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Tyler County Speedway

Richards ready for home-state outing

May 20, 2015, 7:31 am
By Joshua Joiner
World of Outlaws Late Model Series
Josh Richards
Josh Richards

Josh Richards has logged memorable performances and achieved career milestones at dirt tracks all across the country during his stellar racing career, but few of those tracks hold a special place with the three-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion like Tyler County Speedway.

Richards, whose home in Shinnston, W.Va., is less than an hour's drive from the quarter-mile oval in Middlebourne, will return to the bullring track this weekend for a pair of WoO events during the fourth annual Jackpot 100 Weekend. Separate WoO programs on Saturday and Sunday give Richards the rare and exciting opportunity to race in front of family, friends and home-track fans.

"That's my home crowd with all the fans and a lot of relatives that hardly ever get to see me race," said Richards, who will make his first appearance at Tyler County since 2013 after missing the 2014 Jackpot 100 while sitting out most of the season with nerve problems in his hands. "A lot of people I know will be there — friends that I went to school with and people that I grew up with and have known really my whole life. It makes racing there unique and exciting for me. Without a doubt I always love going there."

While he considers Tyler County his home track, Richards has had surprisingly few chances to compete there since he launched his career behind the wheel of his father Mark's famed Rocket Chassis house car in 2004. He entered just one event at Tyler County during his first Late Model season, and then went nearly five years without competing at the track once he became a full-time WoO competitor in 2005. Even since the WoO made its first visit to Tyler County in 2009, Richards has only raced at the track six times.

Although he has limited experience at Tyler County as a driver, Richards has a long history at the track that goes well back into his childhood. As a youngster, Richards frequently visited Tyler County as a crew member for his uncle Robbie Scott's race team and at times helped other area competitors before beginning his own career. It's those experiences that Richards recalls fondly every time he returns to Tyler County.

"I don't get to race there very often because we travel so much, but going there always brings me back to my childhood," said Richards, who scored his first-ever home-state victory when he won during the opening night of the 2013 Jackpot 100 weekend. "I used to go there years ago with my uncle Robbie racing or I'd go help some guys. It's the only track I go to that really brings me back to my childhood like that, and that's never changed."

Of course, it's not just the recollection of childhood memories that Richards loves about racing at Tyler County. Known for its close racing and its circular shape that requires drivers to keep their cars sideways nearly all the way around it, Tyler County also fits Richards driving style quite well.

"It's a fun little bullring," Richards said. "It's not overly fast, but you're constantly turning all the time. The object is to be able to turn as much as you can and be able to keep doing it throughout the race without getting loose. The guy that can rotate and drive off the bottom without pushing out toward the wall is going to have a good night."

Richards hopes that his home-track fans are able to cheer him on to a pair of strong performances this weekend. After returning to victory lane in just the fourth WoO race of the season, Richards hasn't won since, and with seven top-five finishes in 14 races, he has also struggled with consistency.

"We put ourselves into a bit of a hole, but right now our goal is to get things rolling and start winning more races," said Richards, who enters the Jackpot 100 weekend third in the WoO standings, 94 points behind leader Shane Clanton. "It'd be awesome to get that started here this weekend.”

Jackpot 100

Dates: May 23-24
Track: Tyler County Speedway, Middlebourne, W.Va. (quarter-mile oval)
Sanction: World of Outlaws Late Model Series
Purses: $8,000-to-win on Saturday and $10,000-to-win on Sunday.
Online: tylercountyspeedwayonline.com and woolms.com.
Notes: Complete WoO program are on tap each night with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. … A practice session is set for Friday. … Three-day general admission tickets are $60. … Davey Johnson won last year’s feature.
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