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Daily Dirt 05/27/2024 03:45:40

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September 16
Knoxville Raceway,
Knoxville, IA
Sanction: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals) - $50,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac, series and track reports (last updated September 19, 3:15 pm)
Thornton completes dazzling Knoxville sweep
Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals
  1. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  2. Mike Marlar
  3. Hudson O'Neal
  4. Jonathan Davenport
  5. Brandon Overton
  6. Chase Junghans
  7. Brian Shirley
  8. Devin Moran
  9. Tim McCreadie
  10. Brandon Sheppard
  11. Tyler Erb
  12. Garrett Alberson
  13. Chad Simpson
  14. Daulton Wilson
  15. Chris Simpson
  16. Spencer Hughes
  17. Earl Pearson Jr.
  18. Daniel Hilsabeck
  19. Max Blair
  20. Tim Lance
  21. Ryan Gustin
  22. Kyle Bronson
  23. Todd Cooney
  24. Chris Ferguson
  25. Tyler Bruening
  26. Cory Hedgecock
  27. Justin Zeitner
  28. Ross Robinson
  29. Frank Heckenast Jr.
  30. Matt Furman
  31. Boom Briggs
presented by
Todd Boyd/photosbyboyd.smugmug.com
Ricky Thornton Jr. takes the $50,000 checkers at Knoxville Raceway.
What won the race: Winning an early back-and-fourth duel with three-time race winner Mike Marlar, polesitter Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., cruised the rest of the way to sweep the Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals weekend at Knoxville Raceway, earning $50,000 at the sprint-car stronghold. Thornton and Marlar swapped the lead four times the first 23 laps before the winner added the 75-lap victory to 25-lap victories each of the previous two nights. Marlar, after falling back to fifth on a lap-27 restart finished 4.781 seconds behind Thornton in a race marred by a violent Kyle Bronson rollover wreck while he was running second.
Key notes: Thornton is the second driver to sweep a three-race Knoxville weekend. Hall of Famer and Iowa native Billy Moyer pulled off the feat in 2010. ... Thornton notched his 20th career full-field victory on the Lucas Oil Series. ... Second-running Kyle Bronson wasn't injured in his lap-59 wreck. ... The race had four other slowdowns and Tyler Bruening was checked out in the ambulance after a four-car pileup on lap 41. Bruening complained of lower back pains but headed back home with his family (he’s had back problems previously).
On the move: Last year’s winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., started 18th and finished fourth.
Winner's sponsors: Thornton’s SSI Motorsports Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Clements engine and sponsored by Dyno One, Hoker Trucking, Certified Inspection Service, High Performance Lubricants, Big River Steel, Van Meter Insurance Group, Murty Farms, D&E Outside Services, West Side Tractor Sales, Bilstein Shocks, FK Rod Ends, Allstar Performance, Barnes Pumps, Performance Bodies, Winters Performance, Strange Oval, Accu-Force, Quickcar, Sunoco Race Fuels and Sub-Surface of Indiana.
Points chase: After Knoxville: 1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (7,325); 2. Hudson O’Neal (6,975); 3. Jonathan Davenport (6,675); 4. Brandon Overton (6,560); 5. Tim McCreadie (6,460); 6. Devin Moran (6,425); 7. Daulton Wilson (5,950); 8. Tyler Erb (5,840); 9. Max Blair (5,520); 10. Earl Pearson Jr. (5,465).
Current weather: Clear, 68°F
Car count: 41
Polesitter: Ricky Thornton Jr.
Consolation race winners: Justin Zeitner
Provisional starters: Boom Briggs
Next series race: October 21, Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH) $100,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff reports

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Amid two red flags, multiple brushes with the backstretch wall and an early back-and-forth battle with three-time race winner Mike Marlar, polesitter Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., was worried he was going to blow it in Saturday's bid to sweep the lucrative three-race Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals weekend.

Instead of blowing it, he virtually blew the 31-car field away in collecting a $50,000 payday at the historic half-mile Knoxville Raceway as he matched Hall of Famer and Iowa native Billy Moyer in sweeping the sprint-car stronghold's lone Late Model weekend.

"I hit the back straightaway wall, it felt like 15 times, I thought I was going to give it away," the 32-year-old Thornton said after his 15th full-field Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season. "But it worked out. It's pretty awesome."

Thornton, who earned $14,000 for a pair of 25-lap victories on Thursday and Friday, extended his series points lead in taking the checkers 4.781 seconds ahead of Winfield, Tenn.'s Marlar, who started fifth and led twice for a combined seven laps but never made a serious bid for the lead after briefly slipped back to fifth following a lap-27 restart.

Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., improved seven positions in finishing third while 18th-starting Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., last year's winner, was fourth. Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., rounded out the top five.

Among drivers who weren't around at the finish was Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., who started seventh but grabbed second from Marlar on lap-35. Bronson's bid to track down Thornton ended with violent thud against the catchfence between turns three and four on the 59th lap when, amid traffic, he hit the inside berm and shot to the outside, his car violently flipping before landing on its wheels. He wasn't injured but his Longhorn Chassis suffered significant damage.

Early in the 75-lapper, a battle developed between Thornton, who was trying to become the second driver to sweep the Knoxville Nationals, and Marlar, trying to become the first four-time winner of the finale.

Back and forth they went over the first 23 laps with Thornton leading the first 10 circuits, Marlar slipped ahead to lead a couple of laps and Thornton going back out front. Marlar regained the lead on lap 18, but Thornton went ahead on lap 23 for a lead he'd never given up, frequently holding three-second or more margins on his closest competitors.

Marlar slipped back to fifth on a lap-27 restart and by the time he picked his way back to second on lap 33, he was a straightaway behind the leading Thornton.

Bronson took second a few laps later and cut into Thornton's lead on a couple of occasions. The leader turned back one challenge by sliding between the slower cars of home-state drivers Todd Cooney and Daniel Hilsabeck on lap 49 in turn two, stretching a lead that was down to less than a second back out to a 3.4-second margin by lap 53.

"I didn't know if we're gonna be good enough honestly," Thornton said. "I saw Bronson come (up to second) and (crewman Chris) Jayko was telling move up and I realized I'd didn't have enough balls to get up there and do what I needed to at that point. I saw him getting closer and closer, and I was like, 'Man, sooner or later I've gotta move up.' I don't know. I just drove my heart out after that, and it worked out."

Bronson's wreck, of course, ended his chances, but the lengthy cleanup for his accident and an earlier red flag for multicar incident near the same spot on lap 41 tested Thornton's patience and left him wondering if his tires would refire when the race returned to green.

"I figured if my (tires) were going to seal up, everyone else's would, too," Thornton said.

With his tires holding out and his backstretch brushes harmless, he kept kept everyone in check, even on a final restart with eight laps remaining.

"The only thing up my sleeve was that last restart." Marlar said, "and he went where I wanted him to, but he kind of slid up a little early in the corner and I couldn't get that run I wanted. But he was better. He deserves the win. I passed him twice and he passed me back and drove away. You can't blame a man for that. He done a good job and he's on a hot streak and his team is really doing good right now. So he's the man to beat — we're close though."

O'Neal, who finished 17th and ninth on preliminary nights, was happy to settle for third and a last-night improvement.

"I felt like I had something maybe a little bit for (Marlar). I just couldn't quite get a good enough run leaving the corner to get close enough to be able to clear him," said O'Neal, a week removed from his World 100 victory at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. "I could get off in there and get to his door, but that was about the extent of it. So man, we'll take it. You know, we had a trying week all week. We didn't have the greatest of nights in our prelims, but I felt like we made gains all weekend long, which is what I'm really proud of."

He added that "whenever you're racing Ricky and them guys, they've been tough all year, and Mike Marlar is almost the king of this place, it seems like. I don't know. We'll jot down some notes and maybe when we come back we'll be just a couple of spaces forward."

The race was slowed four other times besides Bronson's rollover, the first caution on the 27th lap when Spencer Hughes pulled his smoking PCC Motorsports entry to the infield with a loose oil line, which was quickly corrected.

The second yellow flew on the 40th lap when Daulton Wilson slowed on the backstretch and pulled to the pits and the caution then red light blinked on a lap later for a four-car pileup between turns three and four that left Tyler Bruening's car up on two wheels against the catchfence. Cory Hedgecock (in Jason Rauen's No. 98), Chris Ferguson and Wilson were also involved.

Bruening hobbled away from the wreck and briefly leaned over the hood of Hedgecock's car before safety workers helped him into the ambulance. He later complained of lower back pain but decided to head home with his family. The total cleanup time was about 15 minutes and Wilson was the only driver involved who continued.

The final caution appeared on the 67th lap when Ryan Gustin got out of shape trying to pull into the infield.

Thornton ended his victory lane suggesting that the fans heading for the infield should drop by the SSI Motorsports pit area.

"I think we're going to celebrate a little bit and then get back to work," he said.

Notes: Thornton's 20th career full-field victory moves him one past Tyler Erb on the all-time series list. ... He's the 14th Knoxville winner. ... Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., finished a career-best sixth in rallying from his 21st starting spot. ... Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., rallied from 26th to ninth. ... Devin Moran pitted on the 59th with right-rear suspension damage but ended up eighth. ... Thirteen of 31 starters completed 75 laps and 20 were running at the finish.

19th annual Knoxville Lucas Oil Nationals
Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., Longhorn, $50,000
2. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., Longhorn, $25,000
3. Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., Rocket, $10,000
4. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $8,750
5. Brandon Overton (4), Evans, Ga., Longhorn, $7,500
6. Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., Rocket, $7,000
7. Brian Shirley (8), Chatham, Ill., Team Zero, $6,500
8. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, Longhorn, $6,000
9. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $5,500
10. Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., Longhorn, $5,000
11. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $4,500
12. Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., Longhorn, $4,000
13. Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, Longhorn, $3,500
14. Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., Longhorn, $3,400
15. Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, Longhorn, $3,300
16. Spencer Hughes (11), Meridian, Miss., Longhorn, $3,200
17. Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., Longhorn, $3,100
18. Daniel Hilsabeck (22), Earlham, Iowa, Capital, $3,000
19. Max Blair (111B), Centerville, Pa., Rocket, $3,000
20. Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., Longhorn, $3,000
21. Ryan Gustin (19R), Marshalltown, Iowa, Rocket, $3,000
22. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., Longhorn, $3,000
23. Todd Cooney (30), Des Moines, Iowa, Longhorn, $2,700
24. Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., Team Zero, $2,700
25. Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, Longhorn, $2,500
26. Cory Hedgecock (98), Loudon, Tenn., BMF, $2,500
27. Justin Zeitner (62), Malvern, Iowa, Longhorn, $2,500
28. Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., Rocket, $2,500
29. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., Rocket, $2,500
30. Matt Furman (51), Iowa City, Iowa, Longhorn, $2,500
31. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., Rocket, $2,500
Lap leaders: Thornton 1-10, 13-17, 23-75; Marlar 11-12, 18-22
Entries: 41
Thursday’s preliminary feature winner: Thornton
Friday’s preliminary feature winner: Thornton
Consolation winner: Zeitner

Feature lineup

(75 laps)

Row 1: Ricky Thornton Jr., Chad Simpson
Row 2: Chris Ferguson, Devin Moran
Row 3: Mike Marlar, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Kyle Bronson, Daulton Wilson
Row 5: Spencer Hughes, Hudson O’Neal
Row 6: Brandon Sheppard, Ryan Gustin
Row 7: Brian Shirley, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 8: Tyler Bruening, Tyler Erb
Row 9: Max Blair, Jonathan Davenport
Row 10: Chris Simpson, Garrett Alberson
Row 11: Chase Junghans, Todd Cooney
Row 12: Daniel Hilsabeck, Cory Hedgecock
Row 13: Justin Zeitner, Tim McCreadie
Row 14: Ross Robinson, Tim Lance
Row 15: Matt Furman, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 16: Boom Briggs

Consolation race results

(15 laps; top six transfer)

First consolation: Justin Zeitner, Tim McCreadie, Ross Robinson, Tim Lance, Matt Furman, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim Simpson, Dan Battaglia, Ricky Weiss, Luke Merfeld, Aaron Marrant, Boom Briggs, Junior Coover, Al Humphrey.

Consolation lineup (revised after scratches)

(15 laps; top six transfer)

Row 1: Justin Zeitner, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Tim Lance, Ross Robinson
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Matt Furman
Row 4: Boom Briggs, Tim Simpson
Row 5: Dan Battaglia, Aaron Marrant
Row 6: Frank Heckenast Jr., Luke Merfeld
Row 7: Al Humphrey, Junior Coover

Saturday’s schedule

(All times local)

8 a.m. - Ticket office opens
11:30 a.m. - Memorabilia auction (Hall of Fame Museum)
1:45 p.m. - Outreach church service (Dyer Hudson Hall Barn outside turn four)
2:30 p.m. - Pits open
3 p.m. - Driver autograph session (Dyer Hudson Hall Barn outside turn four)
4:30 p.m. - Suites open
5:30 p.m. - Grandstands open
6:15 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6:45 p.m. - On-track activity begins
- Malvern Bank Series hot laps
- Knoxville Nationals B-main cars hot laps
- Malvern Bank Series hot laps/time trials (2 laps)
Opening ceremonies
- Malvern Bank Series heat races (8 laps)
- Knoxville Nationals Consolations (15 laps)
- Knoxville Nationals A-main cars hot laps
- Malvern Bank Series feature (22 laps)
- Knoxville Nationals (75 laps)

Feature lineup

Row 1: Thornton, Chad Simpson
Row 2: Ch. Ferguson, Moran
Row 3: Marlar, Overton
Row 4: Bronson, Wilson
Row 5: Hughes, O'Neal
Row 6: Sheppard, Gustin
Row 7: Shirley, Pearson
Row 8: Bruening, T. Erb
Row 9: Blair, Davenport
Row 10: Chris Simpson, Alberson
Row 11: Junghans, Cooney
Row 12: Hilsabeck, Hedgecock
Row 13: J. Zeitner, McCreadie
Row 14: Robinson, Lance
Row 15: Furman, Heckenast Jr.
Row 16: Briggs
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