Richards was fortunate to survive his encounter with the ledge of clay in the fourth turn.
“In (turns) three and four the cushion was fast but it was like hitting the wall,” said Richards, who recorded his 44th career WoO LMS A-Main win. “I went in there one lap and actually knocked the panhard bar out of the car and slid all the way up on the frame. It changed the handling drastically — and not for the good. It was a handful toward the end of the race. I just had to not think about anything and just try to hold ‘em off.”
That became a difficult task with the emergence of Eckert, who roared from the rear of the field after slowing with a flat right-rear tire and pitting on lap 58. Seeking to become the first Pennsylvania driver to win the Firecracker 100, Eckert reached second with a lap-83 pass of McCreadie and was on Richards’s rear bumper two laps later.
The 47-year-old Eckert ducked underneath Richards several times in the corners before a red flag was thrown on lap 94 for WoO LMS rookie Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., whose car awkwardly dug into the turn-three cushion and flipped wildly off the track. Wells, whose car landed on its wheels in front of the pit grandstand, climbed out but reported later that his right arm felt sore enough that he would likely visit a doctor for further evaluation when he returns home.
Eckert attempted to resume his bid after the clean up of Wells’s crash, but his car’s rearend failed on lap 96 and he stopped on the track to bring out the race’s final caution flag. With his departure, Richards could breathe a little easier.
“I saw Eckert that one lap,” said Richards, who stretched his WoO LMS points lead over Clanton from eight to 44 points during the Firecracker 100 weekend. “He runs really good on the bottom of the race track – and I knew that’s where I needed to be, but I just couldn’t get there. I don’t know if we could’ve held him off or not, but we were gonna give it all we had for sure.”
McCreadie, who inherited second place on lap 69 when Bloomquist limped into the pits with a heavily smoking engine and again with Eckert’s retirement, was unable to mount a serious assault on Richards over the final four laps.
“We were just a little too tight,” said McCreadie, who bettered his career-high Firecracker 100 finish by one spot (he was third in 2012). “I just shouldn’t have tightened up so much. With where we started and all the mud that got on the car, it was so heavy and that affected the handling a lot.
“I’m content I guess,” he added. “You want to win, but the money ($15,650 for second) is nice. We just needed to be better. We had our shot (at Richards), but we couldn’t get it done.”
With Saturday night’s heat races lined up using each driver’s best finish from the two preliminary programs, no time trials were run on Saturday.
Russ King pocketed $3,000 for winning the Uncle Sam 30 Non-Qualifiers’ Race, which was run after the Firecracker 100.
Josh Richards, Tim McCreadie, Darrell Lanigan, Gregg Satterlee, Jared Landers, Steve Francis, Tim Fuller, Shane Clanton, Morgan Bagley, Clint Smith, Rick Eckert, Eric Wells, Bub McCool, Dale McDowell, Scott Bloomquist, Davey Johnson, John Blankenship, Mike Marlar, Austin Hubbard, Jonathan Davenport, Brian Birkhofer, Dan Stone, Chub Frank, John Garvin Jr., Steve Shaver, Dave Hess Jr., Jimmy Mars, Alex Ferree.