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Knoxville Raceway

Back-to-back Richards eyes sweep at Knoxville

September 28, 2013, 3:15 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor
Winner Josh Richards (1) and runner-up Jimmy Owens (20) battle. (thesportswire.net)
Winner Josh Richards (1) and runner-up Jimmy Owens (20) battle. (thesportswire.net)

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Sept. 27) — Setting up a chance to match Billy Moyer’s 2010 sweep, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., dominated Friday’s 25-lap preliminary feature at Knoxville Raceway’s 10th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals. | Complete Knoxville coverage

The sixth-starting Richards became just the second driver to sweep Thursday-Friday preliminary features as he blew past A.J. Diemel in turn one on the ninth lap and rolled to a dominating victory at the historic half-mile oval. He knows there’s more work to do heading toward Saturday’s $40,000-to-win finale.

“Tomorrow is the important one,” Richards said after his second straight $7,000 victory.

A lap-20 caution erased a nearly half-track advantage for Richards, but runner-up Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., couldn’t keep up over the final five laps, finishing 1.993 seconds back at the checkers.

Diemel, the Elk Mound, Wis., driver who led four laps early to match Owens, was a distant third while polesitter Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was fourth. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., rallied from his 11th-row starting spot to round out the top five.

“The guys did a great job,” Richards said, crediting his crew. “We made some changes tonight and the track was a little bit different, and we just had to get up there and rely on the cushion.”

Owens finished with crinkled up sheetmetal on his car after twice on early restarts his car briefly lost power, costing him the lead on the fifth lap and then triggering a collision with Billy Moyer that spread into a turn-one scramble involving several cars.

“Josh was really, really good,” Owens said. “I was happy to come home with second, no better than we’d been tonight. Maybe we’ll be better tomorrow.”

Diemel, who rebounded from a poor outing Thursday, knows everyone will have their hands full with Richards.

“I don’t know what Josh has got in that thing, but it kind of looks like we’re all going to be running for at least second here. He had a good run,” he said. “We were just, to be standing here now, is a (big improvement) from last night. We struggled. We were too tight, and we finally got things working good tonight. We’ve still got some work to do obviously, so I think we’ll be OK tomorrow.”

Owens led comfortably the first four laps, but after fourth-running Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Fla., blew a right-rear tire — causing damage the deck of his car and drawing a lap-four caution — Owens fell to third on the restart when he didn’t maintain his speed on the frontstretch.

Diemel took control and led a lap before Richards and friendly rival Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., made frontstretch contact, then again entering turn one when Richards cut down into the low groove.

Lanigan lost control and spun between turns one and two, then refired his car under caution and drove the wrong way around the track to pull alongside Richards near the flagstand, where he angrily gestured with his hands before pulling to the pits.

On the restart, Diemel stayed out front for three more laps, but Richards quickly tracked him down, diving under him entering turn one and beginning to a stretch a lead that eventually reached a seven-second margin over Owens, who dropped Diemel to third.

A final caution appeared on the 20th lap when Chris Simpson slowed with a flat tire in turn two, but there was no catching Richards, who knows he faces a different challenge with Saturday’s longer finale.

“The 100-lappers are definitely what we’ve got to work on a little bit. We’ve won a few of 'em here now. We’ve got a little bit of it, but you never know,” said Richards, who will start outside the front row alongside the polesitting McDowell.

Richards will try to match Moyer’s three-victory weekend at Knoxville three years ago, and duplicate his own three-victory weekend in June’s Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.

“I look up to a lot of these guys and, you know, Moyer, he was really good that weekend,” Richards said. “Actually I remember, that same weekend, we were leading the first night and broke a spring steel strap, then the second night I drove out of the groove leading, and then the last night we ran second to him.

“So I feel like we’ve always been really good here. We’ve just gotta work on tomorrow night and try to focus on that. Any time you can win a race against these guys, it means a lot. Whether you sweep or you don’t sweep, as long as you can go out there and win, that’s all that matters.”

Notes: Richards drives the Rocket Chassis house car powered by a Roush Yates engine and sponsored by Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Ernie D Enterprises, Integra Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels and Hoosier Tire. ... Sixteen cars were running at the finish. ... Chad Simpson got the worst of the lap-six caution; he was towed off the track. ... Darrell Lanigan spun again on the sixth lap. ... Matt Furman pitted multiple times and finished 16th.

Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals (Friday preliminary): (1) Josh Richards, (2) Jimmy Owens, (3) A.J. Diemel, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Tim McCreadie, (6) Steve Francis, (7) Jimmy Mars, (8) Jason Feger, (9) Ryan Gustin, (10) John Blankenship, (11) Scott Bloomquist, (12) Brady Smith, (13) Jason Utter, (14) Eddie Carrier Jr., (15) Chris Simpson, (16) Matt Furman, (17) Ryan Unzicker, (18) Rodney Sanders, (19) Darrell Lanigan, (20) Billy Moyer, (21) Shannon Babb, (22) Don O’Neal, (23) Chad Simpson, (24) Dale McDowell. Fast qualifier (among 70 cars): Gustin, 17.941 seconds. Heat race winners: Smith, Francis, Chris Simpson, Unzicker, Lanigan, Babb. D-main winner: Denny Eckrich. C-main winner: Jason Rauen. B-main winner: Gustin.

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