Richards jumps to top of DirtonDirt Top 25
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., put an exclamation point on his full-time return to Dirt Late Model racing with four victories at Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, catapulting him to the No. 1 spot in DirtonDirt.com’s Top 25 power rankings. Richards, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader after eight events, received 14 of 23 first-place votes on the website’s new expanded poll presented by JRi Shocks.
Richards logged Speedweeks victories at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and two at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and earned 541 points in the polling to hold a seven-point edge on Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. Richards led all Speedweeks drivers with nine top-five finishes in 11 starts and $61,900 in feature-purse earnings.
Lanigan, who duplicated Richards with four Speedweeks victories, received eight first-place votes to hold the second spot. Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who led Speedweeks leading the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, received the only other first-place vote and holds the third spot in the rankings.
Richards, Lanigan and Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., gave the World of Outlaws three drivers in the top five while O’Neal was joined by fourth-place Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., a two-time Speedweeks winner, as Lucas Oil representatives in the top five.
The Top 25 includes seven drivers who were unranked in the preseason poll. Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., tops that list with his No. 7 ranking after a pair of victories at East Bay Raceway Park and second place finish in the the Tampa-area track’s Dart Winternationals points.
Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., 16, is the youngest driver in the poll at No. 19 after a pair of top-five finishes at East Bay and more than $11,000 in Speedweeks earnings.
After restricting poll voting to staffers the previous two seasons, DirtonDirt.com invited more than 30 media members and drivers along with track, series and manufacturer representatives to vote in 2013’s rankings. Twenty-two submitted ballots in the first regular-season voting of the season. Weekly polls continue through mid-November.
1. Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.
Comment: Pounds home his return to the Rocket Chassis house car with four Speedweeks victories. Series points: 1st (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: 10th (+9)
2. Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
Comment: After three straight Speedweeks victories, banged around at Volusia before winning finale. Series points: 3rd (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: 2nd (nc)
3. Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
Comment: East Bay run to week-long includes $10,000 victory while he’s hot and cold at Volusia for Moring Motorsports. Series points: 1st (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: 3rd (nc)
4. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
Comment: Ends seven-month skid with Speedweeks victories at East Bay, Volusia, then goes right back to testing. Series points: 10th (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: 6th (+2)
5. Shane Clanton, Fayetteville, Ga.
Comment: Adds victory in Speedweeks opener to $10,000 Tucson triumph, leads way for Capital Race Car contingent. Series points: 2nd (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: 7th (+2)
6. Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
Comment: Nabs victory at East Bay, but slides back after leading Ocala and ends Speedweeks in heap at Volusia. Series points: 6th (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: 1st (-6)
7. Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.
Comment: Only tire issues can slow him during two-victory visit to East Bay, but struggles some at Volusia. Series points: 5th (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: None.
8. Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Comment: Five-track trip to Speedweeks starts slow and gets better as he grabs $10,000 WoO victory at Volusia. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 5th (-3)
9. Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
Comment: First three nights of Speedweeks nearly doom him, but he rebounds with strong runs, victory at Volusia. Series points: 5th (World of Outlaws. Preseason ranking: 17th (+8)
10. Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
Comment: Three top-five finishes in 12 starts in first starts with Barry Wright house car team joining Clint Bowyer Racing. Series points: 4th (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: 4th (-6)
11. Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
Comment: Falls short in winning for ailing mother at Speedweeks, but solid with pair of runner-up finishes at Volusia. Series points: 4th (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: 9th (-2)
12. Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
Comment: Ends two-year winless skid with victory in East Bay finale driving newly designed Longhorn Chassis. Series points: 2nd (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: None.
13. Mike Marlar, Winfield, Tenn.
Comment: Solid at Speedweeks, but second-to-last lap slipup at Ocala costs him golden opportunity for victory. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 11th (-2)
14. Tim Fuller, Watertown, N.Y.
Comment: So-so Speedweeks for Kennedy Motorsports driver ends on a high note with top-five finish at Volusia. Series points: 8th (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: 13th (−1)
15. Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
Comment: Sitting out Speedweeks as he customarily does, Birky plans to open season in March at Brownstown, Ind. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 8th (-7)
16. Scott James, Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Comment: 11th-hour decision to jump in Warrior house car pays off with solid Speedweeks, including three top-five finishes. Series points: 7th (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: None.
17. Eric Wells, Hazard, Ky.
Comment: Jumps to top of WoO rookie class with solid runs at Volusia, including runner-up finish and leading 46 feature laps. Series points: 6th (World of Outlaws). Preseason ranking: None.
18. Donnie Moran, Dresden, Ohio
Comment: Rises to top of heap late for Waycross victory, adds two more top-five finishes during busy Speedweeks. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: None.
19. Bobby Pierce, Oakwood, Ill.
Comment: The 16-year-old continues his progress with two top-five finishes in 11 Speedweeks starts. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: None.
20. Dale McDowell, Chickamauga, Ga.
Comment: Speedweeks begins with scrape with Clanton at Screven, but he salvages it with two top-five finishes. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 16th (-4)
21. John Blankenship, Williamson, W.Va.
Comment: More consistent at East Bay than usual, but skips Volusia after big win there in 2012. Series points: 7th (Lucas Oil). Preseason ranking: 18th (-3)
22: Brian Shirley, Chatham, Ill.
Comment: Didn’t make trip to Speedweeks as he plots Midwestern opening to his 2013 campaign. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 12th (-10)
23: Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
Comment: Forgettable Speedweeks with five starts in seven attempts and no finish better than seventh. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 14th (-9)
24. Brady Smith, Solon Springs, Wis.
Comment: Never quite gets over the hump at Speedweeks with a smattering of top-10 finishes at Ocala, Volusia. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: 22nd (-2)
25. Vic Coffey, Caledonia, N.Y.
Comment: His 13 Speedweeks starts are more than any other driver, but he logs a single top-five finish. Series points: None. Preseason ranking: None.
Editor’s note: The top 25 drivers are determined by a points system with 25 points for a first-place vote, 24 points for a second-place vote and so on through a single point for a 25th-place vote. The voting panel is made up of media members, drivers, and track, series and manufacturer representatives.