SHINNSTON, W.Va. – With Valvoline on board as his new sponsor, Josh Richards is ready to chase the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship in 2013, returning to the Rocket Chassis race team.
Richards is returning as a WoO LMS regular, but remains committed to pursuing a driving career in the NASCAR ranks. With no full-time ride currently in hand for 2013, he will keep himself very busy by following the renowned dirt Late Model circuit on which he grew from a talented teenage racer to a national star.
“I’ve been fortunate with the opportunities I’ve been given (in NASCAR), but it’s just so hard to find that major sponsor and solid team that will allow you to race every weekend,” said Richards. “We’re not losing sight of that goal, but I love to race – racing is my life – so I’m going to go race where I can and right now that’s on dirt.”
The 2013 WoO LMS campaign, which consists a record-setting schedule of 54 events at 42 tracks across 21 states and two Canadian provinces, kicks off this weekend (February 8-9) with the “Winter Freeze” doubleheader at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. The tour’s season-opening Southeast swing also includes the Bubba Army Late Model Winter Nationals on February 15-17 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., and the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment on Feb. 21-23 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
“I’m excited to get started,” said Richards, whose last four seasons as a WoO LMS regular produced two titles in 2009 and 2010) and a pair of runner-up points finishes in 2008 and 2011. “I’ve been home working in the shop non-stop since after the World Finals (last November at The Dirt Track at Charlotte) and I feel like we’re more prepared (for the WoO LMS) than we’ve ever been. Help-wise and equipment-wise, I think we’re in really good shape.
“You need good help to be a success, and we have plenty of that with (crewmen) Matt Barnes and Cody Duncan and my dad. It’s good to have a bunch of guys all working toward the same goal, winning races and the World of Outlaws championship.”
With two new Rocket Chassis cars ready for action to start the season and powerful Roush Yates engines at his disposal, Richards is confident that he can battle defending WoO LMS champion Darrell Lanigan and the rest of the tour regulars for the crown. When he departed the series last year after seven events he was in the thick of the championship hunt, sitting second in the standings, 36 points behind Lanigan.
Richards is taking nothing for granted, however.
“I know we’ve had a lot of success the last few years that we ran with the Outlaws,” said Richards, who won twice in 13 WoO LMS starts last season to push his career win total on the tour to 39 (just two behind Lanigan’s current record of 41 victories). “We won a lot of races and were a contender for the title the last three times we ran the series, and I expect us to do well again just because I know how much effort and work we’ve put into this, but then again, nothing’s easy.
“Without a doubt, we’re going to have to work for everything we earn this year. Everyone’s been doing their homework during the off season, so we’re just going to have to do what we can to try and stay ahead of everybody.”
Richards will get some extra motivation for his dirt Late Model effort from his new affiliation with Valvoline, the famed brand of oil that joins a list of Richards’s sponsors that includes Seubert Calf Ranches, Ernie D’s Enterprises, Kentucky Fuel Corporation, ACE Metal Works and Petroff Towing.
“We’ve had a relationship with Valvoline since 2002 and I’m proud to have this iconic brand on board as our major sponsor in 2013,” said Richards. “When you think of Valvoline, you think of racing.
“It means a lot to me personally to have them on the house car because the first race that I ran in 2003 (a special event for teenage racers during the Dirt Track World Championship), I drove one of Francis’s cars and Valvoline was on the car then. This will be my 10th anniversary season of racing, so having Valvoline join us is definitely a cool way to celebrate it.”