Heading into the World of Outlaws Topless Showdown presented by Hungry-Man Wednesday night at The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway Josh Richards has one eye on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship while the other is firmly focused on a future he hopes will lead to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

In addition to battling for his first World of Outlaws title, Richards, a 21-year-old native of Shinnston, W.Va., is beginning to transition from the pinnacle of the dirt late model world to the NASCAR development ranks.

Richards has enjoyed plenty of success at The Dirt Track. He won there during the second night of the World of Outlaws World Finals last season, which propelled him to a runner-up finish in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship. He also finished third in this year's Circle K Colossal 100, one of the series' most prestigious races.

"I get excited every time we race at Charlotte," said Richards. "We run well there and I really like the track. Winning during the World Finals last year was huge. It's probably the biggest win of my career so far. Hopefully it will lead to another good run this time."

The Topless Showdown is unique because it is the only race of the season in which the fiberglass roofs are removed from the WoO cars. But the action will be the same as Richards continues his season-long battle with veterans Steve Francis and Darrell Lanigan.

Richards could be considered the underdog in the championship fight as both Francis and Lanigan are former World of Outlaws titlists. Lanigan edged Richards for the crown last year, while Francis won the title in 2007. Both drivers also started racing before Richards was born.

"The championship has been so close all year," said Richards. "There have been times where I was leading going into a weekend, lost the lead after the first night's race, then got it back the next night. It's really been crazy.

"Lanigan and Francis have run great all season like they always do. Those guys are so tough to compete with when it comes to points racing. No matter how they start the night, they almost always seem to end up in the top five. It's probably going to come down to the last race."

And the Topless Showdown will be extremely important in preparing for that last race as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series ends its season with the World of Outlaws World Finals back at The Dirt Track on Nov. 5-7.

While he remains focused on winning his first World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship, Richards has started taking steps toward his goal of a NASCAR career by competing in NASCAR Camping World East Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series races.

Richards' Camping World East debut came in April at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. After qualifying 17th, a first-lap wreck dropped him to the back of the field. Even though his car was damaged, Richards raced back through the field to finish fourth.

Richards had one ARCA RE/MAX start before entering a series race at Kentucky Speedway in June. That race was in 2007 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, a one-mile dirt track, and it resulted in a third-place finish. However, his asphalt debut with the series didn't turn out as well.

He qualified fourth for the Kentucky race, but a crash ended his day early.

"Both the Camping World and ARCA races were great experiences for me," Richards said. "They were both new experiences that I learned a lot from. Obviously, I would have liked for the race at Kentucky to have turned out different than it did, but that's just part of it.

"I was really pleased with the Camping World race. I'm hoping to do more of that kind of stuff in the future."

Tickets for Wednesday night's World of Outlaws Topless Showdown presented by Hungry-Man are $25 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

Fans can also take advantage of the $99 Super Ticket which includes a ticket to the Oct. 14 World of Outlaws Topless Showdown; a ticket to Bojangles' Pole Night NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Thursday night, Oct. 15; a ticket to the Oct. 16 Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race; and a ticket to the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on Saturday night, Oct. 17.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.