Race Weekend Central

Ricky Thornton Jr. Steals Knoxville Late Model Opener, Jonathan Davenport Left Fuming

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Having already broken the single-season record for wins in a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series campaign, Ricky Thornton Jr. showed no signs of slowing down, executing a textbook last-lap pass on Brandon Overton to win the opening night of the Knoxville Late Model Nationals (Sept. 14), his 18th series win of 2023.

Despite Thursday’s feature being a quick 25-lap affair, four different drivers led laps on a night that saw the Knoxville racing surface in absolutely superb condition. With RTJ winning hardly a surprise, the story of the night early on was one Daulton Wilson, who started on the front row and appeared poised to score his long-awaited first LOLMDS win.

Wilson led the opening 16 laps but fell victim in lapped traffic; unable to pass Tim McCreadie in turn 1 on lap 17, Wilson moved up the racetrack in turn 2 with no momentum, allowing Jonathan Davenport to blast by Wilson for the race lead.

The lead was short-lived for Davenport, the defending Knoxville Late Model Nationals champ, as contact with the frontstretch wall led him to wreck hard in turn 1 the following lap, nearly going over in the process.

The driver, who was uninjured in the crash, had some strong words on the evening’s race, referring to Knoxville as a “dump” in discussing the aero issues he blamed for his accident.

Davenport found himself in the minority on this evening though, as the closing laps would see Overton capitalize on Wilson getting out of shape on several occasions as he attempted to run the low side of the Knoxville surface, utilizing the track’s berm to turn his car. Overton led from laps 21-24 before falling victim to Thornton’s last-lap pass.

Hoosier Tire’s Shanon Rush was on site this evening and addressed the drivers’ meeting after a rash of tire failures marred last week’s running of the World 100 at Eldora Speedway.

Fortunately, tires were not a storyline on the evening; crew on both Chris Simpson and Tyler Erb‘s race teams told Frontstretch‘s Jay Barker during heat races that wear was not proving to be an issue, with sixth-place finisher Chris Ferguson saying the same following completion of Thursday’s A-main.


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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