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"Kid Rocket" chosen as pre-season favorite for WoO Late Mode


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Favorite Again: Defending Champ Josh Richards Tops World of Outlaws Late Model Series Pre-Season Media Poll For Second Straight Year

 

CONCORD, NC - Feb. 11, 2010 - Can Josh Richards repeat as the champion of the World of Outlaws Late Model Series in 2010?

 

According to the dirt Late Model press contingent, there's a very good chance the young sensation from Shinnston, W.Va., will reign supreme again.

 

Richards, 21, was voted the overwhelming favorite to win the national tour's 2010 points title in the third annual WoO LMS Pre-Season Media Poll. It marks the second consecutive year that he has topped the voting.

 

More than two-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 2010 points standings. Points were distributed to each driver named on the media ballots using a 5-4-3-2-1 system.

 

Richards tallied 113 points in the poll, including an impressive 15 first-place votes. No other driver received more than five first-place selections and Richards appeared on 26 of the 27 ballots that were submitted.

 

Last year Richards certified himself as a true full-fender superstar, leading the WoO LMS in A-Main victories (eight) and becoming the youngest driver in dirt Late Model history to capture a national touring series championship. Now Richards and his father Mark's Rocket Chassis team are primed to begin their sixth season as regulars on the WoO LMS, which kicks off on Feb. 11 and 13 with a pair of programs during the 39th annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.

 

If Richards can grab another WoO LMS championship trophy, he will become the first driver to win two titles since the tour was reincarnated in 2004 under the World Racing Group banner. He was the sixth champion in as many years last season, demonstrating the competitiveness of the nation's premier dirt Late Model series.

 

Steve Francis, 42, of Ashland, Ky., who battled Richards for the 2009 title before settling for his third runner-up finish since 2004 in the WoO LMS points standings, placed second in the Pre-Season Media Poll. The 2007 series champion -- who returns to his own equipment this season after spending the last two years driving for Maryland car owner Dale Beitler -- was listed on 22 ballots, accumulating 72 points on the strength of five first-place votes and five second-place picks.

 

Finishing third in the poll was 2008 champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who spent much of the '09 campaign in a tight three-way points tussle with Richards and Francis before faltering down the stretch and finishing third in the standings. The 39-year-old appeared on 20 ballots, garnering three first- and a poll-leading eight second-place votes and registering 65 points.

 

Tim Fuller, 42, of Watertown, N.Y., received more love from the media than he ever had before -- thanks, no doubt, to a break-out 2009 season that saw him win a career-high seven A-Mains, including a record-tying four in a row. The DIRTcar big-block Modified transplant finished fourth in the poll, earning two first- and seven second-place votes among the 21 ballots on which his name appeared and tallying 62 points.

 

Rick Eckert, 44, of York, Pa., did not receive a first-place vote, but he was named on 16 ballots and totaled 35 points to place fifth in the poll. One of only two drivers (Francis is the other) who has started all 237 WoO LMS A-Mains contested since 2004, Eckert is in the unfamiliar position of fielding his own team this season after the passing of his longtime car owner, Raye Vest, last November.

 

Ironically, the top five drivers in the Pre-Season Media Poll voting finished in the exact same order in the 2009 WoO LMS points standings.

 

A newcomer to the WoO LMS in 2009, Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., turned enough heads with strong runs en route to an eighth-place finish in the points standings that the media listed him on eight ballots to put him sixth in the poll results with 23 points. The 32-year-old was one of seven drivers who received a first-place vote.

 

Other drivers receiving first-place votes were Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and 2006 WoO LMS champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. Both earned a single first-place nod.

 

Frank, 48, was named on eight ballots and totaled 18 points to finish seventh in the poll, while McCreadie, 35, placed 10th in the poll with seven points. McCreadie was named on only three ballots (he also received two fifth-place votes), but several poll respondents noted that they would have included him in their top-fives if they were certain he would follow the entire WoO LMS schedule in 2010; he has indicated he wants to return as a tour regular but has not yet committed to running the series.

 

Rounding out the drivers earning votes in the poll were Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who was listed as high as third on a ballot and earned 13 points; 2010 Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., a teenager whose lofty expectations as the new driver of Beitler's No. 19 were evident with the two fourth- and five fifth-place votes he received from the media; and Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., who tallied one fourth- and one fifth-place vote.

 

As part of the poll, media members were also asked to predict who will win the most WoO LMS A-Mains in 2010 as well as the victors of the season's three richest events -- the inaugural Commonwealth 100 ($25,000 to win) on April 16-17 at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica, Va.; the fourth annual Firecracker 100 ($30,000 to win) on June 24-26 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.; and the 23rd annual USA Nationals ($50,000 to win) on Aug. 6-7 at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.

 

Richards was far-and-away the top choice of the media to lead the tour in victories for the second consecutive season. He received 15 votes in the top-winner category, besting Fuller (six), Francis (three), McCreadie (two), Clanton (one) and Eckert (one).

 

Media members predicted that Richards will lead the tour with as many as 12 wins or as few as six. The single-season win record for the WoO LMS since 2004 is held by Scott Bloomquist, who captured nine A-Mains in 2004.

 

Richards was also the favorite among the media to win the Commonwealth 100, which will light up the spring schedule as the biggest event ever staged at Bill Sawyer's spic-and-span half-mile oval 40 minutes outside Richmond. He received five votes in balloting for the event.

 

Other drivers earning multiple votes as potential Commonwealth 100 winners were McCreadie (four), Frank (three), Fuller (three), Francis (two), Hubbard (two) and Chris Madden of Gaffney, S.C. (two). Receiving single votes were Booper Bare of Rockbridge Baths, Va., Clanton, Eckert, Lanigan, Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa., and Brady Smith.

 

Defending Firecracker 100 champion Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, received the most votes in the event's polling, picking up seven selections. Other drivers receiving multiple votes were Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. (four), Francis (four), Richards (three), Clanton (two), Frank (two) and McCreadie (two), while single votes were cast for Eckert, Fuller, Mars and Lanigan.

 

Mars emerged as the consensus favorite to win the 100-lap USA Nationals, which returns to the WoO LMS for the first time since 2005. He received eight votes, besting fellow Badger State star Brady Smith (five), Bloomquist (four), McCreadie (three), Birkhofer (two), Fuller (two), Richards (two), Francis (one) and Clint Smith (one).

 

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

 

2010 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 15-6-4-1-0 = 113 points

2. Steve Francis 5-5-6-3-3 = 72 points

3. Darrell Lanigan 3-8-3-3-3 = 65 points

4. Tim Fuller 2-7-5-2-5 = 62 points

5. Rick Eckert 0-1-4-8-3 = 35 points

6. Brady Smith 1-1-2-4-0 = 23 points

7. Chub Frank 1-0-2-2-3 = 18 points

8. Shane Clanton 0-0-2-2-3 = 13 points

9. Austin Hubbard 0-0-0-2-5 = 9 points

10. Tim McCreadie 1-0-0-0-2 = 7 points

11. Clint Smith 0-0-0-1-1 = 3 points

12. Russell King 0-0-0-0-0 = 0 points

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