BARBERVILLE, Fla. — There appears to be no stopping Josh Richards during the 42nd UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
With another spectacular charge forward — this time from the 11th starting spot – Richards captured Tuesday night’s 30-lap DIRTcar UMP late model feature for his second victory in as many evenings at Volusia Speedway Park.
Richards, 24 powered his Valvoline-sponsored Rocket Chassis house car to second place on lap 16, putting himself in position to inherit the lead when Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., pulled to the infield with mechanical trouble during a lap-19 caution period.
The two-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion dominated the remainder of the distance to pocket a $7,000 top prize.
WoO LMS Rookie of the Year contender Eric Wells grabbed second from his chassis builder, Scott Bloomquist on lap 20 and stayed there to the finish. The 24-year-old, who sat out Monday night’s DIRTcar UMP Late Model opener, crossed the finish line 2.709 seconds behind Richards to cap a career-best performance at the half-mile oval.
Stormy Scott, 23, placed third in the Bryan Rowland Motorsports Team Zero by Bloomquist car, cracking the podium in just his second week of dirt late model racing. A standout in the open-wheel Modified division who is transitioning to dirt late model racing this season, Scott, who started 13th, overtook Bloomquist for the show position on lap 22.
Billy Moyer also passed Bloomquist late in the distance, grabbing fourth on lap 25 and finishing there in his Victory Circle machine. Bloomquist, who started from the outside pole, faded to a fifth-place run in his self-built car.
In a competitive race that featured four different leaders, Richards proved to be the last man standing up front for the second consecutive night at Volusia. But his march to the lead wasn’t quite as smooth as on Monday evening, when he sailed around the outside of the track in advancing from the 10th starting spot to the lead in 18 circuits.
Richards actually surprised himself with his quick ascension through the field. He cracked the top five in three laps and reached second by lap nine, though he swapped the runner-up spot once with Darrell Lanigan before gaining control on lap 16.
“I knew everybody gambled on tires a little bit,” said Richards. “We just went with a softer compound and tried to stay slow and not wear anything out, and try to get one at a time as we could. I didn’t expect to get up through there like we did, but I think everybody just kind of got bound up and slid and we were able to get quite a few cars early.”
Richards’s move to grab second from Lanigan on lap 16 might have been the critical point of the race. After Richards dived to the inside of turns three and four and slid in front of Lanigan, contact between the two friendly rivals in turn four damaged the nosepiece of Lanigan’s car. Three laps later Lanigan skated into the turn-three guardrail due to a left-front tire that was cut by his bent bodywork, bringing out the race’s only caution flag.
“We were going down the backstraightaway and I just drove straight down to the bottom and Darrell went to the top,” Richards said of the scrape with Lanigan. “Well, he got turned and came straight back down to the bottom and ran into our left rear.
“I think there was a little bit of heat over that. I don’t think he knew exactly what happened. I think he just thought I drove in there after he turned, but we were just racing. It’s unfortunate that he got a car tore up, but I don’t feel like we did anything wrong.”
Lanigan, who started from the pole position and led the first circuit and laps 6-10, limped into the infield and retired after the caution flag flew on lap 19. He declined to comment on the situation with Richards.
Moments after Lanigan left the track, O’Neal, who started fifth and passed Richards for the lead on lap 11, also drove into the infield. A line of moisture began to trail behind his Larry Moring-owned car during the caution period; it was later determined to be fuel from a busted fuel pump.
“It’s unfortunate that O’Neal broke,” said Richards, who led laps 20-30 without receiving a single challenge. “I feel like we could’ve gotten him anyway, but everything’s been going our way. We’ll take it.”
Richards’s victory was his third in as many days.
Forty-seven cars were entered in the program, which utilized group qualifying to set the starting lineups for six heat races.
Richards registered the fastest overall qualifying lap at 15.752 seconds.
Josh Richards, Eric Wells, Stormy Scott, Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Tim Fuller, Brady Smith, Bub McCool, Mason Zeigler, Bobby Pierce, Earl Pearson Jr., Stacy Boles, Jimmy Mars, Donnie Moran, Brandon Sheppard, Morgan Bagley, Ricky Weiss, Michael Norris, Ron Davies, Don O’Neal, Darrell Lanigan, Steve Francis, Kenny Pettyjohn, Billy Moyer Jr., Tim McCreadie, Eddie Carrier Jr.