Ricky Thornton Jr. Makes it a Clean Sweep with $50,000 Late Model Nationals Crown!

Ricky Thornton Jr. Makes it a Clean Sweep with $50,000 Late Model Nationals Crown!
Ricky Thornton won the $50,000 Lucas Oil Knoxivlle Late Model Nationals Saturday
Saturday, September 16, 2023
Ricky Thornton Jr. Makes it a Clean Sweep with $50,000 Late Model Nationals Crown!
Justin Zeitner Wins $4,000 Bob Maschmann Memorial with SLMR
by Bill Wright

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (September 16, 2023) – Ricky Thornton Jr. completed a dream weekend at the Knoxville Raceway Saturday night by completing a clean sweep of the three-night Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals Presented by Your Life Iowa. Ricky’s win was worth $50,000 and brought his weekend total to $64,000. It was the second time a driver has swept the three nights of the Late Model Nationals. Native Iowan Billy Moyer accomplished the feat back in 2010. Justin Zeitner won the companion Bob Maschmann Memorial. His win was worth $4,000 with the Malvern Bank SLMR Series.

Thornton jumped out early in the 75-lap feature ahead of Chad Simpson and Mike Marlar. Marlar worked under Simpson to take the runner-up spot on lap five and began his pursuit of the leader. Thornton entered lapped traffic on the low side of the track on lap 11. Marlar chose a higher line and took the point completing that circuit. Two laps later, Thornton repeated the move using the high side to regain the lead using the high side.

Marlar would not go away and used the cushion in lapped traffic to take the lead from Thornton again on lap 18. Thornton came back on the low side of turn four to lead lap 23. The first caution of the event came on lap 27 with a smoking Spencer Hughes. Thornton led Marlar, Simpson, Brandon Overton and Devin Moran back to green. Marlar struggled on the restart, and Simpson jumped up to second, Moran to third and Overton to fourth.

Marlar climbed back to the second spot by lap 32, while Kyle Bronson worked his way into the top three by lap 33. On lap 35, he used the cushion to pass Marlar for second, while Thornton was re-entering traffic. Daulton Wilson slowed on lap 40, bringing another yellow flag. That restart saw a four car tangle involving Tyler Bruening, Chris Ferguson, Wilson and Cory Hedgecock. No one was injured, but only Wilson would continue.

Hudson O’Neal entered the top five at that point, and then took fourth from Overton on lap 46. Thornton was back in lappers on lap 50, and increased his lead on Bronson when he split a pair of them. Bronson was running the cushion hard when he jumped it in turn three and flipped hard on lap 59. He walked away.

From there, Thornton had no serious challenges for the lead, despite one more caution for Ryan Gustin, who suffered a flat on lap 67. Marlar would nail down second, ahead of O’Neal, a late charging Jonathan Davenport and Overton. Chase Junghans, Brian Shirley, hard-charger Tim McCreadie, Moran and Brandon Sheppard rounded out the top ten. Justin Zeitner won the 15-lap B main.

“That was wild,” said Thornton in Victory Lane. “I didn’t know if I was going to get it done or not. We had a great car. I saw Bronson on top and didn’t know if I had the balls to get up there like he was. I tried to play around on the bottom as long as I could to try and save my stuff. Then I knew I had to get up or get passed. I just drove my heart out after that, and it worked out. I love this place. It’s probably the nicest facility we get to come to. I felt like I was going to do whatever it took to get the job done, and I think that showed. I was hoping we’d have a good enough car to lead them all, but Mike had a good car too. He was probably a little better on the bottom than I was. It was stressful. You just had to drive as hard as you could and hope the car turned. If you tried to play it safe that was no good.”

“I had a really good car there,” said Marlar. “The fastest car won the race at the end of the night. I got by him twice and he got back by me and drove away. I had every chance in the world to win that race on the restarts. He was just faster. Congratulations to Ricky and their team. They really have something special this year and its fun racing with him. If you mess around and get out of that second row on a restart, it’s a game changer. He was fighting hard for it and I was. It was two dogs wrestling on a bone for twenty laps. He got it from me, and when on to win the race.”

“I’m happy with this,” said O’Neal. “Obviously, we want to win, but we felt we made gains all weekend long. Maybe we built a bit of a notebook for next year. I just hate that we had two ‘just o.k.’ prelims and didn’t start a little closer to the front and maybe race with them a little longer. Even when this place slows down, it still gets it on. I felt like the racetrack was awesome. We raced all over it. I think the restarts made it interesting. I thought the racetrack was awesome.”

In the companion Malvern Bank SLMR Series 22-lap Bob Maschmann Memorial, Justin Zeitner led early from the pole, ahead of Andy Eckrich, Tad Pospisil, Jeff Tharp and Corey Zeitner. Tharp and Chad Holladay were quickly in the mix, getting by Pospisil for third and fourth on lap two. Holladay continued his charge by passing Tharp for the third spot on lap three. Tharp slowed shortly after and exited the event. Derrick Stewart had entered the top five by lap five.

Zeitner entered lapped traffic on lap 11 before Curtis Glover stopped in turn one to bring a caution. Zeitner led Eckrich, Holladay, Pospisil and Stewart back to green. Eckrich pulled up inside Zeitner on lap 16 entering turn one. Zeitner quickly corrected across Eckrich’s nose entering the turn, keeping his position.

Holladay was a late player, getting by Eckrich at one point and vying briefly for the lead on the high side. The crowd rose to their feet, but it was Zeitner who prevailed for the first time on the famous half-mile. Eckrich made a last lap pass for second, ahead of Holladay, Pospisil and Luke Goedert. Stewart, Jeff Aikey, Kyle Berck, Corey Zeitner and JC Wyman completed the top ten. Justin Zeitner set quick time over the field while Andrew Kosiski, Wyman and Holladay claimed heat races.

“We were a little free here and you have to be,” said Zeitner in Victory Lane. “I knew if I didn’t give up that bottom, we’d probably be alright. I slid across the racetrack once and I knew I’d about been had. I made sure to hit my marks and not give that bottom up. I appreciate the Maschmann family and everything they do for this event. Without them, we wouldn’t have it. It’s a pleasure to be racing here at Knoxville. It’s really cool.”

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19th Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals Presented by Your Life Iowa Night #1 Results

B main (started), 15 Laps, NT: 1. 62, Justin Zeitner, Malvern, IA (1); 2. 39, Tim McCreadie, Watertown, NY (2); 3. 7, Ross Robinson, Georgetown, DE (4); 4. 48, Tim Lance, Brimfield, IL (3); 5. 51, Matt Furman, Iowa City, IA (6); 6. 99JR, Frank Heckenast Jr., Frankfort, IL (12) / 7. 17, Tim Simpson, Iowa City, IA (8); 8. D45, Dan Battaglia, Gretna, NE (9); 9. 7w, Ricky Weiss, Headingley, MB, Can. (5); 10. 21M, Luke Merfeld, Dubuque, IA (11); 11. 1x, Aaron Marrant, Richmond, MO (10); 12. 99B, Boom Briggs, Bear Lake, PA (7); 13. 10W, Junior Coover, Norfolk, NE (14); 14. 6, Al Humphrey, Giltner, NE (13) DNS – 21, Billy Moyer, Batesville, AR; 22M, Charlie McKenna, Ames, IA; 21B, Rich Bell, Sheffield, IL.

A main (started), 75 Laps, NT: 1. 20RT, Ricky Thornton Jr., Chandler, AZ (1); 2. 157, Mike Marlar, Winfield, TN (5); 3. 1H, Hudson O'Neal, Martinsville, IN (10); 4. 49, Jonathan Davenport, Blairsville, GA (18); 5. 4, Brandon Overton, Evans, GA (6); 6. 18, Chase Junghans, Manhattan, KS (21); 7. 8s, Brian Shirley, Chatham, IL (13); 8. 99, Devin Moran, Dresden, OH (4); 9. Tim McCreadie (26); 10. B5, Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, IL (11); 11. 1T, Tyler Erb, New Waverly, TX (16); 12. 58, Garrett Alberson, Las Cruces, NM (20); 13. 25, Chad Simpson, Mt. Vernon, IA (2); 14. 18D, Daulton Wilson, Fayetteville, NC (8); 15. 32, Chris Simpson, Oxford, IA (19); 16. 11, Spencer Hughes, Meridian, MS (9); 17. 46, Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, FL (14); 18. 22, Daniel Hilsabeck, Earlham, IA (23); 19. 111B, Max Blair, Centerville, PA (17); 20. Tim Lance (28); 21. 19R, Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, IA (12); 22. 40B, Kyle Bronson, Brandon, FL (7); 23. 30, Todd Cooney, Des Moines, IA (22); 24. 22F, Christopher Ferguson, Mt. Holly, NC (3); 25. 16, Tyler Bruening, Decorah, IA (15); 26. 26JR, Corey Hedgecock, Loudon, TN (24); 27. Justin Zeitner (25); 28. Ross Robinson (27); 29. Frank Heckenast Jr. (30); 30. Matt Furman (29); 31. Boom Briggs (31, prov.). Lap Leaders: Thornton Jr. 1-10, Marlar 11-12, Thornton Jr. 13-17, Marlar 18-22, Thornton Jr. 23-75. MPi Hard-charger: McCreadie.

Malvern Bank SLMR Series Results

Time Trials (Qualifying Order), 2 laps: 1. 62, Justin Zeitner, Malvern, IA (22), 18.101; 2. 04, Tad Pospisil, Papillion, NE (21), 18.124; 3. 10T, Jeff Tharp, Sherrill, IA (10), 18.270; 4. 43, Derrick Stewart, Ainsworth, IA (7), 18.275; 5. 1, Jaxon Saathoff, Beatrice, NE (14), 18.339; 6. 14, Kyle Berck, Marquette, NE (17), 18.387; 7. 26JR, Corey Zeitner, Omaha, NE (13), 18.392; 8. 76, Zach Zeitner, Bellevue, NE (15), 18.411; 9. 44, Luke Goedert, Guttenberg, IA (6), 18.463; 10. 56, Andy Eckrich, Iowa City, IA (12), 18.615; 11. 58, Dave Eckrich, Oxford, IA (23), 18.632; 12. 93, Chad Simpson, Mount Vernon, IA (1), 18.685; 13. 07, Matt Ryan, Davenport, IA (24), 18.718; 14. 77, Jeff Aikey, Waterloo, IA (8), 18.727; 15. 32C, Chad Holladay, Muscatine, IA (3), 18.788; 16. 53, Andrew Kosiski, La Vista, NE (2), 18.818; 17. 4, JC Wyman, Griswold, IA (9), 18.818; 18. 24, Bill Leighton Jr., La Vista, NE (16), 18.822; 19. 15C, Curt Schroeder, Ames, IA (4), 18.934; 20. 99D, Darrel DeFrance, Marshalltown, IA (11), 18.976; 21. 22, Charlie McKenna, Clear Lake, IA (18), 19.044; 22. 85, Josh Leonard, Gibbon, NE (20), 19.068; 23. 32, Curtis Glover, Knoxville, IA (5), 19.289; 24. 42, Fred Remley, Anamosa, IA (19), 19.599

Heat one (started), 8 Laps, 2:39.0: 1. Andrew Kosiski (1); 2. Andy Eckrich (3); 3. Corey Zeitner (4); 4. Justin Zeitner (6); 5. Derrick Stewart (5); 6. Matt Ryan (2); 7. Curt Schroeder (7); 8. Josh Leonard (8)

Heat two (started), 8 Laps, 2:39.0: 1. JC Wyman (1); 2. Dave Eckrich (3); 3. Jeff Aikey (2); 4. Tad Pospisil (6); 5. Jaxon Saathoff (5); 6. Zach Zeitner (4); 7. Darrel DeFrance (7); 8. Curtis Glover (8)

Heat three (started), 8 Laps, NT: 1. Chad Holladay (2); 2. Jeff Tharp (6); 3. Luke Goedert (4); 4. Charlie McKenna (7); 5. Kyle Berck (5); 6. Fred Remley (8); 7. Chad Simpson (3); 8. Bill Leighton Jr. (1)

A main (started), 22 Laps, NT: 1. Justin Zeitner (1); 2. Andy Eckrich (2); 3. Chad Holladay (8); 4. Tad Pospisil (3); 5. Luke Goedert (6); 6. Derrick Stewart (9); 7. Jeff Aikey (14); 8. Kyle Berck (11); 9. Corey Zeitner (4); 10. JC Wyman (13); 11. Zach Zeitner (15); 12. Matt Ryan (18); 13. Andrew Kosiski (12); 14. Curt Schroeder (20); 15. Charlie McKenna (16); 16. Jaxon Saathoff (10); 17. Darrel DeFrance (21); 18. Dave Eckrich (7); 19. Josh Leonard (23); 20. Fred Remley (19); 21. Curtis Glover (24); 22. Jeff Tharp (5) DNS – Chad Simpson, Bill Leighton. Lap Leader: J. Zeitner 1-22. Hard-charger: Aikey.