SARVER, Pa. — Josh Richards put the finishing touch on a perfect weekend with a victory in Saturday night’s seventh annual Firecracker 100 presented by GottaRace.com at Lernerville Speedway.
By adding a $30,650 triumph in the marquee World of Outlaws Late Model Series event to his 30-lap preliminary A-Main wins on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, the 25-year-old became the first driver to sweep the Firecracker 100 weekend since it was expanded to three full nights of racing in 2012.
“It means a lot to me to win a race of this much prestige — as well as (the fact that) this is the place I ran my first Outlaw race (in 2004),” said Richards, who added a Firecracker 100 victory to his previous WoO LMS century-grind scores at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. (2011 USA Nationals) and Mohawk Int’l Raceway in Akwesasne, N.Y. (2010 Battle At Eastern Door). “This track means a lot to me and to get a crown-jewel (event win) here is huge. There are a lot of great cars here and just to be able to win one of the (weekend) races means a lot — and to win all three is unreal.”
Richards, who started second, passed polesitter and defending Firecracker 100 winner and Scott Bloomquist for the lead on lap 16 and never relinquished the top spot, but his march to the checkered flag was far from easy. He turned back challenges from several drivers over the remaining distance to cross the finish line first in a rough-and-tumble race that was slowed by 11 caution flags and two reds and stretched into the early-morning hours of Sunday after rain delayed the start of Saturday night’s program by two hours.
Rick Eckert provided the stiffest test for Richards after rallying from a mid-race pit stop to make a run at the lead in the final circuits, but a broken rear end on lap 96 ended Eckert’s bid. That left ninth-starter Tim McCreadie to take up the chase, but Richards pulled away on the final restart with four laps left to beat T-Mac by 0.976 of a second.
Darrell Lanigan — the runner-up in four of the last five Firecracker 100s — fell short of both a win and another bridesmaid, settling for third place after starting eighth. Gregg Satterlee recovered from a trip over the third- and fourth-turn bank at the start of his heat and a lap-51 pit stop to change a flat left-rear tire to finish a Firecracker 100 career-best fourth after starting 20th and third-starter Jared Landers finished fifth after slipping out of the top 10 during the race’s first half.
Richards third win in as many days — and sixth overall of the 2013 WoO LMS campaign — left him “exhausted but extremely happy.”
“It was nerve-wracking there for a little bit, but I just had to try to stay focused and race smart,” Richards said. “I’ve been the guy who can go out there and run really fast laps and then tear the car up or come up short at the end, so we just had to try to harness it all and be fast but not get out of control. You have to just stay smooth, and when guys pressure you still gotta stay focused and do your thing.”