NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 6) — Josh Richards is officially on fire.
The 28-year-old superstar from Shinnston, W.Va., grabbed the lead from Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., on lap 35 and never looked back en route to capturing the $50,000 top prize in Saturday night’s 29th annual USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway, giving him a big-money World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory for the second consecutive week.
“I’m speechless right now,” said Richards, who scored a $27,000 triumph in the July 30 WoO-sanctioned Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway. “This (Rocket XR1) car’s been so fun to drive. I just can’t believe it … this is awesome.”
Richards survived a brief threat from Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., following a lap-91 caution flag to capture Cedar Lake’s 100-lap crown jewel event for the second time in his career. It was also his 13th WoO triumph of 2016 — his second victory in three days, in fact, after he kicked off the USA Nationals weekend with a win in Thursday night’s 30-lap WoO A-Main — and moved him within one checkered flag of matching Darrell Lanigan’s all-time record win total on the national tour.
Davenport, who rallied from a pit stop for a blown right-rear tire on lap 10, had one final shot at a second straight USA Nationals crown after the late caution period wiped out Richards’s edge of over two seconds. But the 32-year-old driver got hung up in the turn-two cushion on lap 94, lost too much ground to make up and settled for second place, 2.989 seconds behind the victor.
Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., who set fast time in Friday night’s USA Nationals qualifying program, ran inside the top five for the race’s entire distance and finished third. The 27-year-old WoO regular matched his season-best finish on the traveling circuit and earned $10,000 — his first five-figure race payday since he won the only WoO feature of his career on April 28, 2013, at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.
Teenage sensation Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., came on strong in the final laps to finish fourth and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., overtook five-time USA Nationals champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., on lap 98 to finish fifth.
Moyer, who ran in the top five for more than half the distance, finished sixth while Clanton faded to a seventh-place finish after starting from the pole position and leading laps 1-34.
Richards, who started fourth, sat in second place on lap 10 when Davenport brought out the first of the race’s 12 caution flags due to his car’s exploded right-rear tire. The three-time WoO champion then stalked Clanton until using the inside lane to gain command on lap 35.
A long green-flat stretch following a lap-65 caution flag allowed Richards to build a comfortable edge of nearly three seconds over his closest pursuer. But while it appeared he was cruising around the 3/8-mile oval in his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car, he was battling a deteriorating setup.
“The longer we’d run my right-front tire wouldn’t keep up and we’d keep getting tighter and tighter,” Richards said. “Then we were starting to fall off and they were starting to gain on us.”
The race’s final caution flag, on lap 91 for debris in turn one, brought Richards completely back to the pack. Most notably, he found himself in front of Davenport, who had charged all the way back through the field after his early pit stop, finally reaching second place on lap 74 with daring outside pass of Wells off turn four.
“I thought Clanton was still running second and then I looked up and saw the 6 (Davenport) on the board (in turn one) and I was like, ‘Oh, no, here we go,’” said Richards, whose previous USA Nationals triumph came in 2011. “I knew where he was going and that I’d have my hands full.
“I knew we were best if I just paced myself and hit the traction spots right. I didn’t want to do anything crazy and go off and banzai the top and push and then have him drive underneath me, so I was like, ‘I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing the whole race and try to stay smooth.’
“I knew he’d give it all he had so it was good to come out on top,” he added. “Luckily it all worked out.”
Richards’s flawless performance gave him a two-week Fairbury-Cedar Lake sweep that duplicated the 2015 achievement of Davenport, whose never-say-die bid to pull out a dramatic USA Nationals repeat fell short when he slipped too high in turn two with six laps remaining.
“Man, I’ll tell you what, if it wasn’t for bad luck we just wouldn’t have any,” said Davenport, whose early-race flat tire came after he struggled with a misfiring motor at Fairbury and Thursday and Friday at Cedar Lake. “The tire wasn’t blistered or anything. I was just taking it easy there at first, so I guess we just run over something. That’s just the way it goes.
“I thought we might have something for (Richards) there when that caution come out (on lap 91), though. I just got in it a little too straight when I was so close to him and didn’t have no air on my nose. I tried to throttle around it and right at the last second I was either gonna hit the wall or pass him, so I decided to lift right there. Of course, it brought the right-front over and I got hung on the cushion. We just tried to hang onto second from there.
“It would’ve been a lot easier on us if we could’ve stayed up there and saved the edges on my tires. Coming back up through the field I was having to go places I didn’t want to go and I was having to wheel-spin a little too much and I was having to run around these (inside) tires so I probably bent the lower (control arm) on the left-front.
“They’ve been on a roll lately, though, so to run second to them is pretty good,” he added while offering congratulations to Richards and his Rocket team.
Wells, meanwhile, wore a big smile after enjoying arguably one of the best performances of his Dirt Late Model career. It came just eight days after he destroyed a car in a wild series of flips during a practice session at Fairbury.
“We wanted to win it, but we’ll take a top-three with these guys any day,” said Wells, who started fifth in a Longhorn Race Car he debuted after he crashed at Fairbury. “The car was really good and it was fun racing with Clanton and Davenport and Bobby Pierce. I had a pretty good time.
“I just tried to stay out of trouble. I know there at the end that cushion was treacherous and I didn’t want to no part of it."
The majority of the race’s dozen caution flags were caused by drivers slowing their cars on the track. In addition to Davenport on lap 10, other culprits were Jason Rauen of Farley, Iowa (lap 12); Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. (lap 25); Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa. (lap 26); Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill. (lap 29); Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga. (lap 59); and Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark. (lap 65).
Cautions were also triggered by Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who spun in turn four on lap 13; Joey Coulter of Charlotte, N.C., who twirled in turn four on lap 25; Steve Casebolt of Indiana, Pa., who went around in turn three on a lap 26 restart while trying to catch the back of the pack after coming out of the pits; and Morgan Bagley of Tyler, Texas, who lost a right-rear wheel and slapped the turn-three wall on lap 44.
Notes: Richards became the eighth driver to win the USA Nationals multiple times, joining Moyer and Scott Bloomquist (five apiece) and two-time victors Rick Aukland, Jack Boggs, Jimmy Mars, Brian Birkhofer and Dale McDowell. … Dennis Erb Jr. had advanced from the ninth starting spot to third place when he slowed with a right-rear flat tire heading to a lap-25 restart. He pitted and returned to finish 10th. … Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., was running third on lap 20 when he pulled to the infield with terminal mechanical trouble. … With the Cedar Lake surface turning heavier and faster after over a half-hour of track reconditioning before the start of the 100-lapper, flying mud caused many drivers to quickly run out of tearoffs. Officials allowed drivers who faced visibility problems to stop on the track in turn two during a lap-44 caution period and meet a crew member to switch helmets; Pierce, Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., were drivers who took advantage of the opportunity.
Preliminary results and notes:
Lap 100: Richards takes the checkered flag for his second USA Nationals victory, pulling away over the final nine laps. Davenport stayed close after the restart but got hung up in the turn-two cushion on lap 94 and lost too much ground too make up. Davenport settled for second, followed by Wells, Pierce and Shirley.
Lap 91: Caution flies for debris in turn one ... Richards had an over two-second lead over Davenport, who grabbed second from Wells on lap 74. Wells runs third, followed by Moyer and Pierce (Clanton has fallen to sixth).
Lap 65: The caution parade continues ... Billy Moyer Jr. slows to trigger the 11th yellow. Richards leads Clanton, Wells, Shirley and Davenport.
Lap 59: Overton slows for a caution ... Richards had built a lead of over two seconds; he leads Clanton, Wells, Shirley, Davenport, Pierce, Pearson, Tyler Erb, Moyer and Mars.
Lap 44: With visibility from flying mud causing drivers to run out of tearoffs quickly, officials permit drivers to stop in turn two and get new helmets from their crews without relinquishing their spots. Among the drivers who stopped were Pierce, Tyler Erb, Mars and Gundaker.
Lap 44: Caution as Bagley loses wheel and spins into turn-three wall. After taking lead on lap 35, Richards paces Clanton, Wells, Pierce, Shirley, Pearson, Davenport, Tyler Erb, Moyer and Chad Simpson.
Lap 29: Feger slows while in top 10, bringing out a caution. Clanton leads Richards, Wells, Pierce, Chad Simpson, Shirley, Moyer, Pearson, a charging Davenport and Matthees.
Lap 26: Caution flies for a slowing Boom Briggs, who pits; the restart is aborted when Steve Casebolt, who came out of the pits to tag the rear of the restart, spun between turns three and four. Clanton leads Richards, Wells, Pierce and Moyer.
Lap 25: Coming to the restart, third-place Dennis Erb Jr. slowed in turns three and four and stopped on the homestretch, keeping the race under caution. He headed to the pit area for an apparent tire change.
Lap 25: Caution for Joey Coulter, who spun in turn four. Shannon Babb also pulled to infield at the same time. Clanton leads Richards, Dennis Erb, Wells and Moyer ... Zeigler pulled to the infield while running third on lap 21.
Lap 13: Another caution, for Tim McCreadie's turn-four spin.
Lap 12: The race's second caution flag flew for a slowing Jason Rauen; two laps earlier Jonathan Davenport slowed with a blown right-rear tire to bring out the first caution. (J.D. returned after a pit stop.) Shane Clanton led Richards, Zeigler, Wells and Matthees.
Cedar Lake's famed USA National driver introductions — with the track lights turned out and fans waving blinking necklaces they were given upon entering the speedway, drivers drove out onto the track one-by-one with a spotlight illuminating their cars — ended at 10:53 p.m. CT, setting the stage for the start of the weekend's headline event. … Provisional starters for the 100-lapper include Chub Frank and Morgan Bagley (WoO points); Gordy Gundaker (FANSFund); Chase Junghans (track); and Tyler Erb, Joey Coulter and Boom Briggs (WoO emergency provisionals).
NASCAR Late Model feature
Tuning up for his run at a third career USA Nationals victory, Jimmy Mars scored a flag-to-flag win in the 30-lap NASCAR Late Model feature.
Mars turned back a mid-race challenge from Friday-night winner Jason Krohn to register his 47th career victory at Cedar Lake and pocket $2,500.
NASCAR Late Model feature finish (30 laps): 1. Jimmy Mars, 2. Jason Krohn, 3. A.J. Diemel, 4. Jake Redetzke, 5. Darrell Nelson, 6. Nick Anvelink, 7. Pat Doar, 8. Mike Prochnow, 9. Tim Isenberg, 10. Mike Nutzmann, 11. John Kaanta, 12. Scott Gilberts, 13. Zach Wohlers, 14. Ben Hanke, 15. Travis Budisalovich, 16. Rob Odegard, 17. Buddy Hanestad, 18. Chad Mahder, 19. Mike Mullen, 20. Nick Herrick, 21. Ryan Corbett, 22. Greg Nippoldt, 23. Jesse Glenz, 24. Steve Laursen.
NASCAR Late Model feature lineup
Row 1: Jimmy Mars, Rob Odegard
Row 2: Jake Redetzke, Jason Krohn
Row 3: A.J. Diemel, Pat Doar
Row 4: Darrell Nelson, Steve Laursen
Row 5: Tim Isenberg, Ryan Corbett
Row 6: Ben Hanke, Nick Anvelink
Row 7: Mike Mullen, Nick Herrick
Row 8: Greg Nippoldt, Mke Nutzmann
Row 9: Zach Wohlers, Mike Prochnow
Row 10: John Kaanta, Jesse Glenz
Row 11: Travis Budisalovich, Scott Gilberts
Row 12: Buddy Hanestad, Chad Mahder
Last Chance Race
Tim McCreadie scored a wire-to-wire win in the 15-lap event to move on to the USA Nationals. He held off a late threat from Steve Francis, who finished 0.680 of a second behind in second and claimed the final transfer spot.
Finish (top 2 transfer): Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis, Chase Junghans, Gordy Gundaker, Spencer Diercks, Chub Frank, Chris Simpson, Tyler Bruening, Boom Briggs, Allen Murray, Mitch McGrath, Joey Moriarty, R.C. Whitwell (DNS) Morgan Bagley.
Last Chance Race lineup
(15 laps; top 2 transfer)
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Gordy Gundaker
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Steve Francis
Row 3: Spencer Diercks, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Tyler Bruening, R.C. Whitwell
Row 5: Chris Simpson, Chub Frank
Row 6: Boom Briggs, Mitch McGrath
Row 7: Joey Moriarty, Allen Murray
Shannon Babb dominated the action, rolling to a flag-to-flag victory by 1.139 seconds over Jon Henry. Henry grabbed second from Gordy Gundaker midway through the 15-lapper and stayed there to the finish. A caution flag flew on the opening circuit for a turn-four tangle involving Joey Coulter and Allen Murray and again on lap two when Tyler Erb went spinning out of second place in turn four after a scrape with Henry.
Finish (top 2 transfer): Shannon Babb, Jon Henry, Gordy Gundaker, Steve Francis, Morgan Bagley, R.C. Whitwell, Chub Frank, Mitch McGrath, Allen Murray, Tyler Erb, Matt Furman, Jake O’Neil, Mike Mullen, Ray Moore, Taylor Scheffler.
Jason Rauen emerged victorious in a wild event, leading the final three laps and beating Earl Pearson Jr. by a mere 0.112 of a second. Rauen grabbed the lead on lap 13 from A.J. Diemel, who slid high in turn four and then ran into the rearend of Pearson on the homestretch after Tim McCreadie slid between Diemel and Pearson. A caution flag flew for Diemel, who slowed with a bent nose, and Rauen held off Pearson over the final circuits. McCreadie, who led until sliding high on a lap-seven restart, settled for third place. The race’s first caution flag flew on lap seven when Boom Briggs blew a right-rear tire between turns three and four while in a battle for fourth place. Yellow-flag conditions continued on the ensuing restart when Jordan Yaggy slid sideways in turn four near the front of the pack and collected, among others, Joey Coulter, Chris Simpson, Joey Moriarty and Brent Larson.
Finish (top 2 transfer): Jason Rauen, Earl Pearson Jr., Tim McCreadie, Chase Junghans, Spencer Diercks, Tyler Bruening, Chris Simpson, Boom Briggs, Joey Moriarty, Brent Larson, A.J. Diemel, Jordan Yaggy, Joey Coulter, Nick Anvelink (DNS) Chad Williamson.
The USA Nationals concludes on a sparkling, comfortable summer day. Skies are clear and the high temperature is in only the high 70s. … Veteran Lance Matthees of Winona, Minn., has received plenty of attention from fans and pitside observers since winning Friday night’s first heat race. Making just his fourth open-competition Dirt Late Model start of 2016 with his Rocket XR1 machine (he’s run mainly spec-engine events this season), the 60-year-old will make his 13th career start in the USA Nationals feature but first since a 23rd-place finish in 2006. “I think I’ve been to every USA Nationals,” said Matthees, whose best finishes in the event are fourth (1995) and fifth (’90 and ’96). … Five of the six former USA Nationals winners (Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Rick Eckert of York, Pa., Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.) are already in the feature field. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., is the lone past champion scheduled to run in a B-Main. … With 12 WoO victories already under his belt this season and a nearly perfect weekend so far at Cedar Lake (Thursday feature win, Friday heat win), the 28-year-old Richards is confident in his chances of advancing from the fourth starting spot to win his second career USA Nationals wooden eagle trophy. “The car’s been really great,” said Richards, who scored a $27,000 WoO triumph one week ago in the Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway. “I think the track’s gonna be really good and go through a lot of changes. We just gotta try to get our balance right to stay up front.” … Cody Mahoney of Hanover, Ind., is the lone Friday-night entrant who isn’t back for Saturday evening’s action. His car was struck by mechanical trouble during Friday’s program and told WoO officials that he’s “too far behind to spend all day working on it.” …
The 29th annual USA Nationals weekend concludes on Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway with the running of the 100-lap feature paying $50,000 to win.
Two 12-lap B-Mains (with two transferring from each) and a 15-lap last-chance race (two more qualifiers) are on the agenda for the WoO Late Models. The field will be rounded out by two WoO points provisionals; a FANSFund provisional; and a track provisional.
The drivers' meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and hot laps are set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., earned the pole position for the USA Nationals with his victory in Friday night’s 6-lap dash for heat winners. Defending race champion Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., will take the green flag from the outside pole.
A full program for Cedar Lake's NASCAR Late Model division is also on Saturday's card. Four heats and two B-Mains will precede a 30-lap feature.
(15 laps; top 2 transfer to A-Main, 3-9 to Last Chance Race)
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, A.J. Diemel
Row 2: Jason Rauen, Tyler Bruening
Row 3: Jordan Yaggy, Boom Briggs
Row 4: Joey Coulter, Chase Junghans
Row 5: Chris Simpson, Spencer Diercks
Row 6: Joey Moriarty, Nick Anvelink
Row 7: Chad Williamson, Brent Larson
Row 8: Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Gordy Gundaker, Jon Henry
Row 3: Steve Francis, R.C. Whitwell
Row 4: Morgan Bagley, Allen Murray
Row 5: Chub Frank, Jake O’Neil
Row 6: Ray Moore, Mitch McGrath
Row 7: Taylor Scheffler, Matt Furman
Row 8: Mike Mullen
USA Nationals lineup
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Josh Richards
Row 3: Eric Wells, Lance Matthees
Row 4: Bobby Pierce, Billy Moyer
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Chad Simpson
Row 6: Rick Eckert, Jimmy Mars
Row 7: Billy Moyer Jr., Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 8: Jason Feger, Steve Casebolt
Row 9: Brian Shirley, Brandon Overton
Row 10: Jason Rauen, Shannon Babb
Row 11: Earl Pearson Jr., Jon Henry
Row 12: Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis
Row 13: Chub Frank, Morgan Bagley
Row 14: Gordy Gundaker, Chase Junghans
Row 15: Tyler Erb, Joey Coulter
Row 16: Boom Briggs
Past USA Nationals winners
2015: Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, Ga.
2014: Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
2013: Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
2012: Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
2011: Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.
2010: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2009: Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
2008: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2007: Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
2006: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2005: Dale McDowell, Rossville, Ga.
2004: Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
2003: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2002: Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
2001: Dale McDowell, Rossville, Ga.
2000: Davey Johnson, Greensburg, Pa.
1999: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
1998: Donnie Moran, Dresden, Ohio
1997: Rick Aukland, Fargo, N.D.
1996: Jimmy Mars, Elk Mound, Wis.
1995: Jack Boggs, Grayson, Ky.
1994: Jack Boggs, Grayson, Ky.
1993: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1992: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1991: Rick Aukland, Fargo, N.D.
1990: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1989: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1988: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.