Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Ricky Thornton Jr. Rides Freight Train to Huset’s Win

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Ricky Thornton Jr. out-dueled Jonathan Davenport in just the nick of time at Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota Thursday (July 20), taking the lead shortly before the track rubbered up and driving off to win the Go 50 on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tour.

Thursday’s race played out as a predictable three-way battle of the nation’s top-three late model drivers in 2023, with Bobby Pierce finishing second after staying within striking distance of Davenport and Thornton as they waged their battle for the lead.

The Lucas Oil tour remains at Huset’s Friday and Saturday as the track hosts the Silver Dollar Nationals, which have been relocated after the I-80 Speedway in Nebraska was permanently closed in the offseason.


Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Thursday’s World of Outlaws feature at BAPS Motor Speedway in Pennsylvania was also decided by a mid-race pass after an extended duel, though it happened on a much racier surface. 

This race saw David Gravel best Brad Sweet, a win that had the current series points leader thrilled that he beat the defending series champion despite Sweet starting on the pole.

What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

If the track prep crew at Huset’s doesn’t have a sleepless night tonight, something is very wrong. To see the track completely rubber up as part of a two-class, 50-lap preliminary night program does not bode well at all for what’s supposed to be a crown-jewel late model race this weekend.

Hearing Pierce compare Huset’s to I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. during his post-race interview, I’m not gonna lie, I thought about sprint cars. And that led to me wonder whether a 30-lap late model feature wouldn’t be a bad idea for Huset’s on prelim nights. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, it took a rain delay, but after seeing the Outlaws feature at BAPS this evening, I sincerely hope it’s not three decades before they race in Susquehanna again. That track was the literal definition of a two-groove surface, with Gravel’s eventual race-winning assault on Sweet starting because of the grip he managed to find on the lower side of the track. Central PA topped midwest black dirt on this Thursday.

BAPS rain an uber-crisp program this Thursday, with the A-main finishing at 8:48 p.m. local time. 

Yes, that was partly aided by the program being one class (the super sportsman were not rescheduled after the Wednesday rainout), but credit where it’s due, packing the stands and getting them out in time for work on Friday is a worthwhile accomplishment. Pet peeve though was hearing Johnny Gibson articulating that the track was in hurry-up mode because of potential rain later in the evening. There’s no reason a weekday race shouldn’t be operating as if rain is in the area as a default.

One downfall to the Outlaws being delayed a day at BAPS was that Kyle Larson was unable to compete after posting a qualifying time Wednesday night at the track. That wasn’t the headline though. The real controversy came because BAPS Motor Speedway posted on social media that Larson was going to be racing there without confirmation, instead relying on the Larson Land social media account’s tentative schedule.

There’s plenty of rumors going around as to what ended up happening that saw Larson show up after his win at Lernerville Tuesday. 

See also
This Day in Dirt: Kyle Larson Repeats Silver Cup Triumph, Anthony Macri Returns

Some believe that Larson and team opted to head to BAPS to make good to race fans that took the track’s social media posts as gospel. Another suggested that Larson simply didn’t want to be an explicit promotional tool for an Outlaws race; Larson’s dirt cars are sponsored by DirtVision rival Flo Racing and the WoO tour continues to put limits on any driver contesting their races that isn’t a “platinum” full-time driver, such as preventing part-time drivers from parking their merchandise trailers on souvenir row.

Whatever the true story, this was not an episode any track or race fan should want to see repeat itself. We’ll close with Justin Fiedler’s solid breakdown of the episode.

I don’t know who was responsible for suggesting at the start of the Huset’s broadcast Thursday that the bullring was a 0.375-mile oval, but that’s an absurd exaggeration. My home track is a 0.375-mile oval. Huset’s is not. The naked eye test alone spells that out.

Matt Sheppard prevailed on a restart inside of 10 laps to go to win the Richie Evans Remembered 61 feature at Utica-Rome Speedway in New York. 

He also made headlines entering this race for fielding a second car for NASCAR regular Ross Chastain. Chastain, as it turns out, brought out the final yellow inside of 10 to go that gave Mat Williamson a final shot at stealing the race win. Gotta wonder if, for at least a brief moment, Sheppard regretted that decision.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

I didn’t get to watch this feature event, but Ashton Winger returning from a Hell Tour championship to win at his home track in Senoia with a stacked field that had more super late models than Huset’s did is a real statement. 

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Night

There’s no getting around it, Noah Gass absolutely took out Tyler Ross on the opening lap of the Last Chance Showdown at BAPS, triggering the only flip the track saw on the evening.

Numbers Game


Number of dirt tracks in the US that contested an oval-track racing program Thursday.


The nation’s largest car count Thursday, the Summer Nationals at Senoia Raceway in Georgia.


The nation’s largest purse Thursday, paid to the Go 50 feature winner at Huset’s (Thornton).

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back on Monday (July 24) with coverage of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Silver Dollar Nationals from Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota. Streaming coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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