SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — In the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series’ 500th feature in its modern era on Saturday night, Josh Richards rocketed to his 67th series win at Deer Creek Speedway. It was his ninth victory of the season.
“I’ll tell you, this place does not get enough credit,” Richards said. “This is probably one of the top facilities in the country and I always enjoy coming here. I want to thank the fans for coming out. It’s cool to win on this stage.”
The podium reflected the top three in the standings — Richards, Shane Clanton and Rick Eckert battling to a one-two-three finish, respectively. Richards, who started second in the feature, wasted no time on Billy Moyer Jr. for first. Richards passed him by the third lap, despite a valiant effort from Moyer to protect the lead spot – the first time he led a series feature into the green flag.
Richards opened-up a 1.151 lead five laps later in his No. 1 Valvoline/ Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car, while Clanton joined Moyer and third-place Boom Briggs in a side-by-side fight for a podium spot. Nobody wanted to lose the game of musical chairs between them, as the three-way fight lasted four more laps until Clanton made his move on Briggs in his No. 25 Weldbank Energy/ Coopers Meat Packers Capital car. Eckert, biding his time, entered the battle and took fourth away from a fading Briggs.
Another three-way battle followed the feature’s second caution flag on lap 13. Behind Richards on the restart, Moyer, Clanton and Eckert spanned three-wide entering turn four. Clanton had the upper hand leaving turn four, and a last-ditch effort by Moyer to reclaim the second spot fell short. Moyer fought to have another chance at Clanton, but could only come within .800 seconds then; Eckert swept under Moyer for third shortly after.
Moyer fell out of the podium picture briefly, but a caution with 24 laps completed revitalized his chances. Moreover, the race’s third caution regrouped him with Clanton and Eckert yet again. On the restart, Clanton and Eckert moved up the track while Moyer sunk low. Moyer began to fade after one lap, while Clanton and Eckert dueled.
Clanton challenged Richards briefly on the restart before resuming his battle with Eckert, but it was a game of cat and mouse in Richards’ favor. The closest Clanton got to Richards for the remainder of the race was at the final caution flag of the night on lap 43.
Richards strong restarts prevailed, propelling him to a 2.759-second lead and eventual victory. Clanton in the meantime had his hands full with Eckert — one last showdown before the checkered. The two flew around the track fender-to-fender, but Clanton was able to break away three laps later. Eckert and his No. 7 Monumental Paving & Excavating/ P-J Contracting Co. Longhorn machine settled for third.
“I feel Eckert was a little bit better when we got in front of him,” Clanton said. “I’m just happy to be here, for all our fans to see us, support us, and I love just being in Minnesota.”
This was Eckert’s 500th appearance in the series; he has been with the series since World Racing Group rekindled it in 2004. Eckert joked when he was asked about his “greatest series memory,” saying he is thankful that his memory is still even there as he gets older. This particular race in a monumental moment will be another to add to his 13 years of memories with the series.
“Yeah, we’ve made some real progress over the past couple night,” Eckert said. “I just couldn’t get Shane cleared there, and it looked like Josh was fading there after the last caution. We were inches away from each other for half the race… I just got such a terrible start and I couldn’t rebound from that. I’d like to thank the fans for coming out.”
Josh Richards, Shane Clanton, Rick Eckert, Chad Simpson, Jimmy Mars, Tyler Erb, Brandon Overton, Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer Jr., Steve Casebolt, Frank Heckenast Jr., Morgan Bagley, Brent Larson, Chase Junghans, Jordan Yaggy, Joey Coulter, Boom Briggs, Eric Wells, Chub Frank, Rodney Sanders, Chris Simpson, Jason Rauen, A.J. Diemel, Austin Smith.