Story By: LUCAS OIL LATE MODEL DIRT SERIES – KNOXVILLE, IA – Ricky Thornton Jr. made a last lap pass for the win on Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway.
Thornton, the current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Chase for the Championship leader went by Brandon Overton on the white flag lap and went on to score his 18th series win of the season.
It was the first of three nights of racing that will conclude on Saturday night with the 19th Annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals paying $50,000 to win out of a $196,000 feature purse.
The 25-lap preliminary night feature saw four different race leaders. Daulton Wilson, who led 19 laps, the most during the race, edged out Overton at the finish line for second. Overton was third followed by Devin Moran and 3-time Late Model Knoxville Nationals winner, Mike Marlar.
Wilson powered to the lead at the start of the $7,000 to win preliminary feature and opened an advantage over Jonathan Davenport, the defending race winner. Those two ran first and second until Davenport went to the outside on lap 17 to take over the race lead. Unfortunately, Davenport got to high exiting turn four and got into the front stretch guardrail which sent him hard into the turn one wall ending his night.
When the race resumed Wilson was back out in the lead and would hold the point until lap 21 when Overton, who had started 11th on the grid, moved to second. Overton was one of the fastest cars on the track as he moved by Wilson for the lead on lap 21. Overton looked to be on his way to his first Knoxville victory as he opened up a three to four car length lead, but Wilson and Thornton started to close the gap and as the trio took the white flag it would be a three-car battle for the win.
Thornton would come from third to second on the white flag lap as then moments later he passed Overton to take his first and only lead of the race to win by 0.517 seconds over Wilson and 0.520 seconds ahead of Overton.
Thornton, whose only previous win at Knoxville was in 2018 in a Harris Clash race for modifieds, went to Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the 23rd time in his career. The victory was special for Thornton who lived a little over an hour away in Adel, Iowa for a few years.
“It’s awesome to win here at Knoxville, whether it’s a prelim race or not all the best drivers are here so, to be able to do it from eighth, it’s like we never passed any cars. I think after tonight it should put us in a good position for Saturday. Hopefully we can do it. I have a lot of wins here in Iowa. I think it’s my second Knoxville win, so we want that big Knoxville win.”
Wilson continues to get closer to his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory came home in second after leading the most laps. “We got up there in those lapped cars and when you are out front you really don’t know where the racetrack is at. I thought that middle looked like it was coming back around. You just can’t leave that bottom; we fell back and then I thought we had a chance for the lead coming to the white and I overshot the corner down there, but we’re hanging around the front, we are learning a lot, getting better, and if we keep putting ourselves in this position maybe we will be up there soon getting our picture taken.”
Overton rounded out the Big River Steel Podium in third. “I went with a two compound on the right front and both of them had three’s on the right front. I just worked my right front way too hard to get around Daulton on the top. So, we’ll take it. I didn’t think I was going to get up that far. It was a good run for us. Shoot Ricky’s running good and so is Daulton so just to be up there with them, we’ll take it.”
The winner’s Todd and Vickie Burns-owned, SSI Motorsports, Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored by Big River Steel, Hoker Trucking, Coltman Farms, Sub-Surface of Indiana, Dyno One Inc., West Side Tractor Sales Company, D&E Outside Services, Certified Inspection Service Company, Inc., Sunoco Race Fuels, Bilstein Shocks, Midwest Sheet Metal, Excel Floor Covering, and Murty Farms.
Completing the top ten were Chris Ferguson, Tyler Erb, Ryan Gustin, Brandon Sheppard, and Earl Pearson Jr.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Knoxville Late Model Nationals | Prelim Night 1
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Knoxville Raceway – Knoxville, IA
Allstar Performance Time Trials
Fast Time Group A: Mike Marlar | 17.109 seconds (overall)
Fast Time Group B: Ricky Thornton, Jr. | 17.396 seconds
Penske Shocks Heat Race #1 Finish (12 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. 111B-Max Blair; 2. 99-Devin Moran; 3. 8S-Brian Shirley; 4. 157-Mike Marlar; 5. 1T-Tyler Erb; 6. 32-Chris Simpson; 7. 21-Billy Moyer Sr; 8. 21M-Luke Merfeld; 9. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 10. 99B-Boom Briggs
Summit Racing Products Heat Race #2 Finish (12 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. 22F-Chris Ferguson; 2. 18-Chase Junghans; 3. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 4. 4-Brandon Overton; 5. 18D-Daulton Wilson; 6. 58-Garrett Alberson; 7. 7-Ross Robinson; 8. 6-Al Humphrey; 9. 21B-Rich Bell; 10. (DNS) 22M-Charlie McKenna
Simpson Race Products Heat Race #3 Finish (12 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 2. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 3. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 4. 46-Earl Pearson Jr; 5. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck; 6. 62-Justin Zeitner; 7. 39-Tim McCreadie; 8. 48-Tim Lance; 9. 10W-Junior Coover; 10. 7W-Ricky Weiss
AP1 Insurance Heat Race #4 Finish (12 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. 25-Chad Simpson; 2. 11-Spencer Hughes; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 4. 16-Tyler Bruening; 5. 1H-Hudson O’Neal; 6. 98-Cory Hedgecock; 7. 51-Matt Furman; 8. 30-Todd Cooney; 9. 1X-Aaron Marrant; 10. 17-Tim Simpson
Fast Shafts B-Main Race #1 Finish (15 Laps, Top 2 Transfer): 1. 32-Chris Simpson; 2. 21-Billy Moyer Sr; 3. 58-Garrett Alberson; 4. 7-Ross Robinson; 5. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 6. 99B-Boom Briggs; 7. 6-Al Humphrey; 8. 21M-Luke Merfeld; 9. 22M-Charlie McKenna; 10. (DNS) 21B-Rich Bell
UNOH B-Main Race #2 Finish (15 Laps, Top 2 Transfer): 1. 39-Tim McCreadie; 2. 48-Tim Lance; 3. 30-Todd Cooney; 4. 62-Justin Zeitner; 5. 7W-Ricky Weiss; 6. 51-Matt Furman; 7. 98-Cory Hedgecock; 8. 1X-Aaron Marrant; 9. 17-Tim Simpson; 10. 10W-Junior Coover
Knoxville Late Model Nationals | Prelim Night 1 Feature Finish (25 Laps):
Terminal Maintenance & Construction Pole Sitter: Daulton Wilson
Lap Leaders: Daulton Wilson (Laps 1-20); Brandon Overton (Laps 21-24); Ricky Thornton, Jr. (Lap 25)
Wieland Feature Winner: Ricky Thornton, Jr.
Arizona Sport Shirts Crown Jewel Cup Feature Winner: n/a
Brandon Ford TV Challenge Feature Winner: n/a
Margin of Victory: 0.518 seconds
Gorsuch Performance Solutions Cautions: Jonathan Davenport (Lap 17); Hudson O’Neal (Laps 22)
Series Provisionals: n/a
Fast Time Provisional: n/a
Series Emergency Provisionals: n/a
Track Provisional: n/a
Big River Steel Podium Top 3: Ricky Thornton, Jr., Daulton Wilson, Brandon Overton
Penske Shocks Top 5: Ricky Thornton, Jr., Daulton Wilson, Brandon Overton, Devin Moran, Mike Marlar
Todd Steel Buildings Hard Charger of the Race: Tyler Erb (Advanced 11 Positions)
Wilwood Brakes Lucky 7th Place Feature: Tyler Erb
Deatherage Opticians Lucky 13th Place Feature: Spencer Hughes
Earnhardt Technologies Most Laps Led: (Laps)
Sunoco Race for Gas Highest Finisher: Ricky Thornton, Jr.
Midwest Sheet Metal Spoiler Challenge Point Leader: Ricky Thornton, Jr.
O’Reilly Auto Parts Rookie of the Race: Max Blair
Etchberger Trucking Fastest Lap of the Race: Jonathan Davenport (Lap 10 – 18.215 seconds)
MD3 Tough Break of the Race: Jonathan Davenport
Outerwears Crew Chief of the Race: Anthony Burroughs (Ricky Thornton, Jr.)
ARP Engine Builder of the Race: Clements Racing Engines
Miller Welders Chassis Builder of the Race: Longhorn Chassis
Dirt Draft Fastest in Hot Laps: Jonathan Davenport (17.484 seconds)
Time of Race: 16 minutes 50 seconds
Knoxville Late Model Nationals Prelim Points Breakdown – Night 1: