*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American All-Star Pro Late Models Presented by PPM Racing Products
Were you surprised that Josh Richards retired from full-time racing?
Richard: From the standpoint that Richards has been one of the most successful drivers of the past two decades and is still only 34 years of age, it was a bit surprising. But when the past couple of seasons are taken into account and how poorly those two campaigns went, it wasn’t really a shock.
The four-time World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series champion and former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series titlist had what had to be considered a disappointing last campaign with Clint Bowyer Racing followed by a very tough go of it with the Boom Briggs team in 2022. Over the past couple of seasons, Richards just didn’t look like he was having very much fun.
Some fans used to claim that he was only successful because he was in his father’s(Mark Richards) Rocket Chassis house car but the Shinnston, WV native proved that theory wrong when he left Rocket 1 Racing then earned a Lucas Oil championship with Best Performance Motorsports . Further, Richards’ aggressive style rubbed some fans and competitors the wrong way. But in my mind, this is one of the most talented drivers I have seen on any race track.
Richards says he might be open to the possibility of racing on a part-time basis if the right opportunity comes along. Who knows? After a little time away, he might become reinvigorated.
Michael: I’m not totally surprised by his announcement. There was some talk a year ago he wasn’t going to be driving any more. It was a short time later he agreed to drive for Boom Briggs.
I don’t pretend to know what all went into his decision. Many speculate it was the lack of a quality ride available. Some think his accident di lui at Eldora played a part. It could have been something else or a combination of all of those.
Are you surprised that Jimmy Owens has not announced definite plans for 2023?
Richard: In a word, absolutely.
Like fellow multi-time national series champion Josh Richards, Owens has proven to be an incredible talent during his time in Dirt Late Model racing. However, the death of car owner Leon Ramirez earlier in 2022 left the virtually certain Hall of Famer’s future in doubt. There have been a multitude of rumors including that he will drive a second Rocket Chassis house car as a teammate of Hudson O’Neal to he has bought the equipment of his former car owner and will run his own team to him landing in the Double Down Motorsports ride that was ultimately given to Devin Moran.
Owens did enter a race in November at Boyd’s Speedway driving for Richard Austin.
I don’t know what is in the works for the ‘Newport Nightmare’. But I do know that the 2023 season is fast approaching. Owens won the 2020 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series title and has won numerous features since then. He may be 50 years old but he can still win races. I would find it hard to believe that he won’t wind up in the seat of a competitive race car in 2023.
From a personal standpoint, I would be disappointed for him not to be a regular this upcoming season.
Michael: I am surprised. Owens is a low key kind of guy. Maybe something has been put together and he’s just not put it out there yet. One rumor is the Ramirez family is keeping the team going for one more season. With all the changes that have happened and Owens wasn’t named as one of those drivers, maybe there is something to that rumor. I’d be a lot more surprised if there is no Owens in ’23 than there will be no Richards in ’23.
What are your thoughts about Jonathan Davenport returning as a regular on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series?
Richard: After a season in which he won an extraordinary amount of money by chasing the bigger races, it will be interesting to see him go back to following a tour on a regular basis. He obviously knows how to do exactly that having won multiple national championships in the past. But there are some questions to be answered.
Davenport will be entering the season without longtime crew chief Jason Durham, who moved to another team for the purpose of not spending as much time on the road. While no one will be shocked if he is successful, just how Davenport will do with a new pit boss is still not fully known until it is actually demonstrated.
Further, how will Davenport himself readjust to going back to a fixed schedule after having followed an “outlaw” schedule last year. And one question that will have to be answered by every driver and team is how will this new ‘Chase’ format play out.
In the end, though, Davenport will be successful and will almost certainly be one of the challengers for the series championship.
Michael: I’m a little surprised Davenport is back as a full time Lucas Oil competitor. I really thought he would run a similar schedule as he did this year. One thing different is there doesn’t seem to be as many XR races as there were last year. And the big money races for Lucas and WoO don’t butt heads very often.
One thing is for certain, Davenport will be the favorite to win the Lucas title. The people with the biggest smiles right now are the promoters that have Lucas races on their schedule.
Please consider also reading:
Josh Richards announces retirement from full-time racing
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