Josh Richards

Josh Richards                                                                                                                         (Mike Ruefer)

Richards From 17th to Win Fourth Straight World of Outlaws Opener at Volusia Speedway Park

By: Kevin Kovac

BARBERVILLE, FL - Feb. 11, 2010 - No one was surprised to see Josh Richards win Thursday night's 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series season opener at Volusia Speedway Park.

But from the 17th starting spot? Even Richards couldn't have conjured up a more exciting way to kick off his WoO LMS title defense and capture the national tour's lidlifter for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.

"I was not expecting that at all," Richards said after putting on the most memorable performance of the 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio. "To have a car that good, and to start so far back and be that dominant in a race against these guys -- it's just very rare. It's an awesome feeling."

Richards, 21, of Shinnston, W.Va., blasted through the field in the Rocket Chassis house car he drove to victory in last year's opener, cracking the top five on a lap-15 restart and then sliding by Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., in succession to reach second on lap 19. He quickly ran down race-long leader Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and sailed by the homestate driver on lap 27 to assume command for good.

Pearson settled for second place in the Bobby Labonte Motorsports MasterSbilt mount, crossing the finish line 4.320 seconds behind Richards. Brady Smith had his Team Zero by Bloomquist car hot on Pearson's rear deck in the final laps

 Mark and Josh Richards

and finished third, while McCreadie placed fourth in the Sweeteners Plus Rocket and 2007 WoO LMS champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., advanced from the 19th starting spot to finish fifth in his Valvoline Rocket.

Richards pocketed $10,675 for what might have been the most spectacular of his 21 career WoO LMS triumphs. He won from the 18th starting spot on Oct. 7, 2008, at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway, but that race didn't come with the extra significance of extending an amazing win streak.

"To win four openers in a row is just really cool," said Richards, who started from the pole position in 2007 and third in both the 2008 and 2009 opening-night WoO LMS events at the half-mile oval outside Daytona Beach. "There's always the luck factor involved -- and we've been very lucky here. But I feel like we earned this one too.

"To come from the back really shows how strong your team is. Matt (Barnes), Jimmy (Frey), Joe (Pilkenton), Ernie (Davis), my dad (Mark Richards), Steve Baker -- they all did an awesome job."

Richards found himself mired deep in the starting field after finishing third in his heat race, but he began the A-Main confident he could climb forward. It didn't take him long to realize he just might be able to still pull off a victory.

"I drove a little hard in the heat and fell back to third, so I was a little disappointed in myself for that," said Richards. "But I was like, 'You know what? Just get out there and race, do what you always do.' I put the heat out of my head and just started fresh in the feature.

"The way the car felt, after a few laps I knew we were gonna be good," he continued. "The car was just phenomenal. We started passing cars, but I had no idea what position we were in. Then I looked up (at the scoreboard), saw Brady (Smith) was fifth and he was right there in front of us, and I was like, 'We're up there and have a pretty good shot of running top-three.'

"After I got the lead I just tried to stay patient. Those last few laps I just about stopped going around there, and I guess going slower actually made me faster. The car was just phenomenal."

The drivers Richards vanquished certainly agreed with his assessment.

"(Richards) was extremely good tonight," said Pearson, who started third but moved up one row after polesitter Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., spun between turns one and two at the initial green flag. "He could roll right through that middle or wherever he needed to go. We were a little bit too tight and had to stay down there on the bottom. I don't even know where he started, but he blew by me and that's all I saw of him."

Smith, meanwhile, stood in awe of Richards's opening-night superiority but was very satisfied with his outing. He didn't even qualify for last year's opener at Volusia, putting him in a points hole for the start of his first campaign as a WoO LMS regular.

"I don't know what it is about the opener here, but Josh has something figured out," said Smith, who started sixth. "We got tight and couldn't run the way he could, but we're very happy with third. This is a lot better start than last year."

Four caution flags slowed the event, but there were no serious incidents. After McDowell's opening-lap spin, the other cautions flew for stopped cars -- Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., on lap 15; Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., on lap 19; and Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky., on lap 37.

Finishing in positions 6-10 was McDowell, who rallied from the rear after his disappointing miscue; Moyer; 21st-starter Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., who earned the $500 WoO LMS 'Bonus Bucks' cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn't won a tour A-Main; Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.; and WoO LMS rookie Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del.

A banner field of 68 cars was signed in for the event.

Landers, who won the DIRTcar UMP Modified 'Gator Championship' on Monday night, blistered the track in 15.961 seconds during qualifying to earn the Ohlins Shocks Pole Award. It was his first-ever fast-time honor on the WoO LMS.

Heat winners were Moyer, McCreadie, Brady Smith, Babb, McDowell and Pearson. The B-Mains were captured by Francis, Greg Johnson of Bedford, Ind., and Dohm.

The 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH continue on Fri., Feb. 12 (a grand finale for DIRTcar UMP Late Models with a $10,000 top prize) and Sat., Feb. 13 (another 50-lap, $10,000-to-win show for the WoO LMS). A full program featuring the Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds is also on the agenda each evening.

Additional info on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH is available by logging on to www.dirtcar.com, www.volusiaspeedwaypark.com or www.dirtcarnationals.com.

For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.

Results of WoO Late Model Series (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):

1. (17) Josh Richards/50 $10,675
2. (3) Earl Pearson Jr./50 $5,000
3. (6) Brady Smith/50 $3,500
4. (2) Tim McCreadie/50 $2,600
5. (19) Steve Francis/50 $2,650
6. (1) Dale McDowell/50 $1,700
7. (5) Billy Moyer/50 $1,500
8. (21) Tim Dohm/50 $1,800
9. (22) Dennis Erb Jr./50 $1,200
10. (24) Austin Hubbard/50 $1,850
11. (10) Darrell Lanigan/50 $1,650
12. (18) Eddie Carrier Jr./50 $1,000
13. (7) Rick Eckert/50 $1,450
14. (25) Tim Fuller/50 $1,400
15. (23) Eric Jacobsen/50 $850
16. (15) Jack Sullivan/49 $800
17. (4) Shannon Babb/49 $770
18. (14) Chub Frank/49 $1,250
19. (26) Clint Smith/49 $1,230
20. (16) Brandon Kinzer/48 $700
21. (8) Jimmy Owens/36 $700
22. (11) John Blankenship/36 $700
23. (12) Brad Neat/35 $700
24. (29) Russell King/23 $500
25. (9) Chris Madden/19 $700
26. (27) Jason Feger/13 $700
27. (13) Jared Landers/13 $750
28. (20) Greg Johnson/13 $700
29. (28) Shane Clanton/0 $525

* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses

Time of Race: 22 Mins., 13.879 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 4.320 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 4 (Laps 0, 15, 19, 37)
Lap Leaders: Pearson (1-26); Richards (27-50)
Provisional Starters: Fuller, C. Smith, Clanton, King (WoO); Feger (UMP)
Rookie of the Race: Hubbard ($250)
WoO LMS Bonus Bucks Winner: Dohm ($500)
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Matt Barnes (Richards)

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