NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 4) — Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., viewed his latest conquest — a victory in Thursday's World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series 30-lapper at Cedar Lake Speedway — as prime example of the magic carpet ride he’s enjoying in 2016.
“It’s been a phenomenal year,” Richards said after his series-leading 12th triumph of the season on the national tour in his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car. “We’ve just been working hard and things have kind of gone our way — like tonight with the cautions. It looked like it wasn’t going our way, and then it did.”
Indeed, Richards, 28, made up for a bad restart that cost him second place to Rick Eckert of York, Pa., with a perfect one that vaulted him past Eckert’s Paul Crowl-owned Longhorn Race Car and into the lead for good.
Eckert — like Richards a former USA Nationals champion — had appeared to put himself in position for the race’s $6,000 top prize after overtaking Richards for second on a lap-nine restart and passing A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wis., for the lead on lap 11, but a second restart on lap 19 proved to be the veteran driver’s undoing. Richards used the inside lane to surge ahead of Eckert through turns one and two and was in control for good by turn three.
Richards cruised the remainder of the distance to register his milestone 70th career WoO win in an event that kicked off the 29th annual USA Nationals weekend.
Eckert, 50, settled for second place, 2.3 seconds behind Richards, after leading laps 11-19. Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., outdueled Steve Casebolt of Indiana, Pa., to finish third, leaving the 11th-starting Casebolt fourth at the checkered flag while five-time USA Nationals champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., completed the top five.
The race boiled down to an exercise in restart acumen between Richards and Eckert, who traded the upper hand following the feature’s first four caution flags.
Richards seized the initiative first, advancing from the fifth starting spot to overtake Eckert, who started from the outside pole, for second place on a lap-four restart. Richards then chased down Diemel, who started on the pole, and was making an outside move for the lead on lap nine when Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., slowed to trigger caution conditions.
When Richards opted to take the ensuing green flag on the inside in the Delaware double-file restart that leaves the leader alone in front, Eckert took advantage and ran the high line around turns one and two to regain second from Richards and assume command from Diemel on lap 11. Eckert proceeded to build an edge of over one second on Richards before a caution flag flew on lap 19 for the slow car driven by Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa.
After a multi-car tangle in turn four kept the caution lights blinking on lap 19, Richards sat in second place and decided to switch from the outside lane he has picked for the first lap-19 restart to the inside. The move paid off as he chugged underneath Eckert down the frontstretch and was in the lead when he came back around to score lap 20.
“After the one restart (on lap four) I got Eckert for second and then I was passing Diemel (for the lead) when the caution came out (on lap nine),” Richards said. “Then I picked the bottom (lane) because I thought I’d get a better start, but Eckert rolled the middle and got back ahead. So then the next restart (the first one on lap 19) I picked the top and Feger got the bottom and he maintained really good (before the yellow immediately clicked back on) and I don’t know if I could’ve got back ahead of him.
“So then the next one (on lap 19) I said, ‘Well, I’ll try the bottom,’ and it worked out. Rick slipped just a little bit and we were able to go by him.”
The restart strategy Eckert tried to employ to keep Richards behind him ultimately didn’t work out.
“The way the restarts work, you hear what lane the guy behind you picks (over the one-way radio from WoO race director Bret Emrick),” Eckert said. “I knew Josh was the guy we had to beat, so I knew if I could keep him busy with someone else I could get away a little bit. When he picked the outside to restart (following the first lap-19 caution) I went early so that way the guy on the inside had a little bit of an advantage and they’d race each other for a little bit. Then when he picked the bottom (on the second lap-19 restart), I was like, ’S—!’ I had to go later, so that let him get around the (fourth) corner and I didn’t have enough traction to get going and he was beside me before we got to one.
“He got all the way to the lead (on lap nine) and the caution come out … I had picked the bottom (for the lap-four restart) and he beat me on the top,” he added. “Well, then he picked bottom and I beat him on the top (on a lap-nine restart). We both picked a bad lane twice I guess.”
Eckert would have liked to see the race stay caution-free once he gained command.
“I needed a long green to get my left-rear tire to go so I had just a little bit of traction,” said Eckert, who recorded his second runner-up finish in the last four WoO events.
Richards, meanwhile, continued to pad his runaway WoO points lead and moved closer to Darrell Lanigan’s WoO single-season win record of 17 victories set in 2014. He also added to his favorite’s status for Saturday night’s $50,000-to-win USA Nationals headliner, which he captured in 2011.
“It seemed like the longer we went, the better it got,” Richards said of his machine. “It felt really good out there so it was definitely a great start to the weekend.
“I don’t if it gets really good at lap 30 and then goes back down hill, but I hope it gets better (the more laps he runs). Tire management is definitely gonna be key (in the 100-lapper), though. Hopefully we can get a good (qualifying) night in tomorrow to put ourselves in position to be up front for Saturday. You don’t want to start back there and have to wear your stuff out. You want to start up front and be able to maintain and have something left for the end … that’s what it’s gonna take to win.”
Feger, who started fourth, wasn’t able to make a serious bid for the lead but put forth a strong effort to take the show position in the final rundown.
“We were pretty good up there (running the outside) for a few minutes,” said Feger, who lost third place to Casebolt on lap 20 but regained on a restart one circuit later. “We just made a couple changes, changed the gears before the feature, and that definitely hurt me (running) on the top side. We had a new motor in here and it’s just a little bit different and I geared it wrong. I think if we would’ve changed it down we definitely would’ve been a lot faster on the top.
“We were good through the middle for a while and I thought we were gonna have something for ‘em, but it just felt like our tire sealed up or something and we kind of lost right-rear grip and Josh didn’t do that.”
Six caution flags slowed the A-Main, but there were no major accidents. The only tangle was a multi-car jingle on lap 19 involving Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., Jordan Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., Joey Coulter of Charlotte, N.C., Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga.
Other cautions were caused by Lance Matthees of Winona, Minn., who slowed with a flat left-rear tire on lap four; McCreadie on lap nine; Briggs on lap 19; Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, who spun on the backstretch on lap 21; and Joey Coulter of Charlotte, N.C., who experienced front-end problems on lap 24.
Notes: Richards’s victory moved him within two wins of Lanigan’s all-time WoO record of 72 triumphs. … The race marked the seventh straight WoO event won by either Richards or Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga. … Third-starter Jonathan Davenport of Blairesville, Ga., who won last year’s Thursday-night WoO feature during the USA Nationals weekend, pulled off the track during the race's pace laps because his K&L Rumley car was misfiring badly; he returned to the track in hopes of starting at the rear but headed pitside again before the green flag when the problem didn’t clear up. … Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., was the race’s big mover, running the top side of the track from the 19th starting spot to a seventh-place finish.
Preliminary results and notes:
After a caution-filled modified feature and about a half-hour of track prep, the field for the 30-lap feature began rolling onto the track at 10:40 p.m. CT. … Billy Moyer Jr., whose bid for his first career WoO feature win in last year’s Thursday-night USA Nationals event fell short in heartbreaking fashion when he was passed in the final laps by Jonathan Davenport, grabbed the second and final transfer spot in the third B-Main following a restart with two laps left. He starts 24th in the headliner. … WoO points provisionals were claimed by Morgan Bagley and Tyler Erb; Joey Coulter took an emergency provisional to start the A-Main.
First B-Main finish (top 2 transfer): Bobby Pierce, Jordan Yaggy, Jake O’Neil, Steve Francis, Mitch McGrath, Brent Larson, Gordy Gundaker, Tyler Bruening, Ray Moore, Mike Mullen, Jon Henry.
Second B-Main finish (top 2 transfer): Mason Zeigler, Nick Anvelink, Shannon Babb, Cody Mahoney, R.C. Whitwell, Morgan Bagley, Jason Rauen, Spencer Diercks, Joey Moriarty, Nick Herrick (DNS) Jimmy Mars.
Third B-Main finish (top 2 transfer): Shane Clanton, Billy Moyer Jr., Tyler Erb, Dennis Erb Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Joey Coulter, Allen Murray, Taylor Scheffler, Matt Furman, Chad Williamson.
(12 laps; top 2 transfer)
Row 1: Jordan Yaggy, Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Tyler Burning, Mike Mullen
Row 3: Jake O’Neil, Gordy Gundaker
Row 4: Brent Larson, Ray Moore
Row 5: Mitch McGrath, Steve Francis
Row 6: Jon Henry
Row 1: Nick Anvelink, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Shannon Babb, Cody Mahoney
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Spencer Diercks
Row 4: R.C. Whitwell, Jason Rauen
Row 5: Joey Moriarty, Jimmy Mars
Row 6: Nick Herrick
Row 1: Tyler Erb, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Billy Moyer Jr., Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Allen Murray, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: Matt Furman, Joey Coulter
Row 5: Chad Williamson, Taylor Scheffler
A.J. Diemel perched his car on the top of the track and marched to a flag-to-flag victory over Frank Heckenast Jr., who finished 1.307 seconds behind the victor. Tim McCreadie placed third, leaving fourth-place finisher Shane Clanton out of a transfer spot.
Finish (top 3 transfer): A.J. Diemel, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim McCreadie, Shane Clanton, Dennis Erb Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Joey Coulter, Taylor Scheffler.
Jason Feger turned back a challenge from Steve Casebolt to win the prelim by 0.973 of a second over the Indiana driver. Brandon Overton held third place throughout the race and finished there.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Jason Feger, Steve Casebolt, Brandon Overton, Tyler Erb, Billy Moyer Jr., Allen Murray, Matt Furman, Chad Williamson.
Josh Richards dominated the action, leading all the way and crossing the finish line 3.024 seconds in front of Chris Simpson. Chub Frank settled for third place after losing the runner-up spot to Simpson. Jimmy Mars started on the outside pole but got into turns one and two high on the opening lap and rode the outside wall, inflicting damage that forced him off the track.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Josh Richards, Chris Simpson, Chub Frank, Mason Zeigler, Cody Mahoney, Spencer Diercks, Jason Rauen, Jimmy Mars (DNS) Nick Herrick.
Chase Junghans overtook Billy Moyer for the lead on lap two and never looked back en route to a one-second victory over the Hall of Famer driver. Chad Simpson finished third close behind Moyer.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Chase Junghans, Billy Moyer, Chad Simpson, Nick Anvelink, Shannon Babb, Morgan Bagley, R.C. Whitwell, Joey Moriarty.
Rick Eckert scored a flag-to-flag victory, beating Brian Shirley by 0.934 of a second. Third place was claimed by veteran Lance Matthees, who snuck by Bobby Pierce on the inside on a lap-seven restart. The caution flag was needed after Steve Francis fell off the pace while running fourth.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Rick Eckert, Brian Shirley, Lance Matthees, Bobby Pierce, Mike Mullen, Gordy Gundaker, Ray Moore, Steve Francis.
Jonathan Davenport ran away with the opening prelim, leading all the way to beat Eric Wells to the finish line by 1.439 seconds, but Davenport wasn’t thrilled with his car’s performance. He said there was a miss in the machine that his team will have to try and correct for the feature. Boom Briggs finished third after pulling off a bump-and-run pass of Jordan Yaggy in turn three on lap seven.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Eric Wells, Boom Briggs, Jordan Yaggy, Tyler Bruening, Jake O’Neil, Brent Larson, Mitch McGrath, Jon Henry.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., turned the quickest lap in the 50-car split-qualifying session, touring the Cedar Lake oval in 15.028 seconds. He earned the pole position for the evening’s first heat race.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was fastest in Group 2 with a circuit of 15.380 seconds, giving him the pole for the fourth heat.
Other heat polesitters are Rick Eckert, Billy Moyer, Jason Feger and Frank Heckenast Jr.
Heavy rain hit the area early Thursday morning and muddied the pit area, but the skies cleared to help dry the ground and a superb weekend of clear, comfortable weather (high temperatures reaching only the high 70s) appears to be in store. … A field of 50 cars has signed in for the evening's action, which will split the time trials into two groups. Drivers in Group 1 will compete for starting spots in Heats 1-3, while those in Group 2 will battle for starting spots in Heats 4-6. The top-three finishers in each 10-lap heat will transfer (winners redraw for top six starting spot in the feature), while three 12-lap B-Mains will each move two more drivers to the headliner. … Officials have instituted a new tire rule for this weekend’s competition, mandating that teams can use only Hoosier LM-40 compound tires. … Six former USA Nationals winners are in the field: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Rick Eckert of York, Pa., current WoO points leader Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Tim McCreadie of Waterotown, N.Y., and defending champion Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga. … Reigning WoO champion Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., enters the weekend hot off his seventh series triumph of 2016 on Tuesday night at Shawano (Wis.) Speedway. He will attempt to carry his momentum to a track that has been his Kryptonite throughout his career; his best finish in seven previous feature starts is ninth, in 2004 and ’05. He didn’t even make the starting field for the 100-lapper in 2014, and last year he labored to finishes of 15th in the Thursday-night WoO feature and 12th in the headliner. … Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, will hit the Cedar Lake clay after having the stitches removed from the deep cut he stuffed on his right hand while working in the pits during the July 23 Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. … Allen Murray of San Antonio, Texas, will be behind the wheel of his new Black Diamond car that Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., drove in a heat race Tuesday night at Shawano. The machine Murray ran at Shawano is in need of a new rear clip after he smacked the outside wall between turns three and four during the B-Main. … Jake O’Neil of Tucson, Ariz., is making his first-ever visit to Cedar Lake. He’s accompanied by his sponsor Joey Moriarty of Phoenix, Ariz., who has flown in to drive his car that O’Neil hauls in his trailer. … Three weeks removed from his career-milestone $10,000 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, has made the long haul to Cedar Lake to participate in the USA Nationals as part of the FANS Fund incentive program. His only previous start at the track came in the 2012 Summernationals program.
The 29th annual USA Nationals weekend at Cedar Lake Speedway begins Thursday night with a complete World of Outlaws Late Model Series racing program topped by a 30-lap feature paying $6,000 to win. The customary WoO format of time trials, heat races and B-Mains will set the field for the headline event, which offers full points toward the national tour’s championship battle.
A Thursday-night racing card has become a traditional lead-in to Cedar Lake’s USA Nationals, which includes time trials and heats on Friday night and last-chance events and the $50,000-to-win 100-lapper on Saturday evening. This is the fourth consecutive year that the preliminary program carries WoO sanctioning.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was the winner of last year’s Thursday-night WoO show. He went on to sweep the weekend with a dominant drive to victory in the USA Nationals headliner.
Thursday’s action, which also includes racing for the NASCAR Midwest Modifieds, is tentatively scheduled to start with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. CT. Time trials and racing will follow.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Eric Wells
Row 2: Jordan Yaggy, Mitch McGrath
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Jake O’Neil
Row 4: Tyler Burning, Jon Henry
Row 5: Brent Larson
Row 1: Rick Eckert, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Steve Francis, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Mike Mullen, Lance Matthees
Row 4: Gordy Gundaker, Ray Moore
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Chase Junghans
Row 2: Chad Simpson, Nick Anvelink
Row 3: Shannon Babb, Joey Moriarty
Row 4: R.C. Whitwell, Morgan Bagley
Row 1: Josh Richards, Jimmy Mars
Row 2: Cody Mahoney, Chub Frank
Row 3: Chris Simpson, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Jason Rauen, Spencer Diercks
Row 5: Nick Herrick
Row 1: Jason Feger, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Brandon Overton
Row 3: Matt Furman, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 4: Allen Murray, Chad Williamson
Row 1: Frank Heckenast Jr., A.J. Diemel
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Shane Clanton, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: Joey Coulter, Taylor Scheffler
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 15.028
Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., 15.132
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.221
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 15.254
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.294
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 15.368
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 15.394
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., 15.411
Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 15.433
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 15.526
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.533
Nick Anvelink (15), Bonduel, Wis., 15.658
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.698
Mike Mullen (99), Suamico, Wis., 15.707
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 15.729
Jake O'Neil (0), Tucson, Ariz., 15.786
Lance Matthees (90), Winona, Wis., 15.791
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 15.804
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.836
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 15.942
R.C. Whitwell (96T), Tucson, Ariz., 15.985
Jon Henry (15H), Ada, Ohio, 16.044
Ray Moore (93), Haughton, La., 16.069
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.072
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 16.221
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.38
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.635
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 15.698
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.751
Tyler Erb (91), Magnolia, Texas, 15.753
A.J. Diemel (58), Elk Mound, Wis., 15.776
Cody Mahoney (4), Hanover, Ind., 15.781
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 15.808
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.809
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.819
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 15.833
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.833
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.835
Matt Furman (51), Portland, Ore., 15.835
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.851
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.881
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.963
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.971
Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, 16.022
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 16.058
Joey Coulter (2c), Charlotte, N.C., 16.082
Spencer Diercks (29), Davenport, Iowa, 16.089
Chad Williamson (57), Watertown, S.D., 16.143
Taylor Scheffler (10s), Waukesha, Wis., 16.305
Nick Herrick (6H), West Concord, Minn., 17.089