Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BARBERVILLE, FL – A new – yet familiar – challenge awaits Josh Richards in 2022.
The four-time World of Outlaws Late Models Series champion, of Shinnston, WV, returns full-time to the Series he dominated the stats sheets in for years. However, with less than 40 days until the 2022 season-opening race during the Sunshine Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park (Jan. 20-22), Richards acknowledged there’s still a lot of work ahead for he and his new Boom Briggs team to get back to his old stats.
That’s not diminishing the “Rocket Man’s” excitement to return to the Series that sent his career into liftoff, though.
“It feels good,” Richards said. “Obviously, I’ve spent most of my career on the Outlaws side and had success on the [Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series] side, and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do next year, and Boom came along and offered me a ride.
“There’s still a lot of things in motion right now, and a lot of things are up in the air. But I’m excited about the opportunity.”
His return pits him against the team he helped built – also owned by his father Mark Richards – on the track and in the record books. Richards currently holds the most wins with 78, while Brandon Sheppard in the Rocket1 Racing car is a step behind him with 77 wins. The two drivers are also tied for the most Series titles (4). And while some have their eye on who will come out on top in 2022, Richards isn’t one of them.
“Everyone’s up looking at numbers and statistics and things, but that’s the least of my worries right now; we’re just trying to get to the track,” Richards said. “Boom and Steve Briggs both have been phenomenal, and we’ve been able to find a little sponsor help, but it’s all a work in progress. We have only one crew guy and one truck and trailer to run two teams.
“We don’t really have expectations. I know what I’m capable of, it’s just a matter of getting the team and equipment there, and it’s all going to be a work in progress. We’re starting from ground zero, but we’ve had a few guys, P&W Sales, Excess Storage, Mike Tucker, some guys that have come to help out, and it’s been great. We’re probably six months behind on preparation, but we’ll get there.”
There’s also nothing but respect between Richards and Sheppard, on and off the track.
“We don’t have any rivalry at all,” Richards said. “Brandon is phenomenal, and he’s super cool, and we get along really well. He’s racing for a team that I helped build for my whole career, so I feel like even with his success, I’ve been a part of that. He’s done a phenomenal job and settled in really well. That team is tough, and they can put up some big numbers.”
As “The Rocket Man’s” newly formed team prepares to compete against a stout 2022 field of Outlaw drivers, he stated he’s excited about the number of new tracks next season—something that’s different from the last few years of his career.
“I’m always excited to go to new tracks,” Richards said. “That’s one thing the last couple years with the Lucas side, we’ve gone to some new places, but we’ve gone to the same places over and over again. As a racer, you always want to see new things and new places.”
Before exploring the country, the 2022 season will kick off with two big events at Volusia Speedway Park, including the Sunshine Nationals and DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 14-19) – an early season stretch Richards is looking forward to.
“Speedweeks is my favorite time of year; it always has been,” he said. “We’ve had success there over the years because it’s always a new beginning. Everything’s fresh at the beginning of the year; you start at zero and have a big challenge ahead of you.”
It’s the type of challenge Richards hasn’t faced since first joining Clint Bowyer Racing in 2019 and one he’s welcoming as 2022 begins.
“I always like a new challenge, and change isn’t always necessarily a bad thing,” Richards said. “I was grateful for the opportunity with [Clint Bowyer Racing]. I’ve had some success there and ended not great as far as performance, but we still left on good terms and appreciate everything those guys did.
“I’m excited for the future and excited to see what this year brings, and hopefully I can help Boom, and he can help me.”
Richards and his World of Outlaws competitors kick off the season Jan. 20-22 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL, as part of the Late Model Palooza known as Sunshine Nationals.