Darrell Lanigan, Andrew McKay, and Vic Coffey race
three-wide deep in the field at Deer Creek Speedway during World of Outlaws action Wednesday at the Minnesota
track. (Jeff Bylsma)
Outlaws: Opening Lap Surge Propels Richards to
"Gopher 50" Triumph At Deer Creek
SPRING VALLEY, Minn. – July 13. Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., made a
spectacular surge to the front on the opening lap and never looked back en route to capturing Wednesday's 32nd
annual NAPA Auto Parts 'Gopher 50' Charity Late Model Race at Deer Creek Speedway.
The 23-year-old vaulted from the fourth starting to the lead at the initial green
flag, capping the explosion by splitting front-row starters Clint Smith and Rick Eckert rounding turns three and
four. He turned back a late challenge from Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, to register his third victory of the
2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series season and first-ever at the Queensland family's three-eighths-mile in
Brian Birkhofer (#15) offers up a challenge of leader Josh
Richards at a late restart in the "Gopher 50" at Deer Creek Speedway, but it was as close as anyone would get
as the young driver from West Virginia grabbed the win. (Jeff Bylsma)
"It's just awesome to finally get a win here at Deer Creek," said Richards, whose
$11,850 in earnings included a $1,000 bonus from NAPA Auto Parts. "These guys do a phenomenal job with this place.
It's one of my favorite tracks to come to every year."
Driving his father Mark's Seubert Calf Ranches/Kentucky Fuel Corporation Rocket No.
1, Richards paced the entire distance in an event co-promoted by the Blooming Prairie (Minn.) Lions Club
and Deer Creek Speedway to raise money for Jaycee and Lions projects. The two-time defending WoO LMS champion was
victorious for the third time in his last six starts on the tour. Birkhofer, 39, passed Eckert for second on a lap-16 restart and
drew close to Richards in the final circuits but settled for the runner-up spot in his MB Customs car. The
two-time Gopher 50 winner crossed the finish line 0.537 of a second behind Richards.
Defending "Gopher 50" champ Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., finished nearly two seconds behind Birkhofer in third
after charging forward from the 12th starting spot. He matched his best finish of the season on the WoO LMS.
Chad Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, recorded a career-best WoO LMS finish of fourth – and earned the $500 'Bonus
Bucks' cash for being the highest-finishing driver who hasn't won an A-Main on the series and isn't ranked among
the top 12 in the points standings. Ninth starter Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., recovered from a slow start that
dropped him out of the top 10 to place fifth.
Tim McCreadie flies three-wide with #19 Austin Hubbard and #28
Jimmy Mars for awhile, but it was ultimately McCreadie
who would fly away to a third place showing at Deer Creek, his best with the WoO so far this season. Mars
grabbed fifth. (Jeff Bylsma)
Richards, who made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut for
Kyle Busch Motorsports on July 7 at Kentucky Speedway, used his head-turning move on the opening lap to
propel himself to the checkered flag in the opening event of the WoO LMS 'Wild West Tour.'
"The car just took off on the start and I couldn't waste the momentum," said
Richards, who pushed his WoO LMS-leading career win total since 2004 to 31. "The track was getting drier and drier
and Brian was on harder tires than we were, so I had to use every bit of the brown (moisture) that I could. I
couldn't really stick in the bottom too well so I just tried to use all of the track and get through there the best
"If we would've hit it wrong just a little bit, Brian no doubt would've won the
Birkhofer appeared to be in position to steal the race from Richards when he ducked
underneath the leader in turns one and two with two laps remaining, but Richards managed to overtake the slower Ron
Davies of Warren, Pa., entering turn three and hold on for one more tense circuit.
"It was a fun race," said Birkhofer, who started third. "The lapped traffic was what
it was. I knew Josh was gonna slide Davies, and when he got by him I got all screwed up for a second behind him and
that probably cost me."
Josh Richards makes a bold first lap move between #24 Rick Eckert and #44 Clint
Smith launched him to a race-long lead and the World of Outlaws "Gopher 50" win at Deer Creek Speedway on
Wednesday. (Jeff Bylsma)
The 37-year-old McCreadie, meanwhile, was upbeat despite seeing
his year-long winless streak reach 35 races. He reached third place with a lap 36 pass of Simpson but never caught
a caution flag that might have given him a shot at the leaders.
"To be second to these two guys in the slick like this – especially where we started
– I'm happy," said McCreadie, who last victory on the WoO LMS came in the 2010 Gopher at Deer Creek. "Since I got
in this (Victory Circle) car (in mid-May) we've gone forward. It's a matter of getting qualified a little better
through a heat. It just seems like, for me personally, when you draw a bad (time-trial) pill you can't overcome it
like you could a few years ago.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," he added when asked about his recent improvement. "We're
still making gains. Hopefully these other guys like Josh are where they're gonna' be and we can keep gaining and
gaining. I know there's more left in this car if we can just tweak it to find it."
Chris Simpson of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, finished sixth, falling just short of his brother
Chad in the final rundown. Eckert faded to seventh at the finish after starting from the pole position – causing
his WoO LMS points lead to shrink to 26 points over Richards – while Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., was eighth
Josh Richards is flanked by runner up Brian Birkhofer
(right) and third place Tim McCreadie at Deer Creek. (Jeff Bylsma)
the 19th starting spot), WoO LMS Rookie of the Year points
leader Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., was ninth and Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., climbed from the
17th starting spot to 10th.
Two caution flags slowed the event – for spins by John Lobb of Frewsburg, N.Y., on lap six and Nick Herrick of
Kenyon, Minn., on lap 16.
The WoO LMS 'Wild West Tour' continues on Fri., July 15, at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., and Tues.,
July 19, at Gillette (Wyo.) Thunder Speedway. Both events feature 50-lap A-Mains paying $10,000 to win.
WoO `Gopher 50' at Deer Creek Speedway
1) Josh Richards, 2) Brian Birkhofer, 3) Tim McCreadie, 4) Chad
Simpson, 5) Jimmy Mars, 6) Chris Simpson, 7) Rick Eckert, 8) Chub Frank, 9) Pat Doar, 10) Darrell
Lanigan, 11) Austin Hubbard, 12) Shane Clanton, 13) Vic Coffey, 14) Clint Smith, 15) Tim Fuller, 16)
Ron Davies, 17) Mike Prochnow, 18) Andrew McKay, 19) John Lobb, 20) Lance Matthees (prov.), 21) Tyler
Breuning, 22) Jill George (prov.), 23) Kerry Hansen, 24) Nick Herrick (prov.), 25) Brady
Fast Time (37 entries): Hubbard (14.365); Heat winners: Hubbard, C. Smith, Birkhofer,
Doar; B-Main winners: Clanton, Breuning.
Chris Dolack photo