FAIRBURY, Ill. — Josh Richards successfully made a late dash for the lead Friday night, winning the second annual #FALS Draw Showdown.
The preliminary was a part of the “Prairie Dirt Classic” at Fairbury American Legion Speedway, which is wholly a two-day program ending with a World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series sanctioned 100-lap feature.
“It sure feels good to be in victory lane,” Richards said. “I know tomorrow is really when it counts, but these guys are all extremely tough. This is probably the toughest local crowd you can ever come to. We gambled on tires a little bit, and the car was great. It worked. We have 100 laps tomorrow, and that’s a big difference.”
The 25-lap feature began in a deficit for Richards, who started 10th in an 18-car field. Local favorite Kevin Weaver led the group into the green flag. Weaver, lacking the gusto he needed to ride the top cushion effectively, began to lose his grip on the lead within the first five laps.
El Paso, Ill. native Joe Harlan took three shots at the lead with his No. Z Dyers Top Rods/ Clark Farms Longhorn machine following the race’s first of two cautions on the second lap. Though the first two attempts fell short – Harlan tried to muscle his way under Weaver both times entering turn three – his final effort was enough in turn two to make the pass. Harlan took sole possession of the lead after Weaver skimmed the wall.
While Harlan made the jump for first, Richards was on all 800-plus horses in his No. 1 Valvoline/ Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car, charging toward the front. Richards kept his car in the lowest groove, inches away from the inside tire barriers scattered in each turn. Richards filed behind Pontiac, Ill. driver Derek Chandler in this sequence; the duo pushed the surrounding field into the higher grooves, gaining positions on Harlan with 14 laps remaining.
Weaver left room for Richards to capitalize on second position with 10 laps remaining; Weaver tapped the wall in turn two again, breaking his momentum. From there, Richards readjusted to the middle groove, where he was able to pick up more speed than Harlan. Three laps later, Richards closed within 0.188 seconds of Harlan. He eventually took the top spot with six laps to go, carrying more speed than Harlan exiting turn four with six laps left in the feature.
Richards was not challenged for the lead from thereon out; it seemed Harlan would have to settle for a runner-up finish. But Tim McCreadie, who made his way up from a 12th place start, was able to reel-in Harlan in the final laps with his No. 39 Sweeteners Plus/ F.K. Rod Ends Longhorn car.
“I think we got Josh a little better, but I feel like we have some things to work on,” said McCreadie, looking forward to Saturday’s 100-lapper. “The middle [groove] lays down a little more dirt and Josh was running the middle. So I figured, ‘Well it must be decent enough.’ I went there the next couple of laps, felt good and it got us all the way to second. I have no complaints. It was a good night.”
Harlan said throughout the race, dropping back to a third-place finish was not because his car was fading. Rather, the other two cars became quicker as the race progressed.
“We got a good draw,” said Harlan, who started the race in fourth position. “The car rotated well around the bottom, but we ended up getting the lead when we went to the high-side. I just tried to run good, consistent laps. But, Josh moved to the middle groove and got around us. We didn’t slow down too much throughout the race. They just got a little faster.”
Josh Richards, Tim McCreadie, Joe Harlan, Derek Chandler, Billy Moyer, Mike Spatola, Jason Feger, Bobby Pierce, Scott Bull, Steve Casebolt, Steve Thorsten, Shane Clanton, Jonathan Davenport, Kevin Weaver, Rick Eckert, Dennis Erb Jr., Kolby Vanderbergh, Chris Ferguson.