Josh Richards has a lot riding on this weekend's fifth annual Lowes Foods World of Outlaws World Finals presented by Tom's Snacks, Coca-Cola and Nature's Own at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C. The 23-year-old from Shinnston, W. Va., will chase history during the World of Outlaws Late Model Series portion of the three-day program, which also features the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and the Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds.
With a victory in one of the weekend's two 50-lap WoO LMS A-Mains, Richards would establish a new single-season win record on the national tour. What's more, two solid outings could bring him an unprecedented third consecutive World of Outlaws points championship.
Richards enters the big weekend, which begins with two rounds of time trials during Kellogg's Qualifying Night on Thursday (Nov. 3) and continues with full programs of heats, Last Chance Races and A-Mains on Friday (Nov. 4) and Saturday (Nov. 5), with plenty of confidence. Charlotte, after all, is a track that agrees with Richards, who trails WoO LMS standings leader Rick Eckert by 14 points.
"There's no other place I'd rather end the season," Richards said of the state-of-the-art speedway. "There are a lot of great racetracks out there, but being at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, it's an awesome track and a great facility, and it's in the heart of stock car racing. It's also one of the few tracks capable of holding an event so big and doing it justice.
"The World Finals is my favorite weekend of the year," he continued. "In my opinion, it's become the biggest show of the year in terms of a whole short-track event. It's really fun for a driver and especially a fan - there's just so much going on in every class. I love just being a part of it."
Richards has enjoyed plenty of success at The Dirt Track - especially during the World Finals. He has finished outside the top 10 just once in eight A-Main starts during the season-ending classic: a 12th-place finish in last year's first feature, which was run during the afternoon after rain forced the postponement of Friday night's action. He won the second A-Main in 2008 - making him the first, and still only, WoO LMS regular to win a feature during the World Finals - and spent the 2009 edition outdueling Steve Francis for the series title and the 2010 doubleheader racing Darrell Lanigan for the crown.
Richards enters this year's World Finals just three weeks removed from a dominating victory in the World of Outlaws Late Model Showdown at The Dirt Track. The triumph was his ninth of the 2011 campaign, tying him with Scott Bloomquist (2004) for the single-season win record.
Richards and his Seubert Calf Ranches/Kentucky Fuel Corporation Rocket Chassis team are well-prepared for a dramatic championship battle with Eckert at the four-tenths-mile oval.
"I'm prepared to race hard and give what it takes to win a third championship," said Richards. "It will be a nice bookend on my dirt career as I move over to the NASCAR Truck Series full time in 2012." He's running a limited NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"The biggest thing with these last races is to just keep on racing like we have all year - just like it's another race, and with the goal of winning the race. I'm sure Rick (Eckert) is gonna be in contention for a win every night too, so we just have to try to finish ahead of him. That's our game plan."
Fans who can't make it to Charlotte this weekend can watch Richards race for the championship from the comfort of their homes by tuning to the SPEED cable network on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, the final night of the World Finals will be broadcast live to the nation.