ELLISVILLE, Fla. (April 7) — All-Tech Raceway has felt like home this year to Ricky Thornton Jr.
The native of Chandler, Ariz., who now lives in Martinsville, Ind., registered his second win in as many 2023 starts at the half-mile oval on Friday night, marching forward from the 14th starting spot to capture the 50-lap Southbound Throwdown that served as the inaugural event for the Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series.
Duplicating his success in Feb. 4’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at All-Tech, Thornton pocketed Friday’s $20,000 top prize after snaking through the field to grab the lead from Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., on lap 40. He controlled the remainder of the distance in his SSI Motorsports Longhorn Chassis to defeat Clanton, who led laps 23-39, by 3.113 seconds.
Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., settled for a third-place finish after ceding second place to Thornton on lap 33. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who scored a $25,000 XR Super Series victory at All-Tech last April and finished second to Thornton in the track’s Lucas Oil Series A-main two months ago, placed fourth and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, advanced from the 17th starting spot to complete the top five.
Joseph Joiner of Milton, Fla., whose family is organizing the Hunt the Front tour, led the race’s first 22 laps off the outside pole but faded precipitously following the race’s lone restart on lap 22, finishing one lap down in 11th place.
Thornton, 32, rebounded from a subpar outing in Thursday night’s Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., to reach victory lane for the fifth time overall this season.
“We worked hard … we struggled the last couple nights,” said Thornton, alluding to his 24th-place finish at Volunteer as well as a quiet run in April 1’s Lucas Oil MLRA Spring Nationals finale at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. (after he had won the event’s opener the previous night). “Small, little, weird things happened (over the preceding two starts), so I think we figured out what our problem was.”
Reaching the front from mid-pack, however, wasn’t a simple task for Thornton. He dealt with some obstacles on his way forward.
“I thought one lap I about gave it away,” Thornton said. “I got (the corner) in too straight and really hit the right-front too hard and got passed by three or four cars. I thought our night was over at that point.”
But following his hiccup shortly before the race’s halfway mark, Thornton used a lap-22 restart to vault from seventh into the top five. He proceeded to push himself hard to complete his advance.
“I ran out of (helmet) tearoffs, and I kind of told myself, ‘You wouldn’t run out of tearoffs if you quit following these guys,’” Thornton said. “So I just kind of moved out (on the track). And really, the top was so sketchy in (turns) three and four, but if you hit it right I think it was way better than the rest.”
Thornton, who erased Clanton’s nearly 3-second advantage in just four circuits after reaching the runner-up spot, used the outside of turns three and four to sail by Clanton’s Capital Race Car.
“It worked out,” Thornton said. “We weren’t quite sure what to do on tires and we just kind of got together and we put on what we won with here earlier this year. Heck, it must have been the right decision.”
Indeed, Thornton has All-Tech figured this year.
“I feel like this is probably the biggest place we come to where it’s really in the driver’s hands,” said Thornton, who earned $15,000 for his Lucas Oil Series triumph at the track. “A lot of places you go to it’s so aero-dependent and stuff like that, but here it gets so slick. I just think that one little screwup is a big screwup, and it kind of shows. One guy will be out front and make one small mistake and before you know it he’s back to 10th.
“I just like coming here. There’s a lot of great fans and they do a great job with the track prep. Hopefully we can talk these guys into doing a couple more big shows.”
Clanton, 47, also showed strength at All-Tech for the second time this year. He led 10 laps in February’s Lucas Oil Series feature before slipping to an eighth-place finish, so hanging on to place second on Friday after leading circuits again had him in a good mood.
“I got in lapped traffic there and I can’t maneuver as good as Ricky can,” Clanton said, praising Thornton’s performance. “Obviously he started 14th and drove to the front. His car was pretty good.”
The 45-year-old Marlar appeared primed to make a run at Clanton after breaking into second place on lap 26 but he ultimately couldn’t repel Thornton.
“I was pushing pretty bad and I could hardly get around the corner — that’s a common thing here — but I made it work there and got a few spots,” said Marlar, who started fifth. “I was trying to catch Clanton there … I was gonna rough him up if I could catch him, but I couldn’t get him.
“This is an awesome track and I appreciate everything All-Tech’s doing,” he added. “The last couple years All-Tech’s really come on and become a strong racetrack. It’s just fun racing on it.”
The race’s only caution flew on lap 22 when Jason Croft spun into the tractor tire on the inside of turn four.
Notes: Ashton Winger, who recorded a $20,000 XR Super Series victory at All-Tech last December, raced in the runner-up spot for laps 16-22 and challenged Joiner several times before falling to sixth on a lap-22 restart. He never recovered and finished seventh. … Brandon Overton briefly pulled ahead of Joiner down the backstretch on lap 14 but failed to lead the circuit; in fact, he slipped to fourth and never recovered due to damage to his car's left-front flopper sustained in a lap-12 scrape with Shane Clanton as they overtook a lapped car in turn two. Overton ultimately retired during the lap-22 caution period when the body damage hampered his steering too much for him to continue. … Kyle Bronson climbed as high as second on lap 25, but he lost three spots the next circuit and finished sixth — the same spot that he started the race. … Overton earned the $500 fast qualifier honors courtesy of Ocala Restaurant Supply. ... Originally scheduled as a two-day show, the $5,000 opener was scrapped due to a poor weather forecast, moving Saturday’s finale to Friday and condensing the Southbound Throwdown into one day. … The first-year Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series returns to action May 12-13 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss.