INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — Josh Richards backed up his USA Nationals triumph in fine fashion, closing a three-race World of Outlaws Late Model Series swing through the Upper Midwest with a victory in Monday night’s 50-lap A-Main at Independence Motor Speedway.
The two-time defending series champion’s sixth win of 2011 came just two days after he pocketed $50,000 for capturing his first crown-jewel dirt Late Model event at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.
Richards, 23, survived a late-race scare to top the inaugural WoO LMS event at the three-eighths-mile Independence oval. After pacing the race from the initial green flag, he slipped out of the groove off turn four on lap 36, allowing WoO LMS point-leader Rick Eckert to dive underneath and lead the circuit.
But Richards managed to turn back Eckert’s bid, sliding ahead through turns one and two and then maintaining a steady edge for the remainder of the distance. He drove his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis house car under the checkered flag 0.611 of a second in front of Eckert’s Team Zero by Bloomquist machine.
Eckert, 45, settled for his fourth runner-up finish in the last six WoO LMS events and sixth overall this season. He maintained a healthy 56-point lead over Richards in the standings with 11 A-Mains remaining on the schedule.
Clint Smith finished third after advancing from the 10th starting spot in the same Rocket car that he flipped onto its roof during a USA Nationals B-Main on Saturday night. It was his third top-five finish of the season.
Brian Birkhofer started and finished fourth — though he ran third until being overtaken by Smith on lap 25 — in his MB Customs mount and 2010 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Austin Hubbard was fifth in Dale Beitler’s Rocket car to tally his first top-five finish since July 15 at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D.
Richards, who started second and outgunned polesitter Billy Moyer for the lead at the start, knew he was fortunate to escape with the checkered flag after leaving the door open for Eckert on lap 36.
“Once we found the groove (of rubber) low I was just trying to get through lapped traffic and I slipped (high off turn four),” said Richards, who made his third straight start with a Roush-Yates Ford engine under the hood of his familiar No. 1. “I pretty much almost gave the race away. If I would’ve run second I would’ve deserved to just because I slipped up out of the groove.
“Eckert came down (to the inside on the homestretch) and I knew the only shot I had was to pinch him down into one — he said he would’ve done the same thing. The track just had so much grip in the bottom (lane) from the middle to the end (of the race), and luckily we were able to get back to it and hold on for the win.”
Josh Richards, Rick Eckert, Clint Smith, Brian Birkhofer, Austin Hubbard, Billy Moyer, Jason Feger, Pat Doar, Vic Coffey, Darrell Lanigan, Chub Frank, Chip Brindle, Dennis Erb, Jr., Ron Davies, Jill George, Jason Rauen, Frank Heckenast, Jr., Tim Fuller, Tim McCreadie, Chad Simpson, Jason Utter, John Lobb, Chris Simpson, Shane Clanton.