- June 23 - Lernerville Speedway by Sam Holbrooks

Josh Raichards VL Lernerville 0623
Josh Richards picked up $6,000 for Thursday's win in the first of two qualifying feature events for the June 25th "Firecracker 100" at Lernerville Speedway. Rick Eckert and Steve Shaver trailed Richards.  (Gary Shrey)

World of Outlaws: Richards Takes Opening Round of Lernerville "Firecracker"

Kevin Kovac

SARVER, Pa. – June 23. Josh Richards began the fifth annual "Firecracker 100" weekend at Lernerville Speedway exactly the same way he did a year ago – with a convincing victory in Thursday's first 30-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series preliminary A-Main.

Richards, of Shinnston, W.Va., passed Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., for the lead on lap five and never looked back. He pocketed a $6,000 top prize and assured himself a pole starting spot in a heat race for Saturday's $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100.

"We've been real fast all year," said Richards, who has three career WoO LMS triumphs at the four-tenths-mile Lernerville oval. "We finally had things go our way the last couple weeks and hopefully we can keep it up and win more races.

"It would mean more than anything to me to win (the Firecracker) on Saturday," he added. "We finally got our first 100-lapper (win) last year (at New York's Mohawk International Raceway), but we've never won a crown-jewel event – and I consider this a crown-jewel event. This track is way better than a lot of tracks we get to go to for big races. This is an awesome place."

Richards, who won from the pole position starting spot for the second consecutive WoO LMS event, beat second-starter Rick Eckert of York, Pa., to the finish line by 0.723 of a second. It was Richards's 30th career win on the WoO LMS since 2004 – more than any other driver on the tour over that span – and pulled him within eight points of Eckert in the battle for the series points lead through 12 A-Mains.

Shaver, who started third but surged into the lead on the race's opening circuit, settled for a third-place finish in the K&L Rumley Rocket car. Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., advanced from the seventh starting spot to place fourth in his self-built Team Zero machine, grabbing the position on a lap-26 restart from Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who completed the top five in his MB Customs mount.

Richards actually got off to a slow start, slipping in turn two moments after the initial green flag and bumping together with Eckert on the backstretch as Shaver snatched the lead. But he quickly gathered himself and charged by Shaver with a powerful outside move off turn four heading to the line on lap five.

"I was a little bit harder on the right-front tire and I pushed across the track the first lap," said Richards. "(Then) I went straight to the (outside) lip and tried to hammer on it. I got some momentum built up and I just slid by (Shaver)."

Richards made what was ultimately the race's deciding move before Shaver could even realize what hit him.

"I talked to (Shaver) a minute ago and he said, 'You must have mufflers on that car,'" Richards quipped during a post-race press conference.

"When I got the lead on the bottom that kind of screwed my whole plan up," said the 46-year-old Shaver, who won the WoO LMS Commonwealth 100 on April 17 at Virginia Motor Speedway. "I thought, Well, I feel so good here, I'll ride it out for a couple laps. Then all of a sudden I heard Josh ambush me on the outside there. He did a good job keeping it quiet until he was right up beside me.

"I'm not too sure we could've stayed up ahead of him anyway. My car started to fade there at the end."

Eckert, 45, took up the chase of Richards after finally securing second place from Shaver on lap 22, but wasn't able to offer a serious challenge. He was certainly satisfied with a $3,000 runner-up finish after surviving anopening-lap racing incident with Richards that bent the steering on his brand-new Team Zero by Bloomquist car.

"Down the backstraightaway on the first lap Josh got loose off two and went down, and then Shaver got under him," said Eckert. "I went to go around them both (on the outside), and then at the last minute Josh darted out there and we hit pretty hard. My steering wheel was like 45-degrees to the left after that, so it took me about 10 laps to figure out how to drive it like that.

"During that long green I actually got better and better, but I was a long way from passing (Richards). I dove at him hoping he'd make a mistake on exit, but I knew when the caution came out with four to go that he was really gonna' have to make a mistake to lose."

Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., finished sixth, picking up two positions after the race's final restart on lap 26. Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., advanced from the 11th starting spot to place seventh, followed by 15th-starter Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., seventh-starter Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and 21st-starter Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who was relegated to the B-Main after spinning out of a transfer spot early in his heat race.

Three caution flags slowed the A-Main. WoO LMS rookie Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., slowed on lap one after scraping the homestretch wall; teenager Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., fell off the pace on lap six; and 2010 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., who nearly rolled his car early in the event when he rode the homestretch wall, slid off the track in turn one on lap 26.

Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who entered the event with four wins and eight top-three finishes in his 10 WoO LMS starts this season, was not a factor. He started 12th but pitted during the lap-six caution period to bolt on softer tires and only managed to climb back to 16th at the finish.

Eckert made history on two counts in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials. His blistering lap of 15.000 seconds set a new track record and was his 25th career fast-time honor on the WoO LMS – more than any other driver on the tour since 2004. He had been tied atop the career fast-timer list with Richards.

The Firecracker 100 presented by continues on Fri., June 24, with another WoO LMS program topped by a 30-lap A-Main paying $6,000 to win. Drivers will use their best finish from the Thursday and Friday competition to align themselves in Saturday's Firecracker 100 heat races.

June 23 - Lernerville Speedway World of Outlaws
1) Josh Richards, 2) Rick Eckert, 3) Steve Shaver, 4) Scott Bloomquist, 5) Jimmy Mars, 6) Brady Smith, 7) Vic Coffey, 8) Clint Smith, 9) Tim McCreadie, 9) Jonathan Davenport, 10) Tim Fuller, 11) Shane Clanton, 12) Eric Wells, 13) Bub McCool, 14) Steve Francis, 15) Darrell Lanigan, 15) Ron Davies, 16) Chub Frank, 17) Tyler Reddick, 18) John Lobb, 19) Austin Hubbard, 20) Jill George, 21) Mike Marlar, 22) Dan Stone, 23) Dale McDowell, 24) Pat Doar
Fast Time (61 cars); Rick Eckert (15.000 - NTR); Heat winners: Eckert, Richards, Mars, Shaver, McDowell, Fuller; B-Main winners: Frank Stone Davenport

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