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After Dramatic Preliminary Win, Richards’ 28th to Third Run in Dream XIX at Eldora Speedway Goes for Naught

Jun 12, 2013

SHINNSTON, WV – June 11, 2013 – For a moment, Josh Richards thought that he had topped his already successful assault on the DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned Dirt Late Model XIX Presented by Ferris Commercial Mowers at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, with a career-best finish in last Saturday night’s 100-lap, $100,000-to-win A-Main.

But Richards’s joy over making a spectacular charge to a third-place finish from the 28th and last starting spot turned to heartbreak when his Valvoline-sponsored Mark Richards Racing Enterprises Rocket Chassis car failed to meet the post-race minimum weight requirement of 2,300 pounds. The disqualification to last place in the official Dream rundown was a crushing end to an Eldora visit that included a victory in a 25-lap preliminary feature on Thursday night, but the 25-year-old driver from Shinnston, W.Va., handled his bitter fate with customary grace.

Richards accepted blame for the weigh-in mistake, noting that he and his team had simply spent worked so hard on Saturday to repair their car after a heat-race accident that they overlooked bolting on the necessary extra weight that would compensate for the loss of fuel during a 100-lap feature.

“We were behind the eight-ball all day,” said Richards. “We changed an engine (Saturday) morning just as a safety precaution, then they drew a six for the (heat lineup) invert so we had to start sixth (in the fourth heat) and we got caught up in that mess (in turn four) with Darrell (Lanigan) and (Frankie) Heckenast. The wreck could’ve been a lot worse – I pretty much drove right underneath Heckenast after he hit Darrell and bounced in the air – but luckily it was all cosmetic on the right side of the car. I was able to keep going (in the heat) and at least try to get the best finish we could (he ended finishing fifth to miss transferring to the A-Main by two spots).

“It was a lot of work, though, to get the car back together. The body and other stuff was really bent up. We got patched up in time for the B (Main), but we ended up using a (fast-time) provisional to get in the (Dream) race. When we got back to the pits after the B we only had time to make a couple little changes for the feature – and in the midst of everything we were doing at the last minute, we just didn’t add any lead to the car (for extra weight).

“It was our own fault,” he added. “It wasn’t like we were trying to gain anything, but with all the chaos and the rush to get ready we overlooked adding the lead we needed to make sure we’d weigh enough at the end after burning off 100 laps worth of fuel.”

Richards was obviously disappointed that his gritty drive forward from the 28th starting spot to as high as second place – a position he briefly reached after a lap-91 restart – went for naught.

“But we still had a phenomenal car,” said Richards. “I’m definitely proud of all my guys for giving me that. They did a great job. I wouldn’t even have been able to run at all in the feature if it wasn’t for them, for all the work they did to get the car ready.

“When the race ended, it didn’t even dawn on me at all that we might be light. I was just thinking that we had a great night – we ran third, and we could’ve run second but we just couldn’t get past (Dennis) Erb because he was running wide like he needed to at the end. But as soon as I rolled up there on the scales and looked over (at the digital weight display) it dawned on me that, ‘Man, I don’t know if we’re gonna make it or not. We never added that lead.’

“It’s definitely frustrating,” he concluded, “but we had a phenomenal car that was fun to drive. I had a great time racing all weekend. The way the track is suits my driving style now – I should say, the condition that I like to run in. I’ve always liked Eldora, but this weekend was the best I’ve felt here.”

Richards certainly showed his stuff on Thursday night, when the revamped Dream XIX weekend opened with the first of two preliminary racing programs. He timed third-fastest out of 84 entrants, then finished second in a heat race (the field was split by qualifying time into two groups that ran separate heats, B-Mains and features) and steered forward from the sixth starting spot in the 25-lap Odd-Number Qualifiers Feature to record a thrilling $2,500 triumph.

In a wildly-competitive race that saw seven lead changes among four drivers, Richards pulled off the most important pass. Taking advantage of a lap-23 restart, Richards sailed around the outside of Steve Francis off turn two on the final circuit to grab his second career win at Eldora.

“It was a fun race,” said Richards, whose previous victory at Eldora came in a Sunoco American Late Model Series event on May 25, 2008. “The track had some speed to it even though it was hard, and you could really move around on it and race. You had to be aggressive if you were gonna pass somebody and that’s what we did at the end.”

Richards was strong again on Friday night, timing ninth fastest, winning a heat race and finishing fourth in the 25-lap Odd-Number Qualifiers Feature. His time-trial lap from Thursday night, meanwhile, ended up being the fourth-fastest of the two qualifying sessions, giving him his sixth-place starting spot in a Dream heat race on Saturday thanks to the six-car inversion.

Richards will take this weekend off from competition to gear up for the upcoming busy stretch of World of Outlaws Late Model Series action. The tour’s points leader will begin a swing through the Northeast on June 19 at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway, then continue to Brighton (Ont.) Speedway on June 20; Cornwall (Ont.) Motor Speedway on June 23; Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park on June 25; and Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., for the seventh annual Firecracker 100 weekend on June 27-29.

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