Left in second place after Casebolt’s misfortune, Richards spent the final 15 caution-free laps chasing Fuller, who inherited the lead when McCreadie headed pitside for a tire change. Fuller maintained an edge of just under one second until lap 25, when Richards began cutting the gap by about a tenth of a second per circuit.
Richards drew close enough to challenge Fuller heading to the white flag. Fuller led the 29th lap by a scant margin, but he couldn’t stay ahead for one more trip around the quarter-mile oval. Richards charged to the inside of the track rounding turns three and four for the final time, slid ahead of Fuller off the race’s last corner and outran the New Yorker to the checkered flag.
“If we would’ve stayed away from lapped traffic he would’ve won,” Richards said of Fuller. “He was out in clean track and he could pick some speed up, so it was hard to gain any ground. I just kept watching the lapped cars and watching the dirt off their tires and tried to stay low.
“Once we got a run there (on the last lap) I just had to go for it. I tried to do it one last corner and it finally worked out.”
Fuller was left shell-shocked by the heartbreaking defeat. He struggled to describe the final-lap turn of events during a post-race interview in front of the crowd.
“He banzaied it in there and he slid me. That’s the end of it,” Fuller said of Richards. “I felt like we had a pretty good car, but all you need is one banzai run at the flag – hey, that happens.”
After returning to his trailer, Fuller provided more insight into the race’s deciding moment. He said that with the race’s frenetic pace, he didn’t realize that the checkered flag was flying when Richards made his aggressive, last-ditch bid for the win.
“He slid me and made it work because I was courteous,” said Fuller. “It could’ve been a more controversial outcome, but didn’t think it was the last lap so I actually thought I could get him back. I thought I had a good enough run to do the same thing to him that he did to me, just through (turns) one and two.
“I never saw the checkered flag, and we still raced another whole lap. I’d thought I (regained the lead and) won. I had no clue. I didn’t realize the race was over after he passed me until I heard (WoO LMS race director) Bret (Emrock) on the (one-way) radio one lap later.”
Josh Richards, Tim Fuller, Darrell Lanigan, Rick Eckert, Shane Clanton, Chub Frank, Steve Weigle, Mike Benedum, Gregg Satterlee, Morgan Bagley, Bub McCool, Eric Wells, Tim McCreadie, Clint Smith, Mason Zeigler, Donnie Moran, Jacob Hawkins, Butch McGill, Steve Casebolt Jr., Scott James, Davey Johnson, Jared Hawkins, Tim Senic, Derek Doll.