Richards has been a contender for the World 100 checkered flag in past years, but circumstances – whether it be inexperience, deep-in-the-field starting spots or misfortune – have conspired to keep him off the hallowed winner’s stage. Most notably, there was his ’06 World 100 run when, as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, he nearly took the lead late in the distance before settling for fourth, and his ’11 bid that saw his charge from the 19th starting spot snuffed out at fourth place by a lap-82 incident with Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga.
“I feel like if I had some more experience we definitely could have won it (in ’06),” said Richards, who was in his third season behind the wheel that year. “We were really good. We were up to second and beside the leader for awhile.
“But it was just my second time running the World and I was a little timid. In one way that was good because I was able to maintain where we were and get a top-five (finish), but if we were able to rewind, I think I maybe could’ve done some things different.
“I feel like we’ve had cars capable of winning since then,” he added. “Like in 2011, I felt like we had a shot to win. We were really coming on strong, but we got in a tangle with McDowell late in the race.”
Richards enters this weekend’s Eldora action with plenty of confidence and momentum (he’s won eight times on this year’s WoO LMS and leads the points standings by a healthy margin with just seven events remaining) plus the desire to erase memories of his three most recent big-race visits to the track. He failed to qualify for both events in 2012 – he fell short of a Dream transfer spot driving Ernie Davis’s No. 25 in his return to dirt after switching his ’12 focus to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and had his World 100 weekend end quickly when his father’s No. 1 was heavily damaged in a crash during time trials – and earlier this year saw his impressive 28th-to-third run in the Dream wiped out by a disqualification for weighing in light after the race.
“We’re definitely really focused,” said Richards, who attributed his post-race penalty at the Dream to his team’s scramble to repair his car following a heat-race accident (a needed bolt-on weight was left off the machine). “We’ve worked on our stuff and gotten better all year long. I feel like we have a better chance this year at the World than we have in previous years just from my experience and what we’ve been able to do with the cars this year.
“I feel really good going into (the weekend). I just can’t wait to get out there.”
Adding to Richards’s good vibes about the World 100 is the event’s new format, which expands the weekend to three days with full racing programs on Thurs., Sept. 5, and Fri., Sept. 6. Mirroring the format introduced at June’s Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Commercial Mowers, Thursday and Friday nights will include a full slate of multi-car time trials to split the field into even/odd groups for heat races, B-features and twin 25-lap A-Features paying $5,000 to win each. Each driver’s best qualifying lap from Thursday and Friday will be used to set the lineups for Saturday night’s time-honored World 100 format of six heat races, a pair of B-Features and B-Scrambles.
“I love the new format,” said Richards, who earlier this year recorded finishes of first and fourth in his Dream preliminary A-Features. “You can race a lot more with this format. I think it lets everyone have more opportunity to work on their stuff and get laps at that place. I thought it was way better than sitting there for three days to wait for one race. The way it’s laid out, if you want to race you can, and if you don’t you can just qualify each night.
“I think it made us better too. We were able to do stuff between each race, and each time you go on the racetrack you’re able to make a little change where normally it would take you years to try those changes.”