Richards lights fuse, wins Firecracker semifeature
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
SARVER, Pa. (June 23) — Josh Richards began the fifth annual Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com weekend at Lernerville Speedway exactly the same way he did a year ago — with a convincing victory in Thursday night’s first 30-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series semifeature. | Slideshow | Video
Back in his father Mark’s familiar Rocket Chassis house car No. 1 after scoring his first WoO LMS win of 2011 behind the wheel of the Ernie Davis-owned No. 25 on June 18 at Winchester (Va.) Speedway, the 23-year-old star from 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 night’s $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100.
“We’ve been real fast all year,” said Richards, who has three career WoO triumphs at the 4/10-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 series 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 series victory 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 events.
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 car, 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 postrace 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 a hairy opening-lap racing incident with Richards that bent the steering on his brand-new Bloomquist Race 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 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 starts this season, wasn't 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 time trials. His blistering lap of 15 seconds flat lowered the track record and was his 25th career fast-time honor, 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 GottaRace.com continues on Friday with another WoO semifeature program paying $6,000 to win. Drivers will use their best finish from the Thursday and Friday competition to align themselves in Saturday night’s Firecracker 100 heat races.
World of Outlaws @ Lernerville: (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, (10) Jonathan Davenport, (11) Tim Fuller, (12) Shane Clanton, (13) Eric Wells, (14) Bub McCool, (15) Steve Francis, (16) Darrell Lanigan, (17) Ron Davies, (18) Chub Frank, (19) Tyler Reddick, (20) John Lobb, (21) Austin Hubbard, (22) Jill George, (23) Mike Marlar, (24) Dan Stone, (25) Dale McDowell, (26) Pat Doar. Fast qualifier (among 61 cars): Eckert, 15.000 seconds. Heat race winners: Eckert, Richards, Mars, Shaver, McDowell, Fuller. Consolation winners: Frank, Stone. Provisional starters: Lobb, George.
Pos. Driver (car no), hometown, time
1. Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 15.000
2. Austin Hubbard (19), Seaford, Del., 15.169
3. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.171
4. Steve Shaver (6), Vienna, W.Va., 15.202
5. Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.304
6. Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 15.304
7. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.322
8. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.326
9. Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 15.340
10. Pat Doar (11), New Richmond, Wis., 15.348
11. Bub McCool (57j), Vicksburg, Miss., 15.372
12. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 15.377
13. Mike Marlar (1G), Winfield, Tenn., 15.405
14. Chip Brindle (21B), Chatsworth, Ga., 15.417
15. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 15.448
16. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 15.467
17. Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 15.499
18. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.503
19. Gregg Satterlee (22), Rochester Mills, Pa., 15.515
20. Steve Francis (99), Ashland, Ky., 15.538
21. Ron Davies (71D), Warren, Pa., 15.597
22. Davey Johnson (1j), Latrobe, Pa., 15.606
23. Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 15.616
24. Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 15.646
25. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.648
26. Jared Hawkins (37), Fairmont, W.Va., 15.648
27. Mike Johnson (2j), Imperial, Pa., 15.652
28. Dan Stone (2s), Thompson, Pa., 15.658
29. John Mason (72), Millersburg, Ohio, 15.658
30. John Mollick (4J), Toronto, Ohio, 15.661
31. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.688
32. Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 15.689
33. Russ King (56), Bristolville, Ohio, 15.694
34. Mike Garvin (J4), Sarver, Pa., 15.737
35. Bryan Force (31), Indiana, Pa., 15.780
36. Coleby Frye, Dover, Pa., 15.788
37. Lynn Geisler (1c), Cranberry Township, Pa., 15.796
38. Shane Clanton (25), Fayetteville, Ga., 15.799
39. Jacob Hawkins (20H), Fairmont, W.Va., 15.828
40. John Lobb (1), Frewsburg, N.Y., 15.833
41. Dave Hess Jr. (44), Waterford, Pa., 15.836
42. Matt Lux (21), Franklin, Pa., 15.887
43. Jared Miley (H1), South Park, Pa., 15.965
44. Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, 16.006
45. Gary Lyle (10), Hyde Park, Pa., 16.046
46. Ken Schaltenbrand (29), Sarver, Pa., 16.055
47. Tony Burke (23T), Sarver, Pa., 16.115
48. Donald Bradsher (93), Burlington, N.C., 16.173
49. Garrett Krummert (29), New Castle, Pa., 16.180
50. Jeff Jones (27), Zelionople, Pa., 16.281
51. Greg Oakes (22), Franklinville, N.Y., 16.362
52. Brian Swartzlander (111), Leechburg, Pa., 16.481
53. Brian Tavenner (37), Winchester, Va., 16.511
54. Ryan Scott (0s), Garland, Pa., 16.691
55. Chris Casner (c33), Mifflintown, Pa., 16.991
56. Herman Bertolini (7x), Creighton, Pa., 17.577
57. Chris Schneider (55), Tarentum, Pa., 17.765
58. Scott Smith (22x), Utica, Ohio, 18.021
59. Ray Kroll Sr. (15k), Renfrew, Pa., 19.006
60. Derrick Casner (41), Mifflintown, Pa., 19.924
61. Nick Reges (38), Butler, Pa., no time