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Daily Dirt 04/16/2024 22:22:17

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September 30
Pittsburgh's Pa. Motor Speedway,
Imperial, PA
Sanction: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (The Pittsburgher) - $30,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac, series and track reports (last updated October 2, 3:03 pm)
RTJ tops Pittsburgher as Moran displaces Overton
The Pittsburgher
  1. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  2. Devin Moran
  3. Tim McCreadie
  4. Hudson O'Neal
  5. Earl Pearson Jr.
  6. Max Blair
  7. Alex Ferree
  8. Jonathan Davenport
  9. Brandon Overton
  10. Mason Zeigler
  11. Spencer Hughes
  12. Daulton Wilson
  13. Keith Jackson
  14. Garrett Alberson
  15. Tyler Erb
  16. Garrett Smith
  17. Michael Norris
  18. Drake Troutman
  19. Kyle Lee
  20. Ross Robinson
  21. Colton Flinner
  22. Matt Cosner
  23. Gary Stuhler
  24. Boom Briggs
presented by
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt) outdueled Jonathan Davenport (49) in the late stages of the 75-lap Pittsburgher.
What won the race: Regaining the lead from Jonathan Davenport in a back-and-forth duel in the final laps, Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., captured Saturday's 75-lap Pittsburgher at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway for a $30,000 payday on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Thornton, who won the 2020 Pittsburgher, notched his 19th full-field tour victory of the season by 2.215 seconds over Devin Moran, who stole the final spot in the Big River Steel Big Four from Brandon Overton, who was forced to the pits while running fourth with a power steering issue on lap 54 and finished ninth.
Key notes: Thornton won his seventh race of the last nine in Lucas Oil competition. ... He led laps 14-26, slipped to third midrace, then outdueled Davenport in the final laps. ... Davenport failed to win the Pittsburgher with his third near-miss. He led all but seven laps in 2019 before running out of fuel and finished second in 2015 in his first start in the track's biggest race. ... The most serious of 10 slowdowns came on the first lap when Matt Cosner spun and got upside down with a slow rollover in turn two amid a scramble that included Gary Stuhler and Boom Briggs. Cosner climbed out unhurt and walked to the ambulance to get checked out. All three drivers retired.
On the move: Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., started 16th 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, Coltman Farms, 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 PPMS: 1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (8,325); 2. Hudson O’Neal (7,795); 3. Jonathan Davenport (7,445); 4. Devin Moran (7,325); T5. Brandon Overton (7,295); T5. Tim McCreadie (7,295); 7. Daulton Wilson (6,710); 8. Tyler Erb (6,435); 9. Max Blair (6,245); 10. Earl Pearson Jr. (6,170); 11. Garrett Alberson (6,060); 12. Spencer Hughes (5,985); 13. Ross Robinson (5,075); 14. Boom Briggs (4,300).
Current weather: Few Clouds, 66°F
Car count: 37
Fast qualifier: Ricky Thornton Jr.
Time: 19.259 seconds
Polesitter: Michael Norris
Heat race winners: Michael Norris, Brandon Overton, Ricky Thornton Jr., Jonathan Davenport
Consolation race winners: Mason Zeigler, Max Blair
Provisional starters: Ross Robinson, Boom Briggs
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff reports

IMPERIAL, Pa. — Because he misunderstood a signal from the flagstand, Ricky Thornton Jr. made his final charge in Saturday's 75-lap Pittsburgher a little sooner than he'd planned. But just as most things have during his stellar 2023 season, it all worked out for the red-hot Chandler, Ariz., driver at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway as he outdueled Jonathan Davenport in the final laps for a $30,000 payday.

Winning his seventh Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race in his last nine starts, Thornton Jr. regained the lead for good from Davenport with four laps remaining and scored his 23rd overall series victory of the season and record 19th in full-field events.

"I think it was first time I've ever gotten a 10 (laps) to go signal —  so I thought it was five (laps) to go at that point," Thornton said. "I started driving a lot harder after that."

Turning up the wick, Thornton battled Davenport in traffic late, slipping by on the 70th lap but giving it up a lap later when Davenport fought back. Thornton regained the lead again exiting turn two on lap 72 as Davenport slapped the fence, causing damage that triggered a caution for debris and ended the tight battle.

"I guess I just wanted it a little bit more," said Thornton, whose battle with Davenport wasn't the only drama in the national tour's final regular-season event.

Thornton, fourth-place finisher Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind. (who charged from 16th), and Davenport clinched the top three spots in the tour's inaugural Big River Steel Big Four who will battle for the series title next month at Eldora Speedway's Dirt Track World Championship, but the fourth spot was up in the air with Brandon Overton entering the race with a narrow lead over Devin Moran and Tim McCreadie.

Overton ran among the leaders for 54 laps, but his hopes were dashed by power steering woes that forced him to pit, opening the door for Moran to grab a runner-up finish and clinch the No. 4 spot in the series points. Overton finished ninth and was left in a tie for fifth with McCreadie in series points.

The 35th edition of the half-mile oval's biggest Super Late Model event started with track regular Michael Norris of Sarver, Pa., leading the first 13 laps from the pole position, but he suffered right-rear damage to his car that allowed Thornton and Davenport to blitz past him on a lap-14 restart.

Thornton, Davenport and Norris held the top three spots through halfway when Davenport slipped past Thornton to take command just before a stretch of six caution flags over the next 11 laps.

While Norris slipped out of contention and eventually retired on lap 61, Thornton also slipped back to third from laps 42-48 when Overton chased Davenport from the runner-up spot. Thornton took second from Overton on a restart before his lap-54 pit stop, and within 10 laps was starting to pressured the leading Davenport.

"(Davenport) was way better than I was and then, on one of those restarts, I was able to get back by Brandon, and I just pretty much held it on the floor after that," Thornton said. "I've gotta thanks Clements for building us a bad-ass motor here. It held probably 60 laps flat on the floor."

Amid traffic, Davenport's car was "starting to get tight on entry and I just started moving my line around a little bit and I felt like I could get into the center (of the corner) way better than he could, and we kind of maintained on exit," said Thornton, thanking his SSI Motorsports crew that "definitely doesn't give up" on him.

"I don't know if I for sure caused J.D. to hit the wall over there," Thornton said of the lap-72 pass for the lead. "I figure whenever I slid (past) him it probably took the air off his nose and that's what that last caution was. It was definitely some hard racing."

Moran was the beneficiary of Davenport's late slide to an eighth-place finish with a runner-up showing that secured his critical spot among the Big Four.

"This is always just such a long race because it's a big track. The top got really, really good on both ends," said Moran, who was third or better for the fourth consecutive series event. "(It was) definitely not the way we wanted to make (the top four) there at the end with Brandon breaking, because he was really good, too. But we put ourselves in position and my guys would just worked their asses off all year, and especially the last two months. Kudos to them for preparing me a great race car — no problems — and coming up with these podium finishes."

Third-place finisher Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., the two-time and reigning tour champion, fell shy of a top-four spot that prevents him from being eligible for the tour-record $200,000 title, but he's pleased to be heading in the right direction after midseason struggles.

"It's one of them deals (where) we feel a lot better than we did a few months ago and we just got to keep going forward," said McCreadie, who will still have a crack at the DTWC's $100,000 winner's purse despite his points position. "You know, the beauty of going to Eldora is, I don't really have to worry about (the top four battling for the title). They gotta worry about us, so if I want to crowd somebody or do whatever, we can do whatever. We're there for money."

The race was slowed 10 times, starting with a red flag on the first lap when Matt Cosner spun and got upside down with a slow rollover in turn two amid a scramble that included Gary Stuhler and Boom Briggs. Cosner climbed out unhurt and walked to the ambulance to get checked out. All three drivers retired.

Other slowdowns in the form of yellow flags appeared first when the frontstretch pedestrian gate under the flagstand was found to be open on the 13th lap. Other yellows appeared for a slowing Tyler Erb (lap 37), Max Blair's flat right-rear tire (lap 41), another flat tire for Blair (lap 42), debris (lap 46) and when the frontstretch gate again was open (lap 47). A stalled Drake Troutman on the backstretch drew a caution just before the lap-47 restart.

The yellow for Overton flew on lap 54 and the last caution came out for debris from Davenport's car with three laps remaining.

Thornton's seven-victory September has him eager to get prepared for Oct. 20-21's DTWC, which will be held in Rossburg, Ohio, for the first time.

"As long as I can do my job, my boys are gonna make sure we've got the best car there," Thornton said. "I'm definitely not worried about that. As long as I don't do anything dumb (and) take us out of it, I think we're definitely still the one to beat."

Notes: Thornton also won the Pittsburgher  in 2020. ... A six-wide parade lap preceded the main event. ... Runner-up Devin Moran's brother and former crew chief Wylie is getting married Oct. 1. ... Fifth-place finisher Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., got his first top-five finish in a full-field Lucas Oil Series event since May 20 when he was fourth at 300 Raceway in Farley, Iowa.

Feature lineup

(75 laps)

Row 1: Michael Norris, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Jonathan Davenport
Row 3: Earl Pearson Jr., Tim McCreadie
Row 4: Devin Moran, Daulton Wilson
Row 5: Keith Jackson, Spencer Hughes
Row 6: Garrett Smith, Tyler Erb
Row 7: Kyle Lee, Alex Ferree
Row 8: Matt Cosner, Hudson O'Neal
Row 9: Mason Zeigler, Max Blair
Row 10: Garrett Alberson, Drake Troutman
Row 11: Colton Flinner, Gary Stuhler
Row 12: Ross Robinson, Boom Briggs

Consolation race results

(10 laps; top three transfer)

First consolation: Mason Zeigler, Garrett Alberson, Colton Flinner, Justin Kann, Tommy Schirnhofer Jr., Logan Zarin, Logan Roberson, Tony White, Ron Hall, Ross Robinson, A.J. Campbell.

Second consolation: Max Blair, Drake Troutman, Gary Stuhler, John Garvin Jr., Boom Briggs, Shaun Jones, Jon Hodgkiss, Chad Myers, Ron Fink, Chris Schneider.

Heat race recap

Michael Norris led all eight laps to win the first heat race by 2.296 seconds over fifth-starting Earl Pearson Jr. Keith Jackson and Kyle Lee each grabbed transfer positions, finishing third and fourth. … Piloting his usual Wells Motorsports Longhorn Chassis, Brandon Overton led green-to-checkered to win heat two by 0.411 of a second over Devin Moran. Fourth-starting Garrett Smith finished third and sixth-starting Matt Cosner took the fourth and final transfer spot. … Ricky Thornton Jr. dominated the third heat, leading the entire distance and winning by 1.014 seconds over fourth-starting Tim McCreadie. Spencer Hughes and Alex Ferree earned the final two transfer spots. … Jonathan Davenport led the entire distance to win the fourth and final heat race by 3.962 seconds over fourth-starting Daulton Wilson. Sixth-starting Tyler Erb nipped Hudson O’Neal at the line for third, with O’Neal settling for fourth. The race’s lone caution was displayed on the opening lap when John Garvin Jr. had a solo-spin in turn one while battling for third; Garvin rebounded to finish seventh.

Heat race results

(Eight laps; top four transfer)

First heat: Michael Norris, Earl Pearson Jr., Keith Jackson, Kyle Lee, Mason Zeigler, Colton Flinner, Logan Zarin, Garrett Alberson, Ron Hall, A.J. Campbell.

Second heat: Brandon Overton, Devin Moran, Garrett Smith, Matt Cosner, Ross Robinson, Logan Roberson, Justin Kann, Tommy Schirnhofer Jr., Tony White.

Third heat: Ricky Thornton Jr., Tim McCreadie, Spencer Hughes, Alex Ferree, Jon Hodgkiss, Gary Stuhler, Drake Troutman, Shaun Jones, Chris Schneider.

Fourth heat: Jonathan Davenport, Daulton Wilson, Tyler Erb, Hudson O'Neal, Max Blair, Boom Briggs, John Garvin Jr., Chad Myers, Ron Fink.

Time trials

First group   
1. Michael Norris (10), Sarver, Pa., 19.388
2. Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 19.423
3. Keith Jackson (11H), Martinsburg, W.Va., 19.608
4. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 19.676
5. Kyle Lee (2T), Mercersburg, Pa., 19.716
6. Logan Roberson (89), Waynesboro, Va., 19.780
7. Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., 19.782
8. Garrett Smith (10), Eatonton, Ga., 19.808
9. Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., 19.821
10. Ross Robinson (7R), Georgetown, Del., 19.860
11. Logan Zarin (1z), Moon Township, Pa., 19.979
12. Matt Cosner (66C), Ridgeley, W.Va., 20.158
13. Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 20.175
14. Tommy Schirnhofer (8S), Pittsburgh, Pa., 20.498
15. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 20.902
16. Justin Kann (66), Huntingdon, Pa., 20.990
17. Ron Hall (01), Hookstown, Pa., 21.046
18. Tony White (27T), Aliquippa, Pa., 21.082
19. A.J. Campbell (94), Pittsburgh, Pa., 21.941
Second group   
1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20RT), Chandler, Ariz., 19.259
2. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 19.288
3. Alex Ferree (1c), Saxonburg, Pa., 19.463
4. Hudson O’Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., 19.604
5. John Garvin Jr. (J4), Sarver, Pa., 19.641
6. Spencer Hughes (11H), Meridian, Miss., 19.641
7. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 19.658
8. Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 19.762
9. Drake Troutman (7D), Hyndman, Pa., 19.853
10. Max Blair (111B), Centerville, Pa., 19.904
11. Jon Hodgkiss (69), Kennedy Township, Pa., 20.010
12. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 20.013
13. Gary Stuhler (4s), Greencastle, Pa., 20.185
14. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 20.334
15. Shaun Jones (32J), Shermans Dale, Pa., 20.382
16. Chad Myers (21), Hampstead, Md., 21.036
17. Chris Schneider (55c), Lower Burrell, Pa., 21.084
18. Ron Fink (EZ1), Cumberland, Md., 21.906

Saturday’s schedule

(All times local)
11 a.m. - Pits cleared
Noon - Pits reopen
2 p.m. - Driver registration and tech inspection begins
3 p.m. - Grandstands open
4:30 p.m. - Driver autograph session
5:15 p.m. - Driver registration and tech inspection closes
5:30 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
6 p.m. - On-track activity begins
- Crate Late Model hot laps
- Super Late Model hot laps
Opening ceremonies
- Super Late Model qualifying (2 laps)
- Crate Late Model qualifying (2 laps)
- Super Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Crate Late Model heat races (10 laps)
- Super Late Model consolation (10 laps)
- Crate Late Model dash (6 laps)
- Crate Late Model consolation (10 laps)
Feature events
- 35th annual Pittsburgher (75 laps)
- 13th annual Bill Hendren Memorial (50 laps)
Postrace music in the fan zone

Feature lineup

Row 1: Norris, Thornton
Row 2: Overton, Davenport
Row 3: Pearson, McCreadie
Row 4: Moran, Wilson
Row 5: Jackson, Hughes
Row 6: Smith, T. Erb
Row 7: Lee, Ferree
Row 8: Cosner, O'Neal
Row 9: Zeigler, Blair
Row 10: Alberson, Troutman
Row 11: Flinner, Stuhler
Row 12: Robinson, Briggs
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