SHINNSTON, W. Va. – Feb. 27, 2012 – For most dirt Late Model drivers, a season-opening racing trip that produced five top-five finishes – including a World of Outlaws Late Model Series victory – and eight top-10s in 10 events at three tracks in two states would be labeled a rousing success.
But for an ultra-competitive champion like Josh Richards, those results are solid but not entirely satisfactory. He knows there’s room for improvement – and make no mistake, the 23-year-old from Shinnston, W.Va., is focused on correcting any struggles he experienced during the two-week swing through Georgia and Florida that kicked off his 2012 campaign on the clay.
“We started the whole trip off awesome,” said Richards, recalling his fourth-place finish in the 60-lap WoO LMS Winter Freeze on Feb. 11 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and consecutive outings of second, first and second from Feb. 16-18 in the inaugural WoO LMS Bubba Army Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. “We felt like we were getting a good rhythm going. We were really feeling good.
“Then we came to Volusia (Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.), a place where we’ve always been successful and I’ve loved racing at. For some reason, we struggled (there) and just never could dig our way out of a hole.
“Volusia was disappointing,” he said of the six-race UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment meet that brought him only a single top-five finish, “but we’ll use it to make ourselves better. We’re just gonna go back home, do some work and figure out what the issue was. I’m confident we’ll get ourselves back on track.”
Richards and the Mark Richards Racing Kentucky Fuel Corporation/Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket Chassis team experienced an uncharacteristic visit to Volusia, a half-mile oval where he won four straight WoO LMS season openers from 2007-2010. His top finish of the week was a fifth in the 25-lap DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned feature that was pushed to Friday afternoon (Feb. 24) after Wednesday night’s program was rained out. He also scored UMP-sanctioned finishes of eighth (30-lapper on Feb. 20) and ninth (40-lapper on Friday evening, Feb. 24) – after winning heats races for each event – and in the week’s pair of 50-lap WoO LMS A-Mains he placed eighth (Feb. 23) and 16th (Feb. 25). He failed to qualify for the UMP feature on Feb. 21, falling one spot short of transferring through a B-Main.
Richards had what would have likely been his best run at Volusia short-circuited by an unusual problem: a mud-covered helmet shield. In a Feb. 23 WoO LMS A-Main run on a heavy, fast track surface, he was running fourth until he simply couldn’t see well enough to continue racing, forcing him to slow and bring out a caution flag on lap 47 so he could pit to change helmets (and change a tire that was flattened by a hit from behind when he slowed).
“I felt like the first Outlaw night we were pretty good,” said Richards, who was fourth fastest in time trials that evening. “We were too tight for the (track) condition, but if I didn’t run out of (helmet) tear offs and had my shield get covered with mud, we could’ve run top five.”
Richards will remember his 2012 Speedweeks more for the events that preceded Volusia. After beginning the trip with a strong fourth-place effort on a frigid night at Screven, he was one of the stars of the show at Bubba Raceway Park, a uniquely-shaped track owned by nationally-known radio show host Bubba ‘The Love Sponge’ Clem. He finished second in the 40-lap WoO LMS A-Main on Feb. 16 after his late-race bid to overtake Darrell Lanigan fell just short; outran Lanigan to capture a $10,000 first-place prize in the 50-lapper on Feb. 17; and recorded another runner-up finish in the 60-lap finale on Feb. 18 after watching Mike Marlar hit the wall on the final lap while trying to overtake eventual winner Rick Eckert.
“Ocala was awesome,” said Richards. “We obviously ran well there, but it was just a fun place to race at too. I feel like that was the best racetrack we ran in terms of the track prep and how you can race the track. Bubba and his crew did an awesome job keeping up with the conditions the whole time we were there.
“I’d put that place pretty far up there on my list of favorite tracks. I don’t know if it’s in my top 10 yet, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. I can’t wait to go back there.”
Richards ended his southern excursion sitting second in the WoO LMS points standings through six events, 28 points behind Lanigan. He also briefly took sole possession of the top spot on the national tour’s alltime win list (including the original 1988-89 seasons and the ‘modern’ era since 2004) when he scored his 38th career win at BRP; Billy Moyer pulled back into a tie with Richards when he won the Feb. 25 event at Volusia.
Richards’ next planned start is the WoO LMS ‘Illini 100′ on March 30-31 at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway.
Josh Richards’ No. 1 team carries support from Rocket Chassis, Roush Yates Engines, Seubert Calf Ranches, Kentucky Fuel Corporation, Ernie D’s Enterprises, ACE Metal Works, Petroff Towing, Tony Stewart Racing, Sunoco Race Fuels, Hoosier Racing Tires, Integra Shocks, Slavic Custom Decals, Valvoline, AFCO, ATL Fuel Cells, Aurora Bearing Company, Barnes Systems, Beyea Performance, Brinn Transmissions, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Braswell Carburetion, Butlerbuilt Seat Systems, CV Products, Dohm Cycles, Dyer’s Top Rods, Frankland Rearends, Howe Racing, Kwik Change Product, LSI, Mason Racin’, MSD Ignition, Outerwears, Performance Bodies, Performance Friction Brakes, Performance Rod & Custom, R2C Performance Products, Ringers Gloves, Scott Performance Wire, Simpson Race Products, Sweet Manufacturing, Tel Tech, TWM Racing Products, Trick Carbon Fiber Driveshafts, Jones Racing Products, TurboStart Racing Batteries, US Brake, Weld Racing Wheels, Wehr’s Machine, Wilwood and Wrisco Aluminum.
Honey Rentz Carrigan
Rising Star Management Grouph