In Search Of Third Straight Title, Josh Richards Once Again Tops World of Outlaws Late Model Series Pre-Season Media Poll

By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director

CONCORD, NC – Feb. 17, 2011 – Josh Richards is ready to begin his chase of a third straight World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship.

And according to the dirt Late Model press corps, the odds are good that the young sensation from Shinnston, W.Va., will accomplish the unprecedented feat.

Richards, 22, was voted the favorite to win the national tour’s 2011 points title in the fourth annual WoO LMS Pre-Season Media Poll, marking the third consecutive year he has topped the voting. He was not, however, the overwhelming choice that he was a year ago as his prime pursuers in 2010, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., received strong support.

More than three dozen writers, photographers and broadcasters who cover the WoO LMS participated in the poll, which asked the press members to predict the top-five finishers in the tour’s 2011 points standings. Points were distributed to each driver named on the media ballots using a 5-4-3-2-1 system.

Richards tallied 161 points, buoyed by a poll-best 14 first-place votes. His name appeared on 40 of the 41 ballots that were submitted and he was predicted to finish among the top three in the points standings by 39 of the 40 media types who selected him.

Last year Richards continued his rise to national prominence in the dirt Late Model world, becoming the first driver in the modern era of the WoO LMS to capture two titles. He kicks off his pursuit of a threepeat with his father Mark’s Rocket Chassis team at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., which hosts season-opening 50-lap, $10,000-to-win programs on Feb. 17 and 19 as part of the 40th annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.

Richards, who has been a WoO LMS regular since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2005, enters the 2011 season tied with Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., atop the tour’s A-Main victory list since 2004, with 28 wins. He is also seeking his fifth straight triumph in the WoO LMS season opener at Volusia.

McCreadie, 36, nipped the 40-year-old Lanigan by a single point, 131-130, to place second in the Pre-Season Media Poll. A solid third-place finisher in the 2010 WoO LMS points standings in his first season as a regular since winning the 2006 championship, McCreadie was listed on 34 ballots with 11 first-place and 13 second-place selections.

Lanigan, who lost the 2010 points crown to Richards by four points in a battle that went down to the final race, appeared on 38 ballots – four more than McCreadie – but finished third in the poll results. The 2008 WoO LMS champion garnered 10 first-place, five second-place and 14 third-place votes.

Francis, who won the WoO LMS title in 2007, finished fourth in the poll, earning five first-place votes among the 32 ballots on which his name appeared and tallying 89 points. The 43-year-old standout heads into the 2011 season with a Barry Wright-built car as his chassis of choice for the first time in 15 years.

Austin Hubbard, 19, of Seaford, Del., received substantial support from the media after his record-breaking march to the Rookie of the Year honor in 2010, finishing fifth in the poll. The teenage driver of Dale Beitler’s familiar No. 19 appeared on 20 ballots and totaled 39 points, highlighted by four second-place selections.

Shane Clanton, 35, of Fayetteville, Ga., was the only other driver to receive a first-place vote, picking up a single nod among the 20 ballots on which his name was listed and totaling 33 points to finish sixth in the poll. He placed sixth in the WoO LMS points standings last year – a campaign that started off in rough fashion for the tour stalwart because his recovery from a serious thumb infection relegated him to merely using provisional starting spots to collect last-place points in the season-opening Volusia events.

Rick Eckert, 45, of York, Pa., and Tim Fuller, 43, of Watertown, N.Y., finished in a tie for seventh in the poll, collecting 12 points apiece. Both drivers’ names appeared on seven ballots and were listed as high as third – Eckert earning two third-place selections and Fuller one.

Rounding out the drivers earning votes in the poll were Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who received three fifth-place selections for three points; Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who earned two fifth-place picks; and Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who picked up a single fourth-place vote from a media member who believes that the 39-year-old driver might opt to follow the 2011 series if he gets off to a strong start.

As part of the poll, media members were also asked to predict who will win the most WoO LMS A-Mains in 2011 as well as the victors of the season’s three richest events – the inaugural Commonwealth 100 ($25,000 to win) on April 15-16 at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Va.; the fourth annual Firecracker 100 ($30,000 to win) on June 23-25 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.; and the 24th annual USA Nationals ($50,000 to win) on Aug. 5-6 at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.

McCreadie and Richards were the top press choices in the biggest-winner category, with McCreadie receiving 16 votes and Richards earning 15. The only other drivers tapped for possible winningest-driver status in 2011 were Lanigan (five), Fuller (two) and Hubbard (two).

Media members predicted that the season’s most prolific winner will lead the tour with as many as 12 victories and as few as three. The single-season win record for the WoO LMS since 2004 is held by Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who captured nine A-Mains in ’04.

Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., emerged as the favorite among the media to win the Commonwealth 100, which returns to the WoO LMS schedule after a memorable debut last season. Madden, who won the inaugural event in 2010, received nine votes in balloting for the race.

Other drivers earning multiple votes as potential Commonwealth 100 winners were McCreadie (eight), Richards (eight), Lanigan (four), Bloomquist (three), Clanton (two) and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. (two). Receiving single votes were Eckert, Francis, Hubbard, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.

Bloomquist, who won the inaugural Firecracker 100 in 2007, topped the polling for this year’s fifth annual event, picking up eight selections. Other drivers receiving multiple votes were McCreadie (five), Richards (five), Eckert (four), Lanigan (four), 2010 winner Clanton (three), Moyer (three), 2008 winner Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa (two) and Frank (two), while single votes were cast for Francis, Hubbard and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind.

Bloomquist and Mars emerged as the consensus favorites to win the 100-lap USA Nationals, which returns to the WoO LMS for the second straight season. The former event winners received nine votes each.

Also earning multiple votes for USA Nationals glory were Moyer (seven), Lanigan (four), Birkhofer (three), Richards (three) and McCreadie (two). Single votes were cast for Clanton, Eckert, Davenport and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.

For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.

2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Pre-Season Media Poll (Driver/first pl. votes/2nd pl/3rd pl/4th pl/5th pl/total points on 5-4-3-2-1 tabulation system):

1. Josh Richards 14-15-10-0-1 = 161 points
2. Tim McCreadie 11-13-5-4-1 = 131 points
3. Darrell Lanigan 10-5-14-9-0 = 130 points
4. Steve Francis 5-3-8-12-4 = 89 points
5. Austin Hubbard 0-4-0-7-9 = 39 points
6. Shane Clanton 1-1-1-4-13 = 33 points
7. (tie) Rick Eckert 0-0-2-1-4 = 12 points
7. (tie) Tim Fuller 0-0-1-3-3 = 12 points
9. Clint Smith 0-0-0-0-3 = 3 points
10. (tie) Chub Frank 0-0-0-0-2 = 2 points
10. (tie) Jimmy Mars 0-0-0-1-0 = 2 points