Race Weekend Central

Ricky Thornton Jr. Sweeps Prelim Races & Nears Knoxville History

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – In many ways, Friday’s Knoxville Late Model Nationals prelim feature (Sept. 15) was the exact opposite of Thursday’s. But the result was the same, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Ricky Thornton Jr. in victory lane.

Thornton led all 25 laps and went unchallenged in scoring his 19th series win of 2023. Perhaps most concerning for the field was Thornton’s remarks in victory lane, where he noted that his team had run a completely different setup this Friday and had actually found more speed heading into Saturday’s $50,000 finale.

That’s significant in more ways than one; besides being another potential crown-jewel win, sweeping the Late Model Nationals is a feat that in nearly two decades has only been accomplished by one other driver, Billy Moyer in 2010. Moyer was actually in the field Friday but failed to transfer into Friday’s feature after slapping the wall on the last lap of the second B-main.

Friday’s racing activities got started late thanks to two bursts of afternoon rainfall that forced the Knoxville track crew to repack the racing surface prior to the scheduled start of hot laps. The extra moisture in the track did seem to narrow the racing lines available on Friday (Thursday’s feature saw five lead changes, while Friday’s saw none).

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

That wasn’t a universally held opinion, however, with seventh-place finisher Spencer Hughes a fan of Friday’s racing surface.

“It slowed down a little bit, we could move around a little bit better,” said Hughes of the racing surface. “If they just flood this thing every night, we just run out here wide open and we can’t get close to each other.”

Though winner Thornton showed no shortage of the speed that has characterized his 2023 campaign, Friday night proved a challenge for a trio of Longhorn Chassis’ heavy hitters. Mike Marlar, the only three-time winner of the Late Model Nationals, brought out a late-race yellow flag in finishing a distant 20th, while defending LOLMDS champ Tim McCreadie ended Friday night the biggest name in the field not locked into Saturday’s A-main.

Defending Late Model Nationals champion Jonathan Davenport also endured another rough night, falling from third to sixth in his heat race and forced to run a B-main, then failing to finish the feature event.

Friday’s race program saw the first red flag of the Nationals fly during the second heat race, with Tim Simpson flipping his car after making contact with the berm in turn 2. Simpson was uninjured in the incident.

The 75-lap finale of the Late Model Nationals is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16. Streaming coverage can be found on FloRacing.


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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