WHEATLAND, Mo. – It was a long, excellent Friday night/Saturday morning for Josh Richards at Lucas Oil Speedway – especially the second half of the doubleheader setting the stage for Saturday’s 29th annual Show-Me 100 Presented by ProtectheHarvest.com.
Richards, of Shinnston, W.Va., followed a fifth-place run in the opener by dominating the Tribute to Don and Billie Gibson program. Richards led the final 35 of 40 laps to beat Shane Clanton and hard-charging Chris Ferguson in a race that ended at 2 a.m.
“I can’t thank everyone with Clint Bowyer Racing and everyone on this car enough,” Richards said. “The car was really good. I can’t thank everyone enough for staying up. We had a great night tonight and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Tim McCreadie took the first preliminary earlier on Friday night, leading all 45 laps of the “Cowboy Classic.” McCreadie finished seventh in the second half of the doubleheader.
Drivers from the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Lucas Oil MLRA accumulated points through their finishes in the events to help set the field for Saturday night’s 100-lap, $30,000-to-win Show-Me 100.
A total of 58 late models checked into the pits for the doubleheader, necessitated by postponement of Thursday’s scheduled action due to rain.
The Tribute to Don and Billie Gibson was dominated by the sixth-starting Richards, who earned $6,000 for the win. After taking over the lead, not even four caution flags the rest of the way could help the field run him down.
Richards held a commanding 4.1-second margin over Scott Bloomquist when the race’s first caution flew at the midpoint when Ryan Gustin slowed on the front stretch.
Richards took over the lead on lap six from Brian Shirley and gradually stretched it out from there, even as he encountered lapped traffic by lap 15. Bloomquist, meanwhile, slipped past Shirley for the runner-up spot on lap 14 and those two battled it out as the leader stretched his command.
It didn’t take long after the lap 20 restart for Richards to re-establish dominance as he opened up by 2.4 seconds over Shirley, Bloomquist and Clanton in just two laps and kept building it as that trio slugged it out in a battle for second.
A turn-one tangle between Chase Junghans and Hudson O’Neal, who were battling for eighth, brought out a caution on lap 27. That again erased a comfortable margin that Richards had built, 3.7 seconds over Clanton with Shirley third and Bloomquist in fourth.
Once again, it was no problem for Richards, a 33-year-old who’s seeking his first Show-Me 100 triumph. Navigating another caution with five laps to go, Richards went on to beat Clanton by 2.26 seconds.
“I was a little bit,” Richards said of his level of concern after the late cautions. “It felt like the right rear tire kind of greased up a little bit. My biggest fear was hitting a hole and pushing down in (turns) one and two.
“I was a little conservative on my entry, but after we ran a couple of laps and I was able to widen out and get a little more speed once was got a little bit of gap.”
Clanton said he thought he might have something for Richards on the final restart.
“But overall we had a good night and hopefully it puts us in a good spot tomorrow to win this thing,” Clanton said.
Ferguson, who made the long haul from Mt. Holly, N.C., charged from 23rd at the start to finish third. Not only did the team deal with mechanical issues on the transporter on the way to Missouri, it had to replace the rear-end in the race car following hot laps prior to Friday’s second feature.
Last year’s Diamond Nationals winner at Lucas Oil Speedway, Ferguson raced his way into the Gibson Tribute feature through a B Main.
“We battled all night and had a good hot rod,” Ferguson said. “We just needed a couple of more laps. We really like coming out here to this place. If we can put ourselves in a position to start up front, I think we can win that thing tomorrow.”
Brandon Sheppard wound up fourth with Kyle Bronson fifth and Bloomquist sixth.
Randy Timms completed a sweep in the Cedar Creek Beef Jerky USRA Modifieds, again using a last-lap pass to take the night’s final feature to cap a program ending at 4:01 a.m.
1. 14-Josh Richards; 2. 25-Shane Clanton; 3. 22F-Chris Ferguson; 4. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 5. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 6. 0-Scott Bloomquist; 7. 39-Tim McCreadie; 8. 3S-Brian Shirley; 9. 20-Jimmy Owens; 10. 1-Earl Pearson Jr; 11. 157-Mike Marlar; 12. 59-Garrett Alberson; 13. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 14. 71-Hudson O’Neal; 15. 36-Logan Martin; 16. 25S-Chad Simpson; 17. 18-Shannon Babb; 18. 0E-Rick Eckert; 19. 2S-Stormy Scott; 20. 66C-Matt Cosner; 21. 21-Billy Moyer Jr; 22. 56JR-Tony Jackson Jr; 23. 18J-Chase Junghans; 24. 19R-Ryan Gustin