Media Contact: Billy Rock

For Immediate Release

Wheatland, MO (March 31, 2023) – On a day in which afternoon sustained winds exceeded 40 mph and the thought of racing was in question, Rickly Thornton Jr. made sure he left no doubt on Friday night, and dominated the opener of the 10th Annual MLRA Spring Nationals Presented by Arizona Sport Shirts at the Lucas Oil Speedway. 

Mother nature had not been kind to dirt late model racing during the month of March, leading a star studded field of 48 drivers to the "Diamond of Dirt Track" in search of an opportunity to race. Bobby Pierce started off the night, scoring the MyRacePass Fast Time Award with a lap of 16.337 seconds.  

Earl Pearson Jr. scored the victory in heat race number one, which put him on the pole position for the 40 lap opener alongside 19 year old Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Dillon McCowan. At the onset it was McCowan taking the top spot over Pearson in just his first ever MLRA start. McCowan would stretch the advantage to just over 1.7 seconds in the early laps, all the while Thornton was watching his every move after slipping by Pearson for second.

Thornton Jr. dropped to the low line on lap thirteen and quickly closed the gap between himself and McCowan, moving to the point on lap 14. Thornton had to dice his way through lapped traffic over the remaining 26 laps, with Bobby Pierce eventually moving into the runner up position. Pierce was never able to close the gap, as Thornton went on to score the $5,000 win, the second in his career under the Lucas Oil MLRA banner.

Pierce who won the MLRA opener one year ago settled for second, while 10th starting Johnathan Davenport rounded out the podium in third. Tanner English would finish in fourth while early race leader McCowan finished 5th and picked up his first Sunoco Race Fuel Rookie of the Year Award on the season. Defending series champion Chad Simpson collected the MD3 “Hard Charger of the Race”, advancing 12 spots to finish 9th.

In Cedar Creek Victory Lane Thornton noted, “We practiced really good yesterday and I was super comfortable. I was just waiting for the track to slow down a little bit and it really kind of took off. It’s just pretty cool to be able to run today, I think everybody thought it was going to rain out, I’m just glad we finally got to make some laps and we’ll see how we do tomorrow.” 

“We kind of took off and he was really good,” Thornton said of the early charge to the front by McCowan.  “I knew he would be, he was really good in his heat race too. He’s got a lot of laps here and he got out in front and I just think he didn’t really know exactly where he needed to be on the track. The middle was really good early and then I found out the top in turns one and two was really good, and then I could kind of do what I wanted to in three and four. I was able to get by Earl, that took me probably five or six laps and then I just really didn’t want to over push it and do something dumb and take myself out of it. Over-all we had really good speed tonight, we didn’t tear anything up, and the tires look good so hopefully we can do this good tomorrow.”


Pierce did everything he could to put up a fight with Thornton for the win after starting in sixth. “A caution would have been nice when we were gaining on him there, but I kind of ended up using my tires a bit there,” said Pierce. “If I didn’t get one there mid-way in the race I was glad I didn’t see one with a couple of laps to go because I would have been a sitting duck. Congrats to Ricky on the win, his car was really good. When he wanted to flip on the switch, he flipped it on. It was a pretty good night for us, we gotta get a little better in the black, but that’s what this is all about, just trying to learn this thing and trying to see what makes it go best.”

Davenport put on a great lap after lap battle with Pearson for the second half of the race on the way to his 3rd place finish. “We just got behind in qualifying, the track just got faster as it went along in qualifying, then we just ran behind the 8 car (McCowan) and Bobby (Pierce) in the heat and didn’t have anywhere to go.”

“We had a pretty good race track right there, it got a little top dominant there towards the middle but there at the end it started slowing down and I was able to pass a couple of cars on the bottom,” concluded Davenport.

The MLRA Spring Nationals doubles down on Saturday night with a $10,000 A-Main on tap to conclude the opening weekend for the Lucas Oil MLRA. Hot laps are slated for 6:30 pm with racing at 7:05 pm.

Lucas Oil Speedway Contingencies 3/31/23
Lap Leaders – D. McCowan (1 -13), R. Thronton, Jr. (14 - 40)
Cautions – 0

MyRacePass “Overall Fast Time Award" – Bobby Pierce (16.337 sec.)
Performance Bodies "Performer of the Race" – Ricky Thornton Jr.
Outerwears Crew Chief of the Race – Anthony Burroughs
MD3 "Hard Charger of the Race" – Chad Simpson (+12)
Swift Springs “Move of the Race” – Ricky Thornton Jr.
Sunoco Race Fuel “Rookie of the Race” – Dillon McCowan
Hooker Harness "11th Place Finisher" – Garrett Alberson
PEM Racing "4th Place Finisher" – Tanner English
Sunoco "Engine Builders Challenge" – Clements
Midwest Sheet Metal "Points Leader Spoiler Challenge" – Ricky Thornton Jr.
MSD Performance Holley: “1st B-Main NON-Qualifier” – Tony Jackson Jr.

A Feature Cedar Creek Beef Jerky 40 Laps | 00:16:52.311 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[3]; 2. 32P-Bobby Pierce[6]; 3. 49-Jonathan Davenport[10]; 4. 96V-Tanner English[8]; 5. 8-Dillon McCowan[2]; 6. 46-Earl Pearson Jr[1]; 7. 2-Tyler Stevens[7]; 8. B5-Brandon Sheppard[12]; 9. 25-Chad Simpson[21]; 10. 21M-Billy Moyer Sr[4]; 11. 58-Garrett Alberson[17]; 12. 3S-Brian Shirley[16]; 13. 36-Logan Martin[19]; 14. 11-Spencer Hughes[15]; 15. 11G-Gordy Gundaker[13]; 16. 2S-Stormy Scott[11]; 17. 56JR-Tony Jackson Jr[25]; 18. 28-Dustin Sorensen[14]; 19. 93-Mason Oberkramer[22]; 20. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck[18]; 21. 15V-Kolby Vandenbergh[23]; 22. 45-Cole Wells[20]; 23. 78S-Steve Stultz[24]; 24. 1X-Aaron Marrant[26]; 25. 32S-Chris Simpson[5]; 26. 11H-Jeff Herzog[9]

B Feature 1 Sunoco 10 Laps | 00:04:16.571 1. 58-Garrett Alberson[1]; 2. 36-Logan Martin[7]; 3. 25-Chad Simpson[3]; 4. 56JR-Tony Jackson Jr[4]; 5. 15V-Kolby Vandenbergh[5]; 6. 14G-Trevor Gundaker[6]; 7. 49T-Jake Timm[2]; 8. 60-Kip Hughes[11]; 9. 3-Brennon Willard[8]; 10. 42- Johnathan Huston[15]; 11. 23-Chad Walter[14]; 12. 65-Jon Binning[16]; 13. 96-Dalton Imhoff[10]; 14. 7D-Dusty Leonard[13]; 15. 1X-Aaron Marrant[9]; 16. 7B-Mark Burgtorf[12]

B Feature 2 Hoosier 10 Laps | 00:04:13.768 1. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck[2]; 2. 45-Cole Wells[1]; 3. 93-Mason Oberkramer[4]; 4. 51-Larry Ferris[3]; 5. 22H-Dustin Hodges[5]; 6. 82-Jace Parmley[7]; 7. 78S-Steve Stultz[13]; 8. 29-Chandler Moenning[8]; 9. 67-Jim Vanzandt[10]; 10. 14W-Dustin Walker[11]; 11. 14M-Reid Millard[12]; 12. 81-Troy Bynum[14]; 13. 50-Kayden Clatt[9]; 14. 15L-Payton Looney[6]; 15. (DNS) 229-Damian Patocka; 16. (DNS) 15-Justin Duty

Heat 1 Midwest Sheet Metal 8 Laps | 00:04:34.000 1. 46-Earl Pearson Jr[1]; 2. 32S-Chris Simpson[3]; 3. 11H-Jeff Herzog[6]; 4. 11G-Gordy Gundaker[8]; 5. 58-Garrett Alberson[2]; 6. 25-Chad Simpson[5]; 7. 15V-Kolby Vandenbergh[4]; 8. 36-Logan Martin[7]; 9. 1X-Aaron Marrant[10]; 10. 60- Kip Hughes[9]; 11. 7D-Dusty Leonard[11]; 12. 42-Johnathan Huston[12]

Heat 2 Hooker Harness 8 Laps | 00:02:50.000 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[2]; 2. 2-Tyler Stevens[1]; 3. 2S-Stormy Scott[3]; 4. 11-Spencer Hughes[4]; 5. 49T-Jake Timm[5]; 6. 56JR-Tony Jackson Jr[8]; 7. 14G-Trevor Gundaker[6]; 8. 3-Brennon Willard[9]; 9. 96-Dalton Imhoff[10]; 10. 7B-Mark Burgtorf[7]; 11. 23-Chad Walter[12]; 12. 65-Jon Binning[11]

Heat 3 My Race Pass 8 Laps | 00:02:49.539 1. 8-Dillon McCowan[2]; 2. 32P-Bobby Pierce[1]; 3. 49-Jonathan Davenport[4]; 4. 28-Dustin Sorensen[3]; 5. 45-Cole Wells[6]; 6. 51-Larry Ferris[5]; 7. 22H-Dustin Hodges[8]; 8. 82-Jace Parmley[7]; 9. 50-Kayden Clatt[9]; 10. 14W-Dustin Walker[10]; 11. 78S-Steve Stultz[12]; 12. 229-Damian Patocka[11]

Heat 4 Fast Shafts 8 Laps | 00:03:23.046 1. 21M-Billy Moyer Sr[2]; 2. 96V-Tanner English[1]; 3. B5-Brandon Sheppard[4]; 4. 3S-Brian Shirley[3]; 5. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck[6]; 6. 93-Mason Oberkramer[5]; 7. 15L-Payton Looney[7]; 8. 29-Chandler Moenning[10]; 9. 67-Jim Vanzandt[12]; 10. 14M-Reid Millard[9]; 11. 81-Troy Bynum[11]; 12. 15-Justin Duty[8]