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Volusia Speedway Park

Four in a row: Richards wins WoO opener again

February 11, 2010, 6:09 pm
From staff and series reports
Josh Richards takes the checkered flag. (thesportswire.net)
Josh Richards takes the checkered flag. (thesportswire.net)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 11) — No one was surprised to see Josh Richards win Thursday night's 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series season opener at Volusia Speedway Park. But from the 17th starting spot? Even Richards couldn't have conjured up a more exciting way to kick off his WoO title defense and capture the national tour's lidlifter for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year. | Slideshow | Complete Volusia coverage

"I was not expecting that at all," Richards said after putting on the most memorable performance of the 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio. "To have a car that good, and to start so far back and be that dominant in a race against these guys — it's just very rare. It's an awesome feeling."

Richards, 21, of Shinnston, W.Va., blasted through the field in the Rocket Chassis house car he drove to victory in last year's opener, cracking the top five on a lap-15 restart and then sliding by Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., in succession to reach second on lap 19. He quickly ran down race-long leader Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and sailed by the home-state driver on lap 27 to assume command for good.

Pearson settled for second place, crossing the finish line 4.320 seconds behind Richards. Brady Smith was hot on Pearson's rear deck in the final laps and finished third, while McCreadie placed fourth and 2007 WoO champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., advanced from the 19th starting spot to finish fifth in his Valvoline Rocket.

Richards pocketed $10,675 for what might have been the most spectacular of his 21 career WoO triumphs. He won from the 18th starting spot on Oct. 7, 2008, at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway, but that race didn't come with the extra significance of extending an amazing streak.

"To win four openers in a row is just really cool," said Richards, who started from the pole position in 2007 and third in both the 2008 and 2009 opening-night WoO events at the half-mile oval outside Daytona Beach. "There's always the luck factor involved — and we've been very lucky here. But I feel like we earned this one too.

"To come from the back really shows how strong your team is. Matt (Barnes), Jimmy (Frey), Joe (Pilkenton), Ernie (Davis), my dad (Mark Richards), Steve Baker — they all did an awesome job."

Richards found himself mired deep in the starting field after finishing third in his heat race, but he began the feature confident he could climb forward. It didn't take him long to realize he just might be able to still pull off a victory.

"I drove a little hard in the heat and fell back to third, so I was a little disappointed in myself for that," Richards said. "But I was like, 'You know what? Just get out there and race, do what you always do.' I put the heat out of my head and just started fresh in the feature.

"The way the car felt, after a few laps I knew we were gonna be good. The car was just phenomenal. We started passing cars, but I had no idea what position we were in. Then I looked up (at the scoreboard), saw Brady (Smith) was fifth and he was right there in front of us, and I was like, 'We're up there and have a pretty good shot of running top-three.'

"After I got the lead I just tried to stay patient. Those last few laps I just about stopped going around there, and I guess going slower actually made me faster. The car was just phenomenal."

The drivers Richards vanquished certainly agreed with his assessment.

"(Richards) was extremely good tonight," said Pearson, who started third but moved up one row after polesitter Dale McDowell of Rossville, Ga., spun between turns one and two at the initial green flag. "He could roll right through that middle or wherever he needed to go. We were a little bit too tight and had to stay down there on the bottom. I don't even know where he started, but he blew by me and that's all I saw of him."

Smith, meanwhile, stood in awe of Richards's opening-night superiority but was very satisfied with his outing. He didn't even qualify for last year's opener at Volusia, putting him in a points hole for the start of his first campaign as a WoO regular.

"I don't know what it is about the opener here, but Josh has something figured out," said Smith, who started sixth. "We got tight and couldn't run the way he could, but we're very happy with third. This is a lot better start than last year."

Four caution flags slowed the event, but there were no serious incidents. After McDowell's opening-lap spin, the other cautions flew for stopped cars: Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., on lap 15; Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., on lap 19; and Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky., on lap 37.

The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH is scheduled to continue Friday with a $10,000-to-win UMP-sanctioned feature on Friday, following by another $10,000-to-win WoO event on Saturday to wrap up the week of Late Model action. — Kevin Kovac

WoO @ Volusia: (1) Josh Richards, (2) Earl Pearson Jr., (3) Brady Smith, (4) Tim McCreadie, (5) Steve Francis, (6) Dale McDowell, (7) Billy Moyer, (8) Tim Dohm, (9) Dennis Erb Jr., (10) Austin Hubbard, (11) Darrell Lanigan, (12) Eddie Carrier Jr., (13) Rick Eckert, (14) Tim Fuller, (15) Eric Jacobsen, (16) Jack Sullivan, (17) Shannon Babb, (18) Chub Frank, (19) Clint Smith, (20) Brandon Kinzer, (21) Jimmy Owens, (22) John Blankenship, (23) Brad Neat, (24) Russ King, (25) Chris Madden, (26) Jason Feger, (27) Jared Landers, (28) Greg Johnson, (29) Shane Clanton. Fast qualifier (among 68 cars): Landers, 15.961 seconds. Heat race winners: Moyer, McCreadie, McDowell, Pearson, Babb, B. Smith. Consolation winners: Francis, Johnson, Dohm. Provisional starters: Fuller, C. Smith, Clanton, King, Feger.

Preliminary results:

Redraw and provisionals

Dale McDowell and Tim McCreadie will be on the front row for the main event (correcting our earlier information; heat winners redrew for positions in the pits). Earl Pearson Jr. and Shannon Babb are on the second row with Billy Moyer and Brady Smith in row three. Series provisionals, based on last year's points, go to Tim Fuller and Clint Smith. Emergency series provisionals go to Russ King and Shane Clanton, who is expected to make just a brief appearance in the No. 26 car of Tony Knowles (instead of Clint Smith's backup, as originally expected). Jason Feger is the 29th starter with a UMP provisional.

Third consolation

Polesitter Tim Dohm jumped into the early lead, built a half-straightaway lead after two laps and cruised the rest of the way. Dohm's only hiccup came when he slowed in turn four midway through the race to avoid Mike Hammerle, who was heading for the infield pits. Third-starting Randy Korte ran second until slipping high out of turn four on the ninth lap, allowing front-row starter Austin Hubbard to grab the final transfer spot. Korte was third and Tim Fuller fourth in the caution-free consy.

Finish (cars running at finish): Tim Dohm, Austin Hubbard, Randy Korte, Tim Fuller, Tyler Ivey, Jordan Bland, Tommy Kerr, Jason McBride, Jeff Beyers, Mike Collins, Wendell Wallace, Dave Zona.

Second consolation

Fifth-starting Greg Johnson rallied in the inside groove for a victory, overtaking race-long leader Eric Jacobsen in the final laps for a 12-lap victory. Jacobsen, who started outside the front row, ran the outside most of the race but dropped to the lower groove after falling to second (Jacobsen and Dennis Erb Jr. are the only drivers to compete in all 12 Georgia-Florida Speedweeks features). Polesitter Steve Casebolt battled Johnson through the race's middle stages but ended up third. The first start was scuttled when Brent Robinson and Will Vaught lost control between turns one and two.

Finish (cars running at the finish): Greg Johnson, Eric Jacobsen, Steve Casebolt, Patrick Sheltra, Tyler Reddick, Will Vaught, Tony Knowles, Clint Smith, Mason Zeigler, Ronnie Rihn, Darren Peters, Chuck Julien.

First consolation

Sixth-starting Steve Francis made up ground quickly in the low groove, overtaking polesitter Eric Wells on the sixth lap and cruising the rest of the way for a 12-lap victory. Eighth-starting Dennis Erb Jr. stayed in the tire tracks of Francis on his way to the front and got the second and final transfer spot. Fifth-starting Dan Stone made a high-side pursuit of Erb in the final laps, but he ended up falling to fourth behind Dan Schlieper on the final lap. Two cautions slowed the action; Jonathan DeHaven stopped on the frontstretch on the seventh lap, and fourth-starting Vic Coffey slowed for a lap-nine yellow.

Finish (cars running at finish): Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Dan Schlieper, Dan Stone, Mike Knight, Whitney McQueary, Tyler Bruening, Eric Wells, Jonathan DeHaven, Jill George.

Sixth heat

Winning a first-lap battle of teammates starting on the front row, Earl Pearson Jr. slipped under Brad Neat exiting turn four and paced Neat the rest of the 10-lapper. Fifth-starting Eddie Carrier Jr. moved up to finish third in the final transfer spot ahead of Austin Hubbard in the caution-free prelim.

Finish: Earl Pearson Jr., Brad Neat, Eddie Carrier Jr., Austin Hubbard, Tommy Kerr, Russ King, Jordan Bland, Jeff Beyers, Joel Callahan, Dave Zona, Mike Hammerle.

Fifth heat

Inheriting the pole when John Blankenship was penalized for the first attempted start, Dale McDowell took advantage and raced to a 10-lap victory. Blankenship recovered to take second from Josh Richards in the early laps, while Richards dropped to fourth before regaining third from Tim Dohm with an inside pass in turn three on the seventh lap. Richards will have a lot of work to do if he plans to maintain his streak of three consecutive WoO season-opening victories; he'll started 17th in the main event.

Finish: Dale McDowell, John Blankenship, Josh Richards, Tim Dohm, Randy Korte, Tim Fuller, Boom Briggs, Tyler Ivey, Jason McBride, Mike Collins, Wendell Wallace.

Fourth heat

Polesitter Shannon Babb, Wednesday's feature winner, cruised to victory in the 10-lapper over Darrell Lanigan, Monday's feature winner. They broke away from the field along with outside front-row starter Brandon Kinzer, who got the final transfer spot. Eric Jacobsen tracked Kinzer down late but settled for fourth. Steve Sheppard Jr. was in the mix for a transfer spot but got the worst of a tight restart on the third lap and never recovered. The lone caution appeared on the third lap when Will Vaught spun in turn four while running fifth. Clint Smith pulled off the track near the halfway point.

Finish: Shannon Babb, Darrell Lanigan, Brandon Kinzer, Eric Jacobsen, Patrick Sheltra, Steve Sheppard Jr., Will Vaught, Brent Robinson, Mason Zeigler, Chuck Julien, Clint Smith.

Third heat

Outside front-row starter Brady Smith swept around polesitter Jack Sullivan entering turn one and never looked back en route to victory Sullivan briefly fell to third behind Chris Madden, regained the spot, then lost it again in a one-lap dash after a late caution. Sullivan fought off a last-ditch challenge from Steve Casebolt for the third and final transfer spot. Kyle Berck ran fourth most of the race, but went up in smoke with two laps remaining. Two cautions appeared, both for spins by Darren Peters on laps three and nine.

Finish: Brady Smith, Chris Madden, Jack Sullivan, Steve Casebolt, Jason Feger, Tyler Reddick, Greg Johnson, Ronnie Rihn, Darren Peters, Kyle Berck, Tony Knowles.

Second heat

Poilesitter Tim McCreadie reclaimed the lead from fellow front-row starter Jimmy Owens with an inside move in turn four on the fourth lap and raced to victory. Owens stayed in touch with McCreadie while settling for second. Third-starting Chub Frank held off Dan Schlieper for the third and final transfer spot. Brian Birkhofer slowed with problems on the fifth lap and headed to the pits through the turn-four exit, drawing the first of two cautions. A struggling Dennis Erb Jr. got sideways briefly for another caution on the seventh lap, and Donald Beyers spun into the inside turn-four wall in avoiding Erb.

Finish: Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens, Chub Frank, Dan Schlieper, Vic Coffey, Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Ricky Weiss, Jonathan DeHaven, Donald Beyers, Brian Birkhofer.

First heat

Launching from an all-Batesvile, Ark., front row, outside starter Billy Moyer built a big lead and cruised to victory, lapping the slowest competitors. Third-starting Rick Eckert finished second whlie polesitter Jared Landers recovered from a subpar start for the third and final transfer spot. Eric Wells finished a distant fourth.

Finish: Billy Moyer, Rick Eckert, Jared Landers, Eric Wells, Tyler Bruening, Dan Stone, Mike Knight, Whitney McQueary, Brandon Sheppard, Justin Rattliff, Ronnie DeHaven Jr. Scratched: Jill George. (Correction: Fixes first name of Landers)

Time trials

Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., winner of the richest UMP-sanctioned modified feature during the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, showed his Late Model talents Thursday by setting fast time at Volusia's World of Outlaws Late Model Series opener at Volusia Speedway Park.

Landers tripped the clock at 15.961 seconds on the D-shaped half-mile, the only driver to crack the 16-second mark. Landers, who earned $5,000 for Monday's modified victory, will start on the pole of the first 10-lap heat race.

Other heat race polesitters, unofficially, are Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y.; Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark.; Wednesday's UMP feature winner Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.; John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va.; and Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky.

The top three finishers from each of six 10-lap heat races transfer to the main event, along with the top two finishers from each of three 12-lap consolation races. Two provisional starting spots will go to drivers based on WoO points, and one based on last year's UMP points.

Pre-race notes

Reigning WoO champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., is gunning for his fourth consecutive victory in the season opener. ... Entry fees have gone up $10 for 2010 to help defray the lab costs associated with tests for chemically-altered tires, series director Tim Christman said. ... Among newcoming drivers for Thursday's action at Volusia are Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind.; Jill George of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C.; Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga.; Mike Collins of Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga. ... Clanton is making his first start since an infection stemming from a cut on his finger that required a week-long hospital stay. He entered fellow Georgian Clint Smith's backup car but never hit the track.

Time trials (unofficial)

  1. Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.961
  2. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.047
  3. Jack Sullivan (1), Greenbrier, Ark., 16.055
  4. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 16.063
  5. John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 16.069
  6. Brad Neat (41), Dunnville, Ky., 16.095
  7. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.110
  8. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.117
  9. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 16.195
  10. Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., 16.206
  11. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.236
  12. Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.267
  13. Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 16.301
  14. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.327
  15. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.334
  16. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.335
  17. Dale McDowell (17m), Rossville, Ga., 16.341
  18. Tommy Kerr (4T), Maryville, Tenn., 16.355
  19. Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.377
  20. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.38
  21. Kyle Berck (14), Marquette, Neb., 16.383
  22. Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 16.385
  23. Wendell Wallace (88), Batesville, Ark., 16.412
  24. Jordan Bland (12), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.419
  25. Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.424
  26. Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 16.48
  27. Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 16.491
  28. Steve Sheppard Jr. (5s), New Berlin, Ill., 16.496
  29. Tim Dohm (17T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 16.514
  30. Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 16.523
  31. Mike Knight (9k), Ripley, N.Y., 16.554
  32. Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 16.556
  33. Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 16.561
  34. Will Vaught (1), Crane, Mo., 16.606
  35. Randy Korte (00), Highland, Ill., 16.625
  36. Austin Hubbard (19), Seaford, Del., 16.631
  37. Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.668
  38. Dan Schlieper (9), Sullivan, Wis., 16.683
  39. Tony Knowles (26), Tyrone, Ga., 16.703
  40. Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., 16.736
  41. Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 16.757
  42. Russ King (56), Bristolville, Ohio, 16.763
  43. Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 16.768
  44. Ricky Weiss (7), Winnipeg, Manitoba, 16.772
  45. Greg Johnson (46), Mitchell, Ind., 16.801
  46. Patrick Sheltra (23), Indiantown, Fla., 16.849
  47. Tyler Ivey (47), Tallahassee, Fla., 17.023
  48. Jeff Beyers (27), Pana, Ill., 17.030
  49. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 17.061
  50. Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, , 17.072
  51. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 17.278
  52. Brent Robinson (3), Smithfield, Va., 17.441
  53. Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill., 17.612
  54. Joel Callahan (40), Dubuque, Iowa, 17.755
  55. Ronnie DeHaven Jr. (19), Winchester, Va., 17.816
  56. Jonathan DeHaven (13D), Gainesboro, Va., 17.845
  57. Darren Peters (1P), Fort Erie, Ontario, 17.911
  58. Mason Zeigler (25z), Farmington, Pa., 18.011
  59. Whitney McQueary (5m), Dunnville, Ky., 18.058
  60. Mike Collins (3), Council Bluffs, Iowa, 18.077
  61. Dave Zona (99z), Montrose, Pa., 18.102
  62. Donald Beyers (27D), Pana, Ill., 18.647
  63. Ronnie Rihn (29), Bloomer, Wis., 18.778
  64. Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., 18.829
  65. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 19.010
  66. Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 19.037
  67. Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, no time
  68. Shane Clanton (44), Locust Grove, Ga., no time

Feature lineup

Row 1: McDowell, McCreadie
Row 2: Pearson, Babb
Row 3: Moyer, B. Smith
Row 4: Eckert, Owens
Row 5: Madden, Lanigan
Row 6: Blankenship, Neat
Row 7: Landers, Frank
Row 8: Sullivan, Kinzer
Row 9: Richards, Carrier
Row 10: Francis, G. Johnson
Row 11: Dohm, Erb
Row 12: Jacobsen, Hubbard
Row 13: Fuller, C. Smith
Row 14: Clanton, King
Row 15: Feger
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