SHINNSTON, WV – While the name Josh Richards is a familiar one on dirt ovals of all sizes across the nation, it was relatively
unrecognized in the paved short track proving grounds of Greenville Pickens (SC) Speedway. The twenty-one year-old left the familiar seat of his No. 1 Rocket Chassis dirt late model and his rank as the reigning point leader in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for unchartered territory on Saturday for his NASCAR Camping World East Series¹ debut and first glimpse of South
Carolina¹s historic half-mile Greenville Pickens Speedway.
The NASCAR Camping World East Series falls under the same flagship as the premier Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series¹ but consists of the former Busch East and North tours that visit short tracks and intermediate venues as a stepping stone into the upper echelon of NASCAR. Several development teams regularly field entries in the East Series including those present at Saturday¹s 2009 series opening ³NASCAR Home Tracks 150² – Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Ken Schrader Racing and Earnhardt Ganassi. Additionally, two younger brothers of Sprint Cup stars Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex, Jr., are also showcasing their abilities in the division.
Richards, fielding one of two Ken Schrader Racing Chevrolets, first set eyes on the flat half-mile Friday evening and realized this was going to be a new experience.
³I am used to banking on our dirt tracks and my experience in these cars has been limited to a couple of tests over the last year but nothing was like Greenville Pickens,² explained the rookie driver. ³This is place is like Martinsville flat. When we pulled in, I first thought Œoh this is like nothing I¹ve been on before¹ and then was kind of caught up in the history of the place. It¹s an awesome little track that feels like a throwback to the old days of stock car racing especially when you see names of guys like
David Pearson and Elmo Langley who competed there on the wall. It was going to be a challenge but I knew it was going to be fun.²
Competing against a strong majority of drivers who have a few events (or seasons) under their belts including a veteran like Steve Park, Josh had alot of small milestones to make but had the experience of team owner Ken Schrader to draw upon. During a two hour practice session, crew chief Mike Fritts and Josh worked on a tight handling condition to prepare for qualifying and race trim. Similar to his practice times, Josh qualified the No. 52 Seubert Calf Ranches/Petroff Towing Chevy Monte Carlo SS in the 17th position knowing that they sacrificed a little speed due to the impound demands for a car that was capable of handling better in race conditions.
A delayed start entering turn one caused cars to check up and start spinning ahead of the West Virginia native and the No. 52 was one of eight entries bruised in the melee. The team pitted to pull sheet metal away from the right front tire and restarted 26th but was confident in both the car they prepared and their rookie driver. By lap 50, Josh had already advanced to 11th place and was steadily continuing his march to the front. His dirt track skills and technique impressed many as he saved his brakes by rolling through the turns and utilizing the treacherous outside groove to complete a pass on several occasions.
After passing series champions, NASCAR veterans and the other development drivers, Richards set his sights on the Top-5 with eight laps to go. While running 5th, a caution flag with five laps remaining is the last thing the greenhorn wanted to see. Adamant his tires were completely used up after the previous 145 circuits, Richards knew his work was cut out for him when
the green flag dropped but he was able to edge past fast qualifier, Brett Moffitt, for fourth place honors.
³I had a blast,² Josh proclaimed. ³I want to thank Seubert Calf Ranches, Petroff Towing, Ken Schrader, Mike Fritts and the entire No. 52 crew, and everyone involved including Tony Stewart for this opportunity. When everyone around me started piling up on the first lap and we got caught up in it, the team could¹ve been discouraged but they encouraged me to just give it time and we were able to work to a fourth place finish and have a clean run. There is a lot of tough competition out here in the NASCAR Camping World East Series and it was an amazing experience to be able to race against them.²
Richards was not only part of the show but one of the key ingredients. Post-race commentary from fellow competitors, track representatives and series officials illustrated how impressed they were with Josh¹s utilization of the outside groove on a track where a key motto is ³slow and low². Those moves were credited to his dirt track roots but earned honors as the ³Coca Cola Move of the Race². Back behind the wheel of his No. 1 Seubert Calf Ranches/ACE Metal Works Rocket Chassis this weekend, Richards will return to the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for stops at Fayetteville (NC) Speedway on Friday, April 17, and Virginia Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Televised coverage of the ³NASCAR Home Tracks 150 presented by Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet² at Greenville Pickens Speedway will air on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 16th, 2009.
Josh Richards¹ #52 Ken Schrader Racing fielded Chevy Monte Carlo SS carried support from Seubert Calf Ranches, Petroff Towing, Tony Stewart Racing, ACE Metal Works, Fastenal and Sunoco Race Fuels. For the latest news and information on Josh, log on to http://www.joshrichards.com
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
· Josh Richards received his NASCAR competition license on his 21st birthday in March
· This event marked Richards¹ NASCAR Camping World East Series debut
· 29 entries were present for the 150 lap season opener
· His #52 has longstanding ties to team owner Ken Schrader
· The Top-5 finishers (and 79% of the field) were all in Chevrolets
· Greenville Pickens Speedway is NASCAR¹s 2nd oldest home track
· Josh finished behind three Camping World East Veterans and was the highest finishing rookie
· After being one of 8 cars caught in a Lap 1 stalled start, Richards restarted 26th
· Although he advanced 22 positions from the complete restart, he still earned honors with the most positions advanced (13) from his official 17th place berth
· Using his dirt track skills, Richards was one of few cars attempting to pass on the outside on the flat oval a feat that scored the ³Coca Cola Move of the Race² distinction
· Development teams tied to Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing,
Ken Schrader Racing and Earnhardt Ganassi were in attendance
· Josh advanced past reigning champion Matt Kobyluck, NASCAR veteran Steve Park, and two competitors with names familiar the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage – (Jarit) Johnson and (Ryan) Truex
· Competitors represented 14 states from Maine to California