Richards Crowned DIRTcar Nationals Champion
Bringing Home Three Wins at Volusia Speedway Park
SHINNSTON, W.Va. (Feb. 21, 2016) - Josh Richards was crowned the DIRTcar Nationals Late Model Champion at Volusia Speedway Park, collecting the famed "Big" Gator Trophy Saturday night. During the weeklong DIRTcar Nationals at the half-mile Barberville, Fla., track, Richards scored three wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes en route to the Championship.
Monday night kicked-off the first of six nights of late model racing at Volusia Speedway Park, and Richards entered the evening hoping to add to his already impressive Florida/Georgia Speedweeks. The 27-year-old started the night by qualifying the quickest in his group. Per the rulebook, the top-four in qualifying would be inverted for their heat races Monday through Wednesday, which lined Richards up in fourth for Heat Race 3. Able to advance two positions in the 10-lap heat, the Valvoline driver finished second, securing the seventh starting spot for the night's 30-lap Feature. At the drop of the green flag, Richards was shuffled back to 10th, before falling in line nose-to-tail with the rest of the field. The West Virginia driver methodically made his way back to seventh by the halfway point of the A-Main and remained there until the checkered flag flew on a race that saw very little passing.
Richards began Tuesday evening by qualifying fourth in his group. His time trial effort allowed him to hit the invert perfectly and start on the pole of his heat race. Showing his car had speed, Richards led all 10 laps of Heat 6 to collect the win. With each of the six heat race winners eligible for the redraw, Richards drew the number one starting spot for the Feature. Starting on the pole of the 30-lap event, the three-time World of Outlaws Champion dominated the race leading flag-to-flag unchallenged to capture his fifth win of Speedweeks.
Wednesday, marked the final night of the qualifying invert and Richards qualified second quickest in his group. His effort lined him up in third for Heat Race 1. Starting third, Richards maintained his position for the 10-lap heat allowing him to transfer into the night's 40-lap A-Main. The Valvoline machine lined up in 13th for the start of the Feature, and Richards didn't waste any time making his way to ninth in just the first seven laps. The Rocket Chassis driver continued his march toward the front and was scored in seventh at the halfway point. At Lap 27 he had picked off three more positions and was running in fourth, knocking on the door of the top-three. Caught in lap traffic, Richards did all he could to collect a podium finish, but ran out of time, ultimately crossing the stripe in fourth.
Thursday saw the return of World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series points racing and Richards was hungry for his first World of Outlaws points win of the season. It didn't take long for the driver of the No. 1 to show he was going to be the man to beat in night four's racing action. Richards qualified fastest in Group A, which lined him up on the pole for Heat Race 1. When the green flag dropped, the West Virginia native never looked back, leading all 10 laps and winning by a five second margin. His heat race win made him eligible for the redraw, and he drew the first starting spot in the 50-lap Feature. Starting on the pole, Richards quickly set a blistering pace and drove away from the field leading by over a straightaway for much of the race. The superstar driver led unchallenged flag-to-flag to capture his sixth win of Speedweeks.
With two wins under his belt at Volusia Speedway Park, Richards started Friday night looking for win number three. He qualified eighth in Group A, which lined him up in third for Heat 2. With the track wet and muddy, the Valvoline driver ran out of helmet tear-offs halfway through the 10-lap heat and was driving with one hand over his face in an attempt to shield his helmet visor from mud. Impressively, Richards was still able to finish third, allowing him to transfer to the main event. Though he would transfer, he would start deep in the field in 14th for the 50-lap Feature. At the drop of the green flag, Richards immediately showed he was on a mission, muscling his was through the field to be scored in eighth on Lap 10. Richards continued his charge to the front and on Lap 15 he had worked his way inside the top-five. Putting on an incredible show for the fans, the young driver pushed his No.1 machine to the limits, passing on both the top and bottom grooves until he found himself in second with just five laps remaining. Now with his sights set on leader Jonathan Davenport, Richards drove to the high-side to complete the pass on lap 46 and take command of the race. But, unlike the night before, Richards was unable to drive off, as he and Davenport would battle side-by-side as they came out of Turn 2 on the final lap. Fighting for position in lap traffic, Richards was able to roll around the high-side giving him enough momentum to clear Davenport and capture his milestone 60th-career World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series win in spectacular fashion. The victory marked his seventh of Speedweeks and third at Volusia Speedway Park.
With back-to-back wins at Volusia, Richards looked to pull off the trifecta in Saturday night's finale. He quickly looked as if he was going to be the man to beat again as he qualified second quickest and won his heat race by a 4.7 second margin. His heat race win made him eligible for the redraw and for the third time in six days, the Rocket Chassis driver again drew the pole. Starting the 50-lap finale in first, Richards was quickly the class of the field, leading by several car lengths during the initial laps of the race. The 27-year-old showed his dominance pacing the field while weaving in and out of lap traffic until Lap 46 when second-place driver Shane Clanton pulled to his back bumper. Unable to keep up his speed and pass on the high-side, Richards attempted to pass the lap car of Tim McCreadie on the bottom and Clanton went to the high-side and was able to clear McCreadie and Richards. Still held up by McCreadie, Richards decided to go high on the final lap, but just as he was clearing McCreadie, third-place driver Scott Bloomquist slipped in between and took over the second position coming out of Turn 4. Richards ultimately crossed the stripe third, but collected a podium finish and the week's biggest honor, the DIRTcar Late Model Championship.
Saturday night conclude the month-long Florida/Georgia Speedweeks in which Richards made history, winning seven times in 15 events and never finishing worse than seventh. He collected 12 podium-finishes, 13 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes making him the most successful driver of this year's Speedweeks.
Richards is scheduled to return to racing action on March 17 for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Buckeye Spring 50 at Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Qualifying - 1st Heat Race -2nd Feature Start - 7th Feature Finish - 7th
Qualifying - 4th Heat Race -1st Feature Start - 1st Feature Finish - 1st
Qualifying - 2nd Heat Race -3rd Feature Start - 13th Feature Finish -4th
Qualifying - 1st Heat Race -1st Feature Start - 1st Feature Finish - 1st
Qualifying - 8th Heat Race -3rd Feature Start - 14th Feature Finish - 1st
Qualifying - 2nd Heat Race -1st Feature Start - 1st Feature Finish -3rd
JOSH RICHARDS QUOTES: "Winning this DIRTcar Late Model Championship means everything to us. We worked hard all winter and then to have a Speedweeks like we did, it was just unbelievable.
"I think our worst finish was seventh a couple of times, but most of the time we were running up front and battling for wins, so that's all we can ask for. We had another great Valvoline car again tonight (Saturday) and I wanted to end the trip with another win, but sometimes when you're leading you can be a sitting duck. But, we can't be dissatisfied with our trip, we had a phenomenal trip, it was just awesome.
"I'm going to spend some time at home, but we're going to continue to work and get ready for the rest of the swing. It's going to be nice to be home - it's been a long month, but it's been a lot of fun. We're going to take a break for a few days and then get back to work."