BROWNSTOWN, Ind. (Sept. 23) — Racing in his car owners’ backyard, Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., couldn’t be denied in Saturday’s 44th annual Jackson 100 at Brownstown Speedway.
The breakout driver of 2023 ceded the lead to Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., on lap 58 but rallied to regain command on the 86th circuit en route to capturing the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned event for the first time in his career. He beat O’Neal to the finish line by 2.167 seconds to pocket a race-record $30,000 top prize while recording his 17th full-field triumph of 2023 on the national tour.
Thornton, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday on Sept. 28, was most pleased to win for the couple who field his SSI Motorsports operation.
“Big shout out to Todd and Vicki Burns,” Thornton said of his car owners, whose team is based in nearby Morgantown, Ind. “It’s pretty cool for them to get their second Jackson.”
The 23-year-old O’Neal, who brought the Burnses their first Jackson 100 checkered flag in 2019, settled for the runner-up check after advancing from the 10th starting spot to lead laps 58-85 in the Rocket Chassis house car.
Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, placed third in a race that saw him briefly run in second place (laps 1-2 and 26) and never fall out of the top three. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who started 13th in a new Paylor Motorsports Longhorn car, cracked the top five on lap 83 and moved up one spot on the 91st circuit to finish fourth while Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, Tenn., completed the top five in his first Jackson 100 feature start.
Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who won Friday’s 40-lap C.J. Rayburn Memorial to kick off the Jackson 100 weekend, challenged Thornton several times during the A-main’s early stages and was still running second on lap 54 when he slowed with a right-rear flat tire. He returned to action following a pit stop but retired on the 61st lap.
Thornton, who started from the outside pole in his Longhorn machine, outgunned the polesitting Moran for the lead at the initial green flag and appeared primed for a wire-to-wire run until O’Neal rose up. After breaking into the top five on lap 31, O’Neal vaulted past Moran for second on a lap-54 restart and sailed around the outside of Thornton off turn two to assume command on lap 58.
O’Neal’s sudden explosion to the front had Thornton doubting his chances.
“Once he got by me I thought the race was over,” Thornton said. “I moved up to his lane and he kind of just drove off.
“I felt like we had a pretty good car early, (but) I didn’t know what to do on the restart, if I needed to be high or low. Then (O’Neal) got by me and I was like, ‘Man, I just gave this thing away.’”
But with the race running caution-free for the final 46 circuits, Thornton never fell far behind O’Neal. The Lucas Oil Series points leader ran back up on O’Neal with less than 25 laps remaining and finally slid the leader through turns one and two to regain the lead on lap 86.
“I just kind of kept my cool, kept my cool,” Thornton said. “(O’Neal) made that one mistake over there in turn two and it kind of broke his concentration a little bit and he started searching around.”
Thornton pulled away down the stretch, leading O’Neal in his wake en route to his 29th overall triumph of the season. The second-place finisher couldn’t keep pace with the circuit’s biggest winner of 2023 despite racing on his family’s home turf.
“We just haven’t been exactly where we needed to be (before Saturday’s feature), and my guys really worked their tails off to get better,” O’Neal said. “We had a great race car there. Just unfortunately, I just didn’t have quite as good a race car as Ricky did there in lapped traffic.
“I felt pretty good whenever I was out there by myself. I was able to roll that top. But whenever I had to start getting behind people I just struggled a little bit.
“But we’ll take second,” he continued. “Starting 10th, we were able to pass a lot of good guys.”
Racing two days before his 29th birthday, Moran tallied a third-place finish for the second straight night.
“Two podium finishes is always good when you’re racing the Lucas Oil guys, but man, I just wanna get up there a little bit better,” said Moran, who has two runner-up and two third-place finishes in his five career Jackson 100 feature starts. “The guys worked really hard and we put all of our minds together but we just couldn’t get it quite right.
“I just want to win this race so bad,” he added. “It’s so fun to race here.”
Before the lap-54 caution flag for Marlar, the race was also slowed on lap two for debris on the track and lap 25 for a slowing Trevor Landrum.
Notes: Thornton’s best finish in four previous Jackson 100 feature starts was second in last year’s event. … Thornton said it was “pretty cool to get a win” with his father on hand after flying out from Arizona. … Jonathan Davenport retired from the race on lap 87 for a 16th-place finish but he maintained third in the points standings with just two events remaining before the Final Four are locked in to compete for the Lucas Oil title the Oct. 20-21 Dirt Track World Championship at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. … Brandon Overton ran fifth as late as lap 30 before fading to 11th in the final rundown. He remained fourth in the points standings, however, 80 points ahead of Moran and McCreadie, who are tied for fifth. … A red flag stopped the first B-main on lap four when Garrett Smith barrel-rolled once between turns and two after tangling with Shelby Miles. Smith slipped over the backstretch berm on lap two while trying to overtake Miles for fourth, then two circuits later the teenager ducked inside Miles entering turn one and his right-rear wheel hopped over Miles’s left-front; Smith’s car turned sideways in front of Miles, his right side dug into the track and he flipped. Smith walked with a limp afterward while Miles was uninjured. … Other non-qualifiers included teenager Tristan Chamberlain, Chad Stapleton, Devin Gilpin, Greg Johnson, James Rice, Adam Stricker and Terry Casey.
Row 1: Devin Moran, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 2: Cory Hedgecock, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Daulton Wilson, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Earl Pearson Jr., Michael Chilton
Row 5: Tanner English, Hudson O'Neal
Row 6: Jonathan Davenport, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 7: Tim McCreadie, Tyler Erb
Row 8: Rod Conley, Boom Briggs
Row 9: Josh Rice, Garrett Alberson
Row 10: Spencer Hughes, Nick Hoffman
Row 11: Jason Jameson, Ross Robinson
Row 12: Max Blair, Trevor Landrum
Row 13: Jared Bailey, David Webb
Consolation race results
(10 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Josh Rice, Spencer Hughes, Jason Jameson, Trevor Landrum, Chad Stapleton, Chase Burda, Tristan Chamberlain, Tyler Collins, Jarod Fleetwood, Keegan Cox, Garrett Smith, Shelby Miles, Casey White, Devin Gilpin. Scratched: Jordan Wever, Quentin White
Second consolation: Garrett Alberson, Nick Hoffman, Ross Robinson, David Webb, Greg Johnson, James Rice, Adam Stricker, Skyller Lewis, Jug Wethington, Marty O'Neal, Zak Blackwood, Logan Mounce, Max Blair, Jared Bailey. Scratched: Terry Casey
Heat race recap
After leading the opening seven laps from the pole of the first heat race, Daulton Wilson was overtaken by second-starting Devin Moran on the final lap when he slipped his right-rear tire off the track at the turn-two exit. Fourth-starting Tanner English finished third and sixth-starting Tim McCreadie grabbed the fourth and final transfer spot. … After trading the lead multiple times over three consecutive laps, second-starting Cory Hedgecock outdueled Jonathan Davenport and prevailed to win heat two by 0.714 of a second over fourth-starting Earl Pearson Jr. Davenport settled for third, with Rod Conley finishing fourth. The lone caution flew on lap five when Casey White had a solo-spin. … Ricky Thornton Jr. led all eight laps from the pole to win heat three by 1.749 seconds over Brandon Overton. Fourth-starting Hudson O’Neal finished third, with fifth-starting Tyler Erb in fourth. … Second-starting Mike Marlar took the lead on the opening lap and never looked back, leading green-to-checkered to win the fourth and final heat race by 3.222 seconds over Michael Chilton. Fourth-starting Dennis Erb Jr. took third, with Boom Briggs narrowly fending-off Ross Robinson for the fourth and final transfer position.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Devin Moran, Daulton Wilson, Tanner English, Tim McCreadie, Josh Rice, Trevor Landrum, Spencer Hughes, Jason Jameson, Tristan Chamberlain, Chase Burda, Tyler Collins. Scratched: Quentin White
Second heat: Cory Hedgecock, Earl Pearson Jr., Jonathan Davenport, Rod Conley, Garrett Smith, Shelby Miles, Keegan Cox, Devin Gilpin, Chad Stapleton, Jordan Wever, Jarod Fleetwood, Casey White.
Third heat: Ricky Thornton Jr., Brandon Overton, Hudson O'Neal, Tyler Erb, Garrett Alberson, Nick Hoffman, David Webb, Adam Stricker, James Rice, Jug Wethington, Zak Blackwood, Logan Mounce.
Fourth heat: Mike Marlar, Michael Chilton, Dennis Erb Jr., Boom Briggs, Ross Robinson, Greg Johnson, Max Blair, Terry Casey, Skyller Lewis, Marty O'Neal, Jared Bailey.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
1. Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 13.423
2. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 13.576
3. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 13.732
4. Cory Hedgecock (23), Loudon, Tenn., 13.744
5. Trevor Landrum (18), Florence, Ky., 13.789
6. Rod Conley (71R), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 13.866
7. Tanner English (96v), Benton, Ky., 13.895
8. Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., 13.956
9. Spencer Hughes (11), Meridian, Miss., 13.965
10. Garrett Smith (10), Eatonton, Ga., 13.972
11. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.029
12. Shelby Miles (76m), Bloomington, Ind., 14.068
13. Josh Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., 14.234
14. Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 14.239
15. Tristan Chamberlain (20tc), Richmond, Ind., 14.313
16. Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 14.338
17. Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 14.364
18. Jordan Wever (29J), Bloomington, Ind., 14.433
19. Chase Burda (18B), Lapeer, Mich., 14.443
20. Keegan Cox (23k), Franklin, Ind., 14.529
21. Tyler Collins (11T), North Vermon, Ind., 14.599
22. Jarod Fleetwood (11J), Seymour, Ind., 14.805
23. Quentin White (14), Greenwood, Ind., 15.349
24. Casey White (1cj), Greenwood, Ind., 15.441
1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 13.528
2. Michael Chilton (97), Salvisa, Ky., 13.737
3. Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 13.758
4. Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 13.786
5. Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 13.829
6. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 13.877
7. Hudson O’Neal (1H), Martinsville, Ind., 13.920
8. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 13.968
9. Tyler Erb (1T), New Waverly, Texas, 13.972
10. Terry Casey (42), New London, Wis., 14.005
11. David Webb (13w), Nicholasville, Ky., 14.024
12. Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., 14.149
13. Adam Stricker (68), Batavia, Ohio, 14.157
14. Greg Johnson (88), Bedford, Ind., 14.199
15. Nick Hoffman (9H), Mooresville, N.C., 14.257
16. Max Blair (111B), Centerville, Pa., 14.321
17. James Rice (15), Verona, Ky., 14.441
18. Jug Wethington (48J), Edinburgh, Ind., 14.779
19. Jared Bailey (24), Bedford, Ind., 14.492
20. Zak Blackwood (93), Columbus, Ind., 14.518
21. Skyller Lewis (22), Brownstown, Ind., 14.630
22. Marty O’Neal (19), Spencer, Ind., 15.344
23. Logan Mounce (80), Bedford, Ind., 15.636
(All times local)
Noon - All gates open
6 p.m. - On-track activity begins
- Late Model hot laps
- Modified time trial hot laps (2 laps)
- Super stock time trial hot laps (2 laps)
- Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Super stock heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model consolations (10 laps)
- Super stock consolations (10 laps; if needed)
- Late Models (100 laps)
- Modifieds (20 laps)
- Super stocks (20 laps)