As sparkling as his performance record was, Richards’s march to the championship wasn’t without its trials. It wouldn’t be a title worth savoring if there hadn’t been some moments of uncertainty that tested his resolve – like, for instance, the six-race stretch from May 30 at Delaware International Speedway through June 25 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Richards managed to register just one top-five finish during that span, which ended with a dismal 13th-place finish at Canandaigua that shrank his edge in the WoO LMS standings to a precarious eight points.
Demoralized but not defeated, Richards responded to the slump in magnificent fashion. He pulled off a historic $42,000-plus sweep of the June 27-29 Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., winning both 30-lap preliminary features and the century grind to push his points lead back to 44 points. His advantage never slipped below 28 points the rest of the season.
“Every racer’s been there at some point,” Richards said of the most struggle-filled portion of his season. “Any true racer gets frustrated. There’s time you don’t run well and you’re frustrated because you don’t know why. You start to question yourself: What am I doing wrong? What do we need to do as a team? For us to be able to work past that and figure out what we needed to do, that’s what it takes to win championships.”
Richards encountered a few more speed bumps during the summer and fall, including his only DNFs of ’13: a 17th-place finish on Aug. 5 at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway (broken oil pump) and a season-worst 19th-place finish on Sept. 13 at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill. (busted ring-and-pinion). But he handled the miserable outings with his trademark even-keel outlook, staying cool, calm and collected amid any problems or controversies swirling around him.
“My personality has always been real laid-back,” said Richards, explaining his ability to block out potential distractions. “A lot of people think that most laid-back people aren’t as successful as the go-getters or whatever, but I guess, really, I’m a mix between both. I’m really laid-back and there’s a lot of things that don’t faze me, but when it comes time to strap in and race, that’s when you put your game face on and do the thing you love to do. You try to do it well, which is what I’ve always done because of the passion I have for racing.”
Richards did it wonderfully in 2013, certifying his elite status in the dirt late model business with a season that met all his lofty expectations.
“For me personally, the thing I wanted to do most this year was not just get stuck in the same rut of, ‘Josh can only win if it’s fast and rough or when you have to drive hard,’” said Richards, who won 16 features overall in 2013. “That type of racing has always been my strong suit, but this year I wanted to win in a wider band of tracks and series. You always want to push yourself to improve and I feel like we did that. We won not only with the Outlaws, but also the Lucas Oil (Late Model Dirt) Series, the NDRL series, (DIRTcar) UMP – we won in every series we competed in this year.
“It was really cool to not only have the success we did with the Outlaws — the 10 wins, the 23 top-three finishes in 46 races, the championship — but to prove ourselves and represent our team across all of dirt racing and show we’re a true contender. You go back and look at all that and it’s pretty incredible what we were able to accomplish.”