Practice Night Opens Illini 100 Weekend

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The well-known Hawkeye State star didn’’t end Thursday night’s practice session with a warm, fuzzy feeling about his chances for breaking into Victory Lane, however.

““Right now, I couldn’’t be any further from trying to win this one,”” conceded Birkhofer. ““What we do nowadays, our car’s not really keen on these (rough) conditions (which prevailed on Thursday). We gotta step back a little and make some changes.

““Hopefully they’’ll make the track a little better tomorrow – which I think they will because, I mean, there was snow on the ground here a week ago, so it’s gonna take a little bit to get slickened off – and we’ll make our car a little better too.””

The 25-year-old Richards, meanwhile, noted that Thursday’’s hot laps were run on a quarter-mile oval that was “pretty intense” but pronounced his evening a success.

““We tried some things, and the longer the night went, the better we got,”” said Richards, who enters this weekend’s program leading the WoO LMS points standings. “”We’’re not exactly where we wanna be, but we had a positive test. We learned a lot and now I feel better starting tomorrow versus if we didn’’t have practice tonight.”

With Illini 100 finishes of third (’’09), sixth (’’08 and ’’12) and 10th (’’10), Richards joins Babb as the only drivers with top-10 finishes in all four events. But he wants a win on his resume.

““We’’ve always run well here, but we haven’’t been able to capitalize on anything in the feature to get a win,” said Richards. “This has always been a fun racetrack for me, but it’s also one that always eluded me. Hopefully we can finally get our car right and get a win here.””