance ($100 certificate to highest-finishing driver w/decal or $100 cash if race winner is using R2C filter and decal is displayed): Josh Richards (cash)
STP ($50 cash to 2nd-place in A-Main or next highest w/decal): Rick Eckert
Superflow Dynos ($50 cash to 7th-place in A-Main or next highest w/decal): Jason Feger
VP Racing Fuels ($50 cash to winner of Heat 1 or next highest w/decal): Brian Birkhofer
VP Racing Fuels ‘Nice Jugs Award’ (one five-gallon plastic fuel jugs to fastest qualifier who does not make the A-Main or next highest w/decal): Curt Martin
WIX Filters ($50 cash to 13th-place in A-Main or next highest w/decal): Ron Davies
Wrisco Aluminum (Three sheets of aluminum to A-Main winner w/decal): Josh Richards
2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of August 8 – 24 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Rick Eckert 3408
2. Josh Richards 3352 (-56)
3. Darrell Lanigan 3266 (-142)
4. Tim McCreadie 3232 (-176)
5. Chub Frank 3120 (-288)
6. Clint Smith 3118 (-290)
7. Austin Hubbard 3112 (-296)
8. Shane Clanton 3104 (-304)
9. Vic Coffey 2964 (-444)
10. Tim Fuller 2962 (-446)
11. Pat Doar 2894 (-514)
12. Ron Davies 2732 (-676)
13. John Lobb 2608 (-800)
14. Jill George 1908 (-1500)
15. Steve Francis 1350 (-2058)
FOLLOW THE ACTION ON TWITTER: Fans can keep up-to-date with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series online and through text messages on cell phones via 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.
Over 4,800 fans are now WoO LMS ‘followers’ on Twitter. To sign-up and 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 http://www.dirtvision.com/welcome.php and click on the DIRT Radio Network logo.
BLOGGING: WoO LMS fans can now read interesting stories from the road by checking out two blogs –‘Life As An Outlaw’ by series announcer Rick Eshelman and ‘The Scoop With Scoop’ by tour P.R. director Kevin Kovac. Both blogs can be accessed by clicking on the preceding links or the specific ‘Blog’ buttons on the right-hand side of http://www.woolms.com/.
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), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award), McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award), Chizmark Larson Insurance, Factory Value Parts and RacingJunk.com; in addition to contingency sponsors Comp Cams, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, Pro Power Engines, Quartermaster, Rocket Chassis, R2C Performance, Superflow Dynos, Wix Filters and Wrisco Aluminum.