When the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series goes to The Dirt Track at Charlotte on November 4-6 for the World Finals to close out its 2021 campaign one driver will have a chance to make history. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. has earned three series championships throughout his career and is all but certain capture his fourth at season’s end. And more, his 77 career wins on this national tour rank him second on the all-time list just one win shy of the all-time record for WoO feature victories.
Only one other driver has ever won four championships with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and it’s the same driver whose 78 checkered flags leads Sheppard on the all-time series list. Ironically, it is the previous driver of the car the 28-year-old Sheppard now pilots who is the current record holder in both wins and titles with that particular series.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, WV now competes on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series while handling the driving chores for Clint Bowyer Racing. However, the now 33-year-old driver was once a dominant force on the WoO Late Models tour when he served as the primary driver of his father’s Rocket Chassis house car.
Mark Richards, who along with Steve Baker owns Rocket Chassis, leads the Rocket Chassis house car program which now maintains the blue No. 1 machine for Sheppard. Under his leadership, both his son and Sheppard have visited victory lane not only in WoO competition but also under the banner of numerous other regional and national sanctioning bodies. More, they each have scored wins at a number of tracks across the country.
In all likelihood, the chassis guru will celebrate his eighth championship with these two drivers as a team owner during that first weekend in November.
“It feels good, definitely,” Mark Richards replied to InsideDirtRacing.com when asked how satisfying it has been to have had the top-two drivers in WoO history in his car. “They both have been competitive in their eras when they were here so it feels good.”
Richards says that the personalities of the two chauffeurs are somewhat similar even though their driving styles are different. Both, however, have had one thing in common while driving for the Shinnston, West Virginia-based team. Each proved to be eager learners during their time in that seat.
“Brandon has kind of been like a son to me so he’s listened,” Richards explained. “Josh listened at an early age. A lot of people don’t know but Josh didn’t really race anything but these cars(Super Late Models). The sixth race he ever drove was a World of Outlaws race. He got thrown in there real early. Then I got to watch Brandon from a young age, I think he was 19 when he first came to race for us. He’s got a lot of the (personal)characteristics that Josh has. He don’t get too excited … and that’s a good thing.”
Richards explains that his car has been capable of winning for both drivers because of the crew members he has been able to assemble. Crew chief Danny White along with crew members Austin Hargrove and Joel Rogers know their roles and perform their appointed tasks with precision on race day as well as in the shop.
“This group of guys,” Richards beamed. “If it wasn’t for this group of guys, I’ll be 61 next month, and I’ve got so much going on over the course of the week and even the weekend with the amount of cars that we build and the customers that we have. If I didn’t have these guys, it wouldn’t do what it does. They do as good of a job, if not better than me, on each part that they do. Austin does tires and body work and he does an exceptional job. Danny takes care of the maintenance and he oversees the preparation of the car and keeps the team in check. Joel fills in where they need him. It’s a really good group of guys. It took me a lifetime to get here to get this group.”
Richards needs that quality of help with his car because of the time he spends offering help to any and all of those teams who employ his race cars.
“It’s no problem with us,” he declared. “We’re 100% with anybody who wants to know. But everybody drives a little different and what each driver needs is a little different sometimes than what the next guy needs. Josh is completely different from Brandon in what he needs in a car and Brandon is different from what Josh needs in a car. I’ll tell anybody what we’re doing but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for them. For example, Ryan Gustin text me the other day and I gave him our setup but I told him he would need to make a couple of changes to his driving style and we talked about what that was.”
The Rocket Chassis house car team will be in action in the World Finals at Charlotte early next month.
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