OGILVIE, Minn. — Josh Richards wildly celebrated his 10th World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory of the season Wednesday night at Ogilvie Raceway. It was his 68th career series win.
“It was tough, I’ll tell you,” Richards said. “I want to thank the track guys. It’s a beautiful facility and I wasn’t expecting it to be this nice. It’s a great place to come. I didn’t think we’d have 10 [wins] this year and this early.”
Richards, who led the field into the green flag for 50 laps, never lost his top spot. Within the first 10 laps, Richards widened the gap between him and the field with his No. 1 Valvoline/ Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car; the other two cars in the podium positions began to separate themselves as well.
On lap nine, Richards caught-up to the back of the pack only for the race’s first caution flag to follow on the next lap. On the restart, rookie-of-the-y contender Tyler Erb took the highest line on the three-eighths-mile oval, passing Eric Wells. By lap 15, Richards had extended his lead to 3.66 seconds.
While Richards maintained the lead, the rest of the top five shuffled. But there was one driver in the top 10 making his move following the races second caution on lap 13. Defending series champion Shane Clanton, who started ninth, made his move on the restart, carrying more momentum than most of the cars in front of him. Clanton’s No. 25 Weldbank Energy/ Coopers Meat Packers Capital car settled second, 1.806 seconds behind the leader.
For Richards and Clanton — a frequently revisited battle this season — it was a matter of follow the leader for this particular A-Main. Richards, with a 1.826 second lead, got caught behind a group of four lapped cars. This sequence brought his lead down to 1.692 seconds; Clanton enjoyed an empty straightaway to close the gap. However, Clanton fell into the same hole. Richards rebuilt his lead to 4.253 seconds with 14 to laps remaining.
With 11 laps to go, Richards held a 6.18-second gap over Clanton. Five lapped cars separated Richards from Clanton. On lap 44, Richards enjoyed a 7.965-second lead — until a caution the next lap regrouped the field.
“I knew Shane was really good, and I knew he started back and he made me worry a little bit,” Richards said. “My guys were telling me to go all over the place, so I just tried to get back into a rhythm. It had grip in places but it was hard to get a consistent feel. That last restart I thought he’d get a pretty good shot at it. I just tried to stay smooth the best I could.”
Though this caution gave Clanton a fighting chance, Richards’strong restart prevented any attempts at a lead change.
“Overall, we had a pretty good night,” Clanton said. “Well, [the No. 1 team] got their program turned around from last year. They’re way more consistent than we are with wins. We’ve run top five and second to him, but hopefully we can turn it around tomorrow night — we win and he gets second.”
Richards and Clanton finished one-two, respectively. As for the final podium spot, Casebolt muscled his No. c9 Lias Tire/ Sudz Car Wash Rocket car past Wells for third.
“It’s been awhile,” said Casebolt. “I guess we’re not totally washed up. Eric and I swapped spots a couple times, and he’s really improved a ton. I asked him at the draw what he’s doing different with his life that I need to take advantage of for myself. He wouldn’t tell me. It’s special to get a podium. We just need to win.”
Josh Richards, Shane Clanton, Steve Casebolt, Eric Wells, Brandon Overton, Tyler Erb, Rick Eckert, Frank Heckenast Jr., Rodney Sanders, Jimmy Mars, Chub Frank, Brent Larson, Lance Matthees, Joey Coulter, Boom Briggs, Morgan Bagle, Ross Camponovo, Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer Jr., Jordan Yaggy, Jeffrey Massingill, Dustin Strand, Chase Junghans, Pat Doar.