Pre Nationals Interview with Steven Richardson
By Greg Soukup
Less than 8 weeks from now the 5th annual Racesaver IMCA Sprint Nationals will kick off! For those of you not familiar with the race, and even for those who are, we visit with Steven Richardson who took part in the 2016 version. Steven is from Liberal, Kansas and is 26 years old.
Q: When did you start racing?
Steven: I believe 2009 was the year; I was 18.
Q: Was that sprint cars?
Steven: Yes. I jumped into a 360 sprint. I raced mini-sprints when I was 10 to 12 years old, and I did that for about 3 years. It was at Garden City Raceway down in Garden City, Kansas. I was the first ever person to flip a mini-sprint. Then I moved away from Liberal and went to school. I went to high school, so I didn’t get to do any racing. Then we moved back to Liberal. My dad had raced for a number of years, so I kind of picked up where he left off. I decided to get my feet wet a little bit, so it’s been downhill ever since.
Q: So, when did you go to the Racesavers?
Steven: I think it would have been 2012. In 2013, I raced the last half of the year with the URSS with Rick Salem. We finally got our first win out of the way, and started having a pretty good year, so we went back and we’ve been racing with them this past few years. And then obviously everything has kind of started to shift to the aluminum headed motors with the IMCA, which actually I think is awesome because like last year at the Sprint Nationals we made friends with people from out in Pennsylvania, and obviously people from California; a whole bunch of different states that all got together because of that uniform set of rules; which is really, really nice.
Q: How did you enjoy racing with all those people from all over the country?
Steven: I think it’s awesome. I mean, you get the best guys in the country under one roof so to speak, and you can kind of see where you’re at. Not talent-wise necessarily, but as far as your driving level. You can put yourself to the test, and have breakfast with the folks from out there in Pennsylvania and talk with them. You meet a lot of good people and build up the racing community.
Q: Was last year your first time at the Racesaver Sprint Nationals?
Steven: Yep! That was our first trip up there, but we’re definitely going to be back again. Hopefully, a lot more times.
Q: What did you think of Eagle Raceway?
Steven: It’s got to be the gnarliest track I’ve ever been to, for sure! Especially that turn one hole that gets going, because of the natural spring there. That definitely makes for some interesting racing. Honestly, I kind of like that it’s there. I’m sure a lot of guys will disagree with me, and there will probably come a time when I disagree with myself. It makes it two lanes on the racetrack. You’ve got to either go above it or below it.
Q: Are you enjoying the Racesaver class?
Steven: I am actually. Especially with how expensive the 360 class has gotten. Honestly, if you’re going to run a 360 nowadays, you might as well go ahead and buy yourself a 410. It’s nice to show up at a racetrack and have 20 to 30 cars. You go to some of these 360 races and you’re looking at 15 to 20 cars and they’ve only got 9 races or so on the schedule. If you want to do anything more than that you’ve got to really be willing to travel. With the Racesaver IMCA class, there’s a bunch of races around locally and if you want to travel to a bunch of different tracks you don’t have to change a bunch of stuff. You can just load up your car and go to Oklahoma, or Nebraska or even Texas. I mean, it’s nationwide and it’s opened a lot of doors for a lot of people.
Q: What do you think of the Racesaver rules?
Steven: As far as the motor, I think it’s awesome. Obviously, you’re going to have a little differential in horsepower, but it’s not enough that someone can just dump a bunch of money that say you could in a 360 or a 410 and just win with horsepower. The only thing that I would like to see changed; I’m not sure if they allow titanium brakes. I know they’re obviously trying to keep the costs down, I do think that would be an improvement. If you’ve got them, you can run them if you want. And then, also the big wing. I’m not such a fan of the big wing with the Racesavers. When we were running the smaller 4 by 4 wings, with Rick in the URSS, I feel like the quality of the racing was a lot better. I’m not saying that it’s bad now, it’s just that you could see guys coming from 14th or pretty deep in the field and really just driving up through the field. You’re still seeing that occasionally when the track is right, but you’re not seeing it all of the time like a few years ago when we were running the smaller wings.
Q: Did you like the 3-day qualifying format?
Steven: Yeah. I like that it’s 3 or 4 days of straight racing because that’s what you’re there to do. It’s just really good to focus in on that one thing, which is racing. It’s one of the best vacations that I’ve ever taken, even though you’re working hard the whole time. It’s definitely a real benefit to draw well. If you can draw well and start up front, get out there and win your heat race or get second and get up there in the A, B or even C Features, that definitely makes it a lot easier. Last year we had a little bad luck with the draw, and we started last in our heat race both nights. Then we were only able to advance our position one or maybe two spots on one night because at that point the track isn’t super-wide or super-racy. Obviously, you can do some passing. And then having to come from the F or E Main, it definitely puts an even bigger challenge upon you. If they can manage to take the drawing system out of it, just a tad; I mean, you’re never going to do that completely. But, I think it would make things a little more interesting. It wouldn’t have to be so dependent on that draw.
Q: Did you stick around for the A Feature on Sunday?
Steven: Oh yeah.
Q: What did you think of the 3-wide start?
Steven: I can definitely see where, from a spectator point, it would be very exciting. It’s very interesting. I know that a lot of the drivers, when it first started happening, they didn’t think it was a good idea. But most everybody has a good idea that they’re not there to tear up equipment. They’re there to have a good time and race hard, so after that first lap it didn’t seem to be that big of a problem. Everybody gets sorted out and keeps their heads on straight for that first lap. Everybody finds their groove and it’s just no holds barred after that.
Q: Is there anything that we haven’t covered yet that you want to pass along to the teams or fans who haven’t come to the Nationals yet?
Steven: I definitely encourage everyone to show up. If you’re a racer, and there’s some guys who are on a limited budget who don’t think they can make it out there, which is something that I can completely understand. It’s something that I would definitely put on my calendar to try and make just because the racing is one thing, but you really get a good sense of the racing community. I think that was one of the best parts for us. You transfer to a few mains on a couple of nights, and they run them right back to back to back. We weren’t fully prepared, with it being our first time. But we had guys we didn’t know, and guys we were running with competitively in our own series and as soon as I pulled off of the race track I said “Hey! I need fuel” and guys are running back to their trailer because we didn’t realize that the format was quite that fast. So we had guys that are known competitors, and guys we didn’t even know helping us out; putting in fuel, throwing me a drink of water, recinching my belts or whatever. Everybody’s right there to get you back out and get you back going again. That’s one thing that I heard. A lot of guys who were running 360’s and now they’re running the Racesavers, obviously they might miss the horsepower a little bit, but they can’t believe how much nicer the people are. You’re racing hard, and competing hard, and obviously you’re going to have some ruffled feathers here and there. But, for the most part everybody is there to be competitive and be clean about it. I hope it continues to grow. What was it last year? We had almost 130 cars (Actually 117) and I know there’s a lot more people that could have been there. This year I’d like to see it in excess of 150 honestly. Just to take a little bit of the thunder away from the Chili Bowl and Tulsa Shootout and the Knoxville Nationals. I’d like it to be one of the most prominent races in the country in a few years.