On a night that looked as if it had disaster written all over it for defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Josh Richards, he and his Best Performance Motorsports team scored an improbable $12,000 win by going from worst to first even among some of the biggest stars in Dirt Late Model racing. It was the second win in as many nights for the Shinnston, WV native as he opened his 2018 season in the strongest of ways on a double header weekend at the Golden Isles Speedway in Waynesville, GA.
Brent Larson was fastest in Group A qualifying as he turned a lap of 15.319 seconds to beat out Mason Zeigler, Mike Benedum and Tyler Erb in that group.
Jonathan Davenport was quickest in Group B and for the second night in a row set the overall fast time with a lap of 15.168 seconds to outrun Kyle Bronson, Bobby Pierce and Jason Fitzgerald in the group.
Zeigler earned the pole position for the feature by scoring the win in the first heat race of the night ahead of Brent Larson, Brandon Overton and Tim McCreadie while Tyler Erb took the second heat over Benedum, Dennis Erb, Jr., and Boom Briggs.
Jonathan Davenport would start on the outside of the front row in the feature by virtue of his victory in the third preliminary of the night ahead of Bobby Pierce, Timothy Culp and Morgan Bagley. It was in the third heat where things began to look bleak for Richards as he was forced to pull his third running machine off the track during that race with smoke coming from the car.
Bronson won the final heat race by beating out Scott Bloomquist, Brandon Sheppard and Jason Fitzgerald.
Gregg Satterlee and Don O’Neal were victorious in the two B-main races used to set the remainder of the starting lineup for the main event. In one of those B-mains, things the situation turned even darker for Richards as he had a power steering line to come loose and spew fluid before the race even began.
Zeigler took the lead at the outset of the 60-lap feature with Tyler Erb, Bronson, Pierce, Larson and Davenport, who ran across the cushion of the track in turn two, trailing. Zeigler pulled away from his pursuers in the very early laps of the event but Erb tracked him down on the fourth circuit and took the lead as the duo wrestled with slower traffic.
Zeigler lost even more ground on the eighth lap when he jumped the outside cushion allowing Bronson and Pierce to pass by. Three-time LOLMDS champion Scott Bloomquist was one of the first of many major retirees from the race when he pulled off track on lap 10.
The first of three caution on the night came out on lap 12 when Zeigler again jumped the cushion and came to a stop in turn four. The third running Pierce suffered a misstep on the ensuing restart which dropped him to fifth as Overton and Davenport swept by. Shortly thereafter, Davenport and Overton waged a battle of their own for fourth before Davenport fell back into the clutches of Dennis Erb, Jr. two laps later.
Lap 17 saw the yellow flag wave once more when Culp spun in turn two and collected Owens, Satterlee and Fitzgerald. Bronson made the most of the restart as he grabbed second away from Larson. But also at that time, Richards asserted himself as a threat to win the race as he jumped all the way up to the fourth spot.
The night’s third and final caution flag was displayed on lap 22 when Overton stalled and was unable to make it back to the pit area. During this time, LOLMDS officials displayed the red flag to allow teams an opportunity to swap helmets for their drivers and many competitors had already run out of tear-offs on the heavy and tacky track.
That yellow proved to be the break Richards needed as he moved by Tyler Erb to grab the lead just one lap after the field returned to green flag racing. Initially, it looked as if the remainder of the race would be a time of domination for Richards as he began to pull away from the pack. However, Erb tracked the leader back down, and on lap 46 powered around the outside to assume the lead. But one lap later Richards reasserted himself as the front runner.
From that point, the defending series champion lead the way to the checkered flag and completed an impressive run that saw him start dead last on the field after barely making it to the starting grid before the green flag waved to climbing all the way to the top of the leader board.
Feature Finish: 1. Josh Richards, 2. Kyle Bronson, 3. Tyler Erb, 4. Dennis Erb, Jr., 5. Brandon Sheppard, 6. Brent Larson, 7. Bobby Pierce, 8. Darrell Lanigan, 9. Boom Briggs, 10. Jonathan Davenport, 11. Tim McCreadie, 12. Earl Pearson, Jr., 13. Shanon Buckingham, 14. Jimmy Owens, 15. Brian Connor, 16. Brandon Overton, 17. Coleby Frye, 18. Timothy Culp, 19. Gregg Satterlee, 20. Jason Fitzgerald, 21. Morgan Bagley, 22. Don O’Neal, 23. Mason Zeigler, 24. Mike Benedum, 25. Scott Bloomquist, 26. Billy Moyer, Jr.