Canyon Speedway Park
In wreck-marred race, Ricky Thornton takes SWDRA debut
PEORIA, Ariz. (March 13) — Modified standout Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., led all the way in his first Late Model start for a $1,550 victory in a Southwest Dirt Racing Association marred by a major first-lap accident.
The front-row starting Thornton, driving a Jeff Manka-owned car, was among the lucky drivers drivers who missed the early melee in finishing ahead of Anthony Madrid of Phoenix, Ariz., and 14th-starting Brad Whitfield of Casa Grande, Ariz., who took over the Parker Concrete-sponsored No. 48 car formerly driven by Jeremy Thornton. John Cornell of Phoenix and Keith McKinney of Buckeye, Ariz., rounded out the top five. Cory Hemphill pressured Thornton in the second spot before falling out of the race on the 16th lap.
The first-lap melee, which happened on the second attempted start, was triggered by contact between Madrid and Jeep Berry of Grand Junction, Colo., just as the field took the green flag. Berry's car hit the frontstretch wall entering turn one and a giant 15-car pileup resulted just past the flagstand.
Six-time SWDRA champion Lonnie Parker Jr., whose car briefly got airborne, was among those able to patch together repairs and return to the track. He finished eighth.
Among drivers eliminated in the crash were Berry, Joey Moriarty, Mike Tahtinen, Art Lacy, Keith Noyes and Randy Anderson.
The race was slowed by seven cautions altogether, including one for a mid-race windstorm.
Notes: Thornton's Rocket Chassis is sponsored by Ride Now Power Sports, Hollywood’s Body & Paint, Sunoco Race Fuels, Lone Star Racing, Metal by Woods and Manka Motorsports. ... Thornton's earnings included a $500 bonus from new series sponsor Total Seal and $50 as the best appearing car award from Sponsor-net.com. ... SWDRA regular Brad Williams, who finished third in '09 points, missed the event for a previously scheduled vacation. ... In a change in format for 2010, the top two drivers redraw from each heat race instead of the top three. ... Karl Tipton returned to SWDRA action after a two-year absence. Tipton's No. 22 used the all-aluminum GM CT 525 crate powerplant. ... Next up for the series is a March 24 event at Canyon.
SWDRA @ Canyon: (1) Ricky Thornton, (2) Anthony Madrid, (3) Brad Whitfield, (4) John Cornell, (5) Keith McKinney, (6) Andy Rudy, (7) John Romero, (8) Lonnie Parker Jr., (9) Cory Hemphill, (10) Karl Tipton, (11) Bruce Duckett, (12) James Chavez, (13) Jeep Berry, (14) Mike Tahtinen, (15) Joey Moriarty, (16) Randy Anderson, (17) Art Lacy, (18) Keith Noyes, (19) Jimmy Jelvig. Heat race winners: Berry, Madrid, Moriarty.