Richards Earns 17th Podium-Finish of the Season at Smokey Mountain Speedway
SHINNSTON, W.Va. (May 9, 2016) – Josh Richards highlighted his weekend of racing in the south, by scoring a podium-finish of third at Smokey Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tennessee. The finish marks his 17th finish of third or better in 22 events this season. Richards rounded out the weekend by capturing a sixth-place finish at Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, Kentucky.
With the tour visiting the southeastern region for the final time this season, Richards and crew were determined to have a solid weekend. The 28-year-old driver didn’t waste any time showing he would be a force to be reckoned with on Friday night at Ponderosa Speedway. He began the evening by turning the quickest circuit during hot laps and then topped the field during qualifying to earn the night’s fast-time award with a lap of 13.510 seconds. Richards’ qualifying lap lined him up on the pole for Heat Race 1 and he was again the class of the field, winning the 10-lap event by nearly a straightaway. Eligible for the redraw by virtue of his heat win, the Rocket Chassis driver drew the third starting position for the 50-lap Feature.
Starting in Row 2, Richards didn’t get the clean start that he wanted and slipped back to the fifth spot. It didn’t take long for the cars to spread out single-file and Richards maintained his position until a Lap 25 caution slowed the field. On the ensuing restart, the West Virginia native slipped back to seventh as he battled a tight-condition. The field again quickly spread out with little passing, so Richards was forced to remain in line until a caution period on Lap 41 bunched the cars. This time, the Mark Richards Racing driver was able to capitalize on the restart and muscled his way to sixth, where he remained for the final eight laps. Richards’ sixth-place finish allowed the driver to maintain his record of not finishing outside of the top 10 this season.
Saturday began much the same for Richards as he ran the fastest lap during his hot lap session and qualified second in Group B. His qualifying effort lined him up on the pole for Heat 4, and once the green flag flew, Richards never looked back, leading the 10-lap race flag-to-flag. His heat race win again made him eligible for the redraw and Richards drew the second starting spot.
Starting on the outside-pole, Richards spun his tires and slipped back to fourth before he could find his way back in line. Though he was running in fourth, he fought a strong battle with the third-place car of Chris Madden throughout the entire race. The two battled side-by-side nearly every lap, with Richards pulling alongside Madden at the start/finish line and gaining an advantage entering Turn 1 and 2, only to see the advantage decrease down the backstretch. Battling lap traffic, the two were able to pass the second-place car of Casey Roberts on Lap 42 and continue their intense fight for position. With lap traffic hampering Richards effort, the Valvoline driver ultimately crossed the line in third. The podium-finish is his 19th top-five in 22 starts this year.
Richards’ solid weekend increased his World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series point lead to 144 markers over second-place Shane Clanton.
The driver of the No. 1 machine is scheduled to return to racing-action this weekend for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Buckeye Nationals at Atomic Speedway May 13-14 in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Qualifying – 1st Heat Race – 1st Feature Start -3rd Feature Finish – 6th
Qualifying – 2nd Heat Race –1st Feature Start – 2nd Feature Finish – 3rd
JOSH RICHARDS QUOTES: "We had an awesome Valvoline machine at Ponderosa Speedway. The car was good all night. The track was changing a little bit by the time the Feature rolled around and we just miscalculated on adjustments. The car was definitely better than where I finished, it was just difficult to pass when the field got all spread out.
“The car was fast again on Saturday night, but I spun the tires on the start which put us behind early. We had a really great battle going on with (Chris) Madden and I was able to keep him close and my sights on the leader. I feel like I had a car good enough to win, we just weren’t able to pass. Overall, I’m happy with the weekend. I’ve been able to stay consistent and that is my focus.”