by Darlene Miller | Photos by Rocky Ragusa
Josh Richards has developed a lot of success in his racing career, which has helped augment his nickname. On Saturday, the “Rocket Man” shot to his 11th victory of the season by taking the World of Outlaws Prairie Dirt Classic Late Model feature. Levi Kissinger celebrated his birthday by taking the $5,000 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals race in a hard fought battle.
Richards, of Shinnston, W.Va., claimed the $27,000 top prize in the Dirt Classic over a tough group of 28 other feature drivers. The packed crowd was on its feet as Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., grabbed the early lead over Manhattan’s Mike Spatola and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., in the 100-lap Late Model feature. Casebolt began to pull away as the drivers behind him were battling three and four wide for the second spot. Casebolt’s lead increased with 12 laps in and he looked like the driver to beat. A caution flag slowed the drivers with 60 laps to go. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and Richards were sitting in second and third and Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce had moved up to the fifth spot after starting 22nd. With a puff of smoke with 59 laps to go, Casebolt’s lead evaporated as he saw his race come to an end entering turn two. Richards found himself in the lead and being closely challenged by McCreadie, Pierce, Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga. Pierce’s night would end with 53 circuits to go as he stuck into the turn three cushion and found himself on his side, which brought out the red flag.
On the restart, Richards jumped back to the lead with Clanton and McCreadie in tow. Two more caution flags flew with 45 and 30 laps to go and Erb was in third getting past McCreadie. Erb quickly put the challenge to Richards and briefly got around him in turn three but another caution flew with 25 to go. Erb was putting constant pressure on Richards over the final 10 circuits but at the checkered flag it was Richards winning by a car length. “Erb didn’t make it easy on me. I saw him coming and I didn’t know where to go,” Richards said after claiming his 69th career victory. “My car was awesome. I had to go up top, it was hard but a lot of fun. I have enjoyed every moment of it.” Erb, who won the “Dream” in Eldora this season, said, “It was a good battle. I had a good car and it was a heck of a race at the end.” “I had to do what I had to by running the top,” third-place finisher Clanton said. “It was treacherous but I held on.” O’Neal was fourth followed by Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., led the second five with McCreadie, Brian Shirley of Chatham, Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., and Frankfort’s Frank Heckenast Jr. following. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., last year’s PDC winner, finished 28th after he turned down $2,000 after winning the last chance Shootout race to start in the PDC feature. Friday night heat winners were Kolby Vandenbergh of Ashland, Casebolt, Clanton, Spatola, Pontiac’s Derek Chandler and McCreadie. The semi winners were Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Jake O’Neil of Vail, Az. Vandenbergh had the fast time in the first qualifying group at 12.932 seconds, but Gibson City’s Kevin Weaver had the fastest time overall of the 59 Late Models on hand with a 12.837 second lap.
Buffalo’s Jeff Leka took the lead in the 40-lap Modified feature after he and Kissinger swapped the lead early on. A caution flag slowed the quick pace with 29 laps to go and then another caution flew seven laps later. Leka was still showing the way but Kissinger and Josh Harris were nipping at his bumper. Kissinger, who came here from Mt. Vernon, Ind., finally got around Leka with 16 laps to go, pulling Harris and Brent Mullins with him. Kissinger and Harris were battling the rest of the way but Kissinger held on for the win. “I knew I was better and I went for broke for the win. My car got tight but I held on,” said Kissinger. Harris of Owensboro, Ky., came in second with Leka, Tyler Nicely of Owensboro, Ky., and Mullins of Mt. Olive completing the top five. Matt Cooper of McKenzie, Tenn., Highland’s Mike Harrison, Newton’s Chad Kinder, Mike McKinney of Plainfield, and Ray Bollinger of Kewanee made the second five. Heat wins went to Bollinger, Cory Daugherty of Blue Mound, Kissinger, Leka, Mullins, and Nicely. Semis were won by Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., who also captured the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals points championship, and Rodney Standerfer of Summerfield. The scrambles went to Brandon McDowell and Danny Schwartz. Leka had the fastest time in the first qualifying group and overall of the 56 Modifieds on hand at 13.697 seconds. Nicely was quickest in the second group at 13.934 seconds. Trent Young of Hopkinsville, Ky., came out on top of a wild AMS All-Star Shootout Friday night. The rescheduled race from the May 28th rainout paid $2,000 to win. Jeff Curl of Fairbury was second, Harris third, Cooper fourth, and Chatsworth's Lance Dehm completed the top five.