Race Weekend Central

Shakedown Session: NASCAR’s New Kid on the Block

NASCAR fans have seen more than their fair share of developmental drivers come and go. For every Trevor Bayne that gets discovered, there’s about 10 Ryan Hemphills who don’t break through to the next level. And when Kyle Busch Motorsports signed 23-year old Shinnston, W.V. native Josh Richards, most casual fans were left scratching their heads as to who he is. Well, in this edition of the Shakedown Session, we’ll talk a little bit about this 23-year old dirt-track wunderkind and his fast rise to a ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for arguably the best team currently in the series.

To say Josh Richards was destined for racing may seem a tad bit cliché, but the son of famed dirt late model Rocket Chassis owner Mark Richards was certainly born into the realm of racing. The youngster cut his teeth on the dirt tracks of West Virginia before climbing into his father’s late model equipment and immediately becoming an impact player in the rough-and-tumble world of dirt late model racing. Richards served his notice to the racing world in 2009 by being the youngest ever World of Outlaws Late Models series champion at the ripe old age of 21.

This success earned Richards a few rides for Ken Schrader Racing as a development driver in the ARCA Racing Series and the K&N Pro East Series. Between charting a couple of top-five finishes in his time with Schrader, Richards put together his second straight championship campaign with the WoO Late Model Series. Despite two straight championships in, arguably, one of the two most prestigious dirt late model touring series in the country, Richards has remained somewhat of an anomaly amongst NASCAR fans.

But Kyle Busch had his eyes on him and has decided to give the youngster a shot in his truck, the kind of opportunity most drivers toiling in the dirt late model ranks would kill for.

The biggest question lurking in the minds of the NASCAR brethren is how well can Richards make the transition from dirt-track racing to late models? There have been a few drivers in NASCAR who cut their teeth on dirt, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace in particular and also current Nationwide Series regular Jeremy Clements was a dirt late model main-stay for many years before moving into asphalt. But for every Schrader, Wallace or Clements, there are guys like Steve Kinser and Tim McCreadie who couldn’t quite acclimate themselves to the steep NASCAR learning curve.

One thing that works in Richards’s favor is his age. Because, let’s face it, NASCAR fans, sponsors want young drivers in their cars these days. The days of guys making NASCAR in their late-30s a la Harry Gant and Morgan Shepherd has gone the way of the V-6 engine in the Nationwide Series. Also, it hasn’t hurt matters that he brings the necessary cash to pay for this opportunity in the form of Joy Mining Machinery’s money.

But most importantly, the fact that he has done well in ARCA and the K&N Pro East series in his limited amount of experience on asphalt has been a great boon to his burgeoning career. And having a guy like Kyle Busch behind him, whether fans love him or hate him, is nothing to sneeze at either.

Rest assured, in a few, short years when Josh Richards is tearing up the NASCAR ranks with his tenacious, devil-may-care driving style, just remember that Frontstretch predicted greatness for this rising, young prospect from the heart of Appalachia. Fans might not know the name now, but in due time, Richards has all the tools necessary to be the cream of the crop, and, like Robert Frost, he took the road less traveled to NASCAR in the form of dirt-track racing.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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