ROSSBURG, Ohio (Oct. 13) — An uncharacteristically long winless slump for Josh Richards finally came to an end Saturday afternoon at Eldora Speedway.
Richards, 30, of Shinnston, W.Va., reached victory lane for the first time in over eight months, turning back restart challenges from Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., to capture the 25-lap odd preliminary feature for the World 100.
“It feels fantastic,” Richards said after climbing out of his Best Performance Motorsports XR1 Rocket car on Eldora’s winner’s stage. “I almost forgot what it feels like to be up here.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough year,” he continued. “We’ve had some speed, we just haven’t had things go our way. It feels good to finally get one.”
The five-time national touring series champion rolled off the outside pole to lead the entire distance, but his $10,000 score didn’t come without some moments of trepidation. Marlar nosed underneath Richards on a lap-six restart and Madden did the same following a lap-12 caution period, but neither driver was able to shake Richards from the top spot.
Madden, 43, lost ground to Richards racing through lapped traffic in the closing circuits and settled for runner-up money, a half-straightaway behind the victor. Marlar finished a healthy distance farther back in third while Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., nipped Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., by inches at the finish line to claim fourth place.
Richards felt the pressure applied by Marlar and Madden but didn’t wilt when it came. He appreciated that neither driver forced the issue in a bid to overtake him.
“I just gotta thank Madden and Marlar,” Richards said. “They both gave me room on those restarts. I wasn’t sure to pick the top or the bottom (lane), and they left me just enough room off of (turn) two (to power off the outside and remain ahead).”
Richards controlled the race’s second half but had to be careful negotiating the sun-baked afternoon surface.
“It’s tough because it was starting to rubber in patches and was really slick in patches,” Richards said. “It was coming and going, but the car was good. We’ll just have to tweak on it for tonight and hopefully we can stay up front.”
Richards, whose only previous triumphs in 2018 came when he swept the Feb. 2-3 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series season-opening doubleheader at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Ga., ended up as the overall top points earner in the World 100 preliminaries and spun a three-car invert for the heat races during Saturday night’s finale. While he has won a crown-jewel preliminary feature at Eldora in the past (2013 Dream), he’s chasing his first triumph in one of the half-mile oval’s two marquee Dirt Late Model events.
Both Madden and Marlar are also winless in Eldora crown jewels but stamped themselves as contenders with podium finishes.
Madden was one of the prelim’s top movers, hustling forward from the eighth starting spot. He reached second place with a lap-eight pass of Marlar and actually sliced Richards’s 1.6-second edge in half in a matter of three laps before a lap-12 caution flag dulled his momentum.
“We didn’t need that yellow there,” Madden said. “(The track) started rubbering after that caution.”
Nevertheless, Madden did have one more opportunity to snatch the lead from Richards. On the lap-12 restart he dived underneath the leader through turns one and two but was uncertain if he had the room to safely slide ahead of Richards.
“I don’t know if I had him cleared going into one or not after that caution,” Madden said. “I try to race everybody clean, and I probably had him cleared down there and should’ve drove up the racetrack and took his line away from him but I didn’t.”
The race’s two caution flags were caused by polesitter Duane Chamberlain of Richmond, Ind., who immediately slipped out of the top five at the initial green flag and then slowed with left-rear suspension trouble on lap six, and Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who fell off the pace on lap 12 with a left-rear flat tire sustained in a homestretch scrape with Michael Chilton of Salvisa, Ky.
Preliminary notes and results:
Odd Feature lineup
Row 1: Duane Chamberlain, Josh Richards
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Earl Pearson Jr., Shane Clanton
Row 4: Brandon Sheppard, Chris Madden
Row 5: Shannon Babb, Michael Chilton
Row 6: Bobby Pierce, Devin Moran
Row 7: Dale McDowell, Jonathan Davenport
Row 8: Brian Birkhofer, Chris Simpson
Row 9: Steven Roberts, Zack Dohm
Row 10: Steve Casebolt, Donald McIntosh
Row 11: Jon Henry, Jason Feger
Row 12: Jason Jameson, Jason Hughes
Zack Dohm smoothly rolled to victory, leading every lap on his way to defeating Donald McIntosh by a commanding margin of 4.269 seconds. Jason Feger and open-wheel modified ace Jason Hughes claimed the remaining transfer spots.
Finish: Zack Dohm, Donald McIntosh, Jason Feger, Jason Hughes, Ryan King, Dustin Nobbe, Will Roland, Nick Latham, Doug Drown, Dwight Falcon, Jason Whitaker.
Steve Roberts tip-toed around the ever-slicker afternoon surface to score the win, beating Steve Casebolt by 0.677 of a second. Jon Henry placed third and Jason Jameson, who forfeited a heat-race transfer spot to DQ for failing to report to the post-race technical inspection area, charged from the rear to finish fourth and transfer to the A-main.
Finish: Steven Roberts, Steve Casebolt, Jon Henry, Jason Jameson, Freddie Carpenter, Mike Spatola, Austin Smith, Chad Stapleton, Casey Noonan, Jon Hodgkiss, Nick Fenner, Kody Evans.
Odd consolation lineups
(12 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Steven Roberts, Austin Smith
Row 2: Mike Spatola, Jon Henry
Row 3: Steve Casebolt, Kody Evans
Row 4: Freddie Carpenter, Chad Stapleton
Row 5: Casey Noonan, Nick Fenner
Row 6: Jon Hodgkiss, Jason Jameson
Row 1: Zack Dohm, Donald McIntosh
Row 2: Will Roland, Ryan King
Row 3: Jason Feger, Jason Hughes
Row 4: Dustin Nobbe, Nick Latham
Row 5: Dwight Falcon, Doug Drown
Row 6: Jason Whitaker
Shane Clanton cruised to a wire-to-wire victory, taking the checkered flag 0.937 of a second in front of Earl Pearson Jr., who slipped by Devin Moran for the runner-up slot on lap one. Pearson closed in on Clanton late but never drew close enough to challenge. Moran, who lost second to Pearson after he grazed the turn-two wall, settled for third and Chris Simpson placed fourth after ducking underneath Donald McIntosh off turn four on lap seven.
Finish: Shane Clanton, Earl Pearson Jr., Devin Moran, Chris Simpson, Donald McIntosh, Ryan King, Jason Hughes, Nick Latham, Doug Drown.
Outside polesitter Chris Madden shot to the inside of the track on the opening lap to assume command and never looked back en route to a flag-to-flag triumph by 2.825 seconds over Mike Marlar. Bobby Pierce made an early vault from seventh to third and finished in the show position while Brian Birkhofer was fourth, leaving fifth-place Zack Dohm, who entered the program leading the World 100 points standings, on the outside looking in for the feature.
Finish: Chris Madden, Mike Marlar, Bobby Pierce, Brian Birkhofer, Zack Dohm, Will Roland, Jason Feger, Dustin Nobbe, Dwight Falcon, Jason Whitaker.
Josh Richards pulled a textbook slider on Duane Chamberlain to grab the top spot from the race-long leader with two laps to go and drove away to capture the non-stop event. Chamberlain settled for the runner-up position, 2.140 seconds behind Richards, while Jason Jameson crossed the finish line in third place but didn't report to the post-race technical inspection area in the pit area, disqualifying him from his run. That moved Michael Chilton, who nipped Jonathan Davenport for what appeared to be fourth and final transfer spot, to third and elevated Davenport to the fourth position and a berth in the feature.
Finish: Josh Richards, Duane Chamberlain, Michael Chilton, Jonathan Davenport, Austin Smith, Jon Henry, Kody Evans, Chad Stapleton, Nick Fenner (DQ) Jason Jameson.
Backing up his qualifying effort in which he set a new track record, Brandon Sheppard ducked underneath Don O’Neal off turn four heading to the white flag to grab the lead and march on to victory. O’Neal, who led laps 2-8 after passing polesitter Steven Roberts, finished 0.377 of a second behind the winner in second. Shannon Babb advanced from sixth to place third and Dale McDowell claimed the final transfer spot.
Finish: Brandon Sheppard, Don O’Neal, Shannon Babb, Dale McDowell, Steve Roberts, Mike Spatola, Steve Casebolt, Freddie Carpenter, Casey Noonan, Jon Hodgkiss.
Odd heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Steven Roberts, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Dale McDowell, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Mike Spatola, Shannon Babb
Row 4: Casey Noonan, Steve Casebolt
Row 5: Freddie Carpenter, Jon Hodgkiss
Row 1: Duane Chamberlain, Jason Jameson
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Josh Richards
Row 3: Michael Chilton, Austin Smith
Row 4: Chad Stapleton, Jon Henry
Row 5: Kody Evans, Nick Fenner
Row 1: Dustin Nobbe, Chris Madden
Row 2: Mike Marlar, Zack Dohm
Row 3: Brian Birkhofer, Jason Feger
Row 4: Bobby Pierce, Dwight Falcon
Row 5: Will Roland, Jason Whitaker
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Ryan King
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Devin Moran
Row 3: Donald McIntosh, Chris Simpson
Row 4: Jason Hughes, Doug Drown
Row 5: Nick Latham
Saturday afternoon pre-race notes
A 78-car field is signed in for Saturday’s postponed preliminary program, which began virtually right on schedule with hot laps at 10:30 a.m. Eight heat races plus B-mains and two 25-lap, $10,000-to-win features are on the agenda. … The rain that washed out Friday night’s program continued through the overnight hours; at one point the temperature dipped low enough that snow actually fell over the speedway for a short period. Teams and campers awoke Saturday morning to chilly temps in the high 30s, but sun began breaking through shortly before the start of practice and skies are forecast to remain clear throughout the day with highs climbing into the low 50s. … Seven haulers were parked outside the track in the upper pit area on Friday, but Eldora officials moved all of them into the infield which will help hasten the alignment of the Saturday’s races. … The track surface was extremely quick during hot laps with Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., topping the speed charts at 14.899 seconds, putting him just a tick off the track record. Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., also broke into the 14-second bracket with a circuit of 14.998 seconds. … Officials plan to run off the afternoon preliminary action and then immediately begin clearing the grandstands and sweeping the pits while track crews work on track maintenance to prepare for the evening’s World 100 finale. Heat races are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Friday's program postponed
Friday night’s World 100 preliminary program at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, was postponed by rain that arrived during the drivers’ meeting, setting up a doubleheader on Saturday.
Officials will open the track’s gates on Saturday at 10 a.m. and begin hot laps at 10:30 a.m. for Friday’s program, which will include eight heats and four consolations to set the fields for the pair of 25-lap, $10,000-to-win preliminary features. The stands will be cleared following the completion of the afternoon action and then the evening card that features heats, consolations, scrambles and the 48th annual World 100 finale will be run as scheduled.
A total of 77 cars went through inspection on Friday afternoon for the restart of the World 100 weekend, which was stopped on its original Sept. 6-8 date by rain that set in following the completion of the first preliminary program on Thursday night.
Those who purchased a pay-per-view video package for Friday’s program will receive access to watch when it is made up starting Saturday morning.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 14.761
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 14.821
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.842
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.884
Zack Dohm (17), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.928
Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 15.002
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 15.014
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 15.047
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.076
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.079
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.098
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.102
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.132
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 15.140
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.144
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.153
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.182
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.192
Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 15.192
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.197
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 15.201
Joey Coulter (2), Concord, N.C., 15.233
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 15.234
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 15.242
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 15.251
Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 15.252
Duane Chamberlain (20c), Richmond, Ind., 15.258
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 15.263
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 15.280
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.285
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.350
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 15.361
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 15.369
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 15.371
Michael Chilton (97), Salvisa, Ky., 15.381
Greg Johnson (17J), Bedford, Pa., 15.404
Brian Birkhofer (30), Muscatine, Iowa, 15.418
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 15.419
Donald McIntosh (58), Dawsonville, Ga., 15.422
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 15.428
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 15.443
Rob Anderzack (8a), Swanton, Ohio, 15.456
Austin Smith (84), Rome, Ga., 15.478
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.528
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.549
Jerry Bowersock (95j), Wapakoneta, Ohio, 15.569
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.569
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 15.574
Casey Noonan (1N), Sylvania, Ohio, 15.586
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.605
Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 15.607
Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 15.652
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.655
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 15.682
Jason Hughes (4H), Watts, Okla., 15.707
Colten Burdette (44b), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.727
Steve Casebolt (C9), Richmond, Ind., 15.733
Shannon Thornsberry (17T), Martin, Ky., 15.754
Jon Henry (20H), Ada, Ohio, 15.757
Rod Conley (71R), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 15.757
Dwight Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La., 15.761
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 15.775
Doug Drown (12D), Wooster, Ohio, 15.799
Kyle Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 15.891
Freddie Carpenter (0K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.938
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.961
Kody Evans (4G), Camden, Ohio, 15.998
Dwight Falcon Sr. (F4), Pine Grove, La., 16.109
Will Roland (22R), Jasper, Ga., 16.144
Matt Miller (3), Whitehouse, Ohio, 16.168
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 16.237
Jason Whitaker (w13), Cincinnati, Ohio, 16.286
Curtis Roberts (9R), Coleman, Mich., 16.300
Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., 16.443
Jon Hodgkiss (69), Kennedy Township, Pa., 16.998
Bryant Dickinson (5*), Ionia, Mich., 17.225
Nick Fenner (22F), Morenci, Mich., 17.243
Ernie Cordier (4c), Brodhead, Ky., 17.422
Saturday morning schedule
10 a.m..: General admission gates open
10:30 a.m.: Hot laps
Invocation and national anthem
- Eight heat races (10 laps; alternating odd/even with four transferring to main event)
- Four consolation races (12 laps; two for odd, two for even and top four from each transferring to main event)
- Odd feature race (25 laps)
- Even feature race (25 laps)
All spectator and pit areas will be cleared after checkered flag