UNION, Ky. — After being stripped of Saturday’s Show-Me 100 victory at Missouri’s Lucas Oil Speedway for failing postrace tech, Ricky Thornton Jr. said the stunning infraction makes him want to win this weekend at West Virginia Motor Speedway that much more.
Turns out, Thornton didn’t need to wait until he arrived in Middlebourne, W.Va., to cleanse himself from the bitter result.
Thornton tracked down and passed race-long leader Bobby Pierce with seven laps to go to win Wednesday’s Castrol FloRacing Night in America event at Florence Speedway. The Chandler, Ariz., native’s ninth overall victory of the season is worth $23,023.
Pierce, who led from the pole until a miscue on lap 43 proved detrimental, finished 1.538 seconds behind Thornton.
“I feel like it’s kind of redemption from last week,” Thornton said. “We’re excited. I thought I was going to run third before all those yellows. They just helped me. The track kept getting trickier and tricker. I had a good shot at him. I threw a bomb. I kept throwing bombs at him. It just worked out for us. Just excited.”
Pierce appeared on his way to a flag-to-flag victory when he stretched his lead to more than two seconds with 18 laps left ahead of Jonathan Davenport. But before Pierce could make it back around to complete lap 33, the race-changing caution for Mike Marlar occurred.
Lining up third on the would-be final restart, Thornton motored by Davenport for second and then set his sights on Pierce. Thornton was a full second behind Pierce on lap 42, but the deficit all but vanished on the next circuit when Pierce slipped off turn two’s cushion and tagged the wall.
Thornton, smelling metaphorical blood in the water, slid Pierce the very next corner, which set up the go-ahead pass on lap 44.
“The biggest thing is once you do screw up on exit your straightaway speed is so much slower,” Thornton said. “I was able to capitalize on that to get close enough and stay within reach, that’s if he did crew up. It all worked out for us. The track kind of came to us as it slowed down.
“I felt like one and two weren’t bad,” Thornton added. “Three and four, I think it just got so slick getting in, you can almost enter like a car off and slide and almost hit the wall. It made it a lot more fun, I think. If you wanted it, you really had to go for it.”
Pierce tried countering with a slider of his own on lap 45 in turns one and two, but couldn’t generate the momentum required to reclaim the lead. Minus the miscue that costed him the race, Pierce utilized the top better than anyone on Wednesday.
Davenport and Thornton had challenged Pierce the three prior restarts on laps seven, 16 and 24, but neither could get their cars sped up like Pierce around the top. The Oakwood, Ill., driver said that Thornton “got us a little bit on the tire game there.
“The cautions really hurt me at the end. I think I abused (my right-rear tire) throughout the race,” Pierce said. “I made that little bobble (on lap 32) but I pulled back away. Then I made that really big bobble down there (on lap 43). We got into those slider battles, that was a lot of fun.
“I know where the brake pedal is at. A lot of people don’t. It’s a good thing. It was pretty close, but it was a lot of fun. That’s how you race. I race the same way. Congrats to Ricky on the win. Fun race. Would have loved to stay out front. I figured I could feel myself kind of going away a little bit, getting worse as the race went on. It was getting choppier, it wasn’t helping out with my setups. All in all, a great night. We’ll take this and move on to Farmer City tomorrow (with the World of Outlaws at Farmer City).”
Davenport, meanwhile, finished where he started in third. Last year’s DirtonDirt.com Driver of the Year said the Double L Motorsports teamed employed a different car than last week’s Show-Me 100, where they won twice. Davenport, who ran second the majority of the race (laps 4-33), finished 2.1 seconds behind Thornton.
“I just wanted to get closer so I can watch the race,” Davenport said. “Congrats to Ricky. He’s been on kill. I hate what happened to him last week. Bobby’s been really good, ever since he got his (Longhorn) car. We’re still working. We’re not as confidence as we need to be with our changes. We’ve changed two or three things back and forth. But at least the stats show we started third and ran third. At least we didn’t lead and go to the back. It’s better than what we were the last time. We’ll work on this thing some more. We won’t give up. We can at least see the front now.
“All of our stuff is going in the right direction. Yeah, I’m excited for what the future is going to bring for us. A lot of big races coming up, so it’s time to get rolling.”
Notes: Ricky Thornton Jr. is now tied for the most Castrol Series wins (three) in the tour's three-year history; it's also Thornton's ninth overall win of the season. ... Second-starting Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., led laps 1-43 before a miscue off turn two's cushion with seven laps to go proved detrimental. … Dresden, Ohio’s Devin Moran started from the pole but never led a lap, eventually finishing 19th and retiring from the race on lap 30. … Florence Speedway dominator Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., (more than $80,000 won at Florence since 2021) started 11th and finished 20th, dropping out of the race on lap 24. … Making his first start since September 2022, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., drove John Weber's Club 29 Race Car but was the feature’s first retiree. … Four cautions slowed the feature that lasted 27 minutes (lap seven for Lanigan, lap 16 for Blake Creech and Lanigan, lap 24 for Rice, and lap 32 for Mike Marlar). … Thirteen of 23 starters finished on the lead lap. … Moran, Pierce, Davenport and Thornton won heats. … Castrol FloRacing Night in America is off for the summer and resumes next Sept. 12 at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway.