Ricky Thornton Jr. survived a back-and-forth battle between himself and Jonathan Davenport to earn his second career Pittsburgher win in the last three years on Saturday night at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. Thornton took home $30,000 of the $100,000 feature purse held before a large crowd of spectators for first-year promoter Blair Kress Jr.
Devin Moran rallied from seventh in the closing laps to secure the fourth spot and final spot in the Big River Steel Chase to the Championship Presented by ARP. Tim McCreadie came from eighth to finish in third. Hudson O’Neal earned the Todd Steel Buildings Hard Charger of the Race finishing in fourth after starting 16th on the grid. Earl Pearson Jr. rounded out the top five drivers.
Michael Norris grabbed the lead at the start of the 75-lap main event and would lead the first 13 circuits until the front gate leading to and from the grandstands to the pit area was clipped by Norris. The incident would bring out the first caution of the race. After the race restart Thornton would grab the lead for the first time in the race on lap 14.
Thornton would hold the point until lap 37 when Davenport passed him for the race lead. Davenport was opening up his lead until a caution appeared with 47 laps scored. Thornton was slowly reeling in Davenport as the two raced through heavy traffic. The two would then go back-and-forth for the lead in a thrilling race for the top spot until Davenport clipped the wall in turn two damaging the right rear of his car. Davenport, who seeking his first career win in the Pittsburgher would fade to eighth at the finish despite leading a race-high 34 laps.
After getting by Davenport, Moran would run in the second spot for the final three laps of the race – trailing Thornton by 2.215 seconds at the finish. Thornton’s win was his 23rd this year on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tour and his 34th overall victory of 2023.
“He [Davenport] was way better than I was. On the restarts I had to get back by Brandon [Overton] and I pretty much held it on the floor after that. I have got to thank Clements for building an awesome motor here it held up for the final 60 laps flat on the floor. I guess I wanted it a little bit more. He [Davenport] was starting to get tight on entry and I just started to move my line around a little bit. That was the first time I think I have ever gotten a 10 to go signal so I thought it was a five to go. I drove a lot harder after that, but this team never gives up. It was definitely some hard racing,” said the winner who collected his seventh series win in nine starts in September.
Moran battled with McCreadie to the very end to lock up the fourth spot heading to Eldora. Brandon Overton would slow with mechanical issues on lap 54 yielding the fourth spot after running as high as second in the race.
“This is always such a long race, because it’s a big track,” said the runner-up whose father Donnie won the race twice during his career. “The top got really, really good on both ends. It was definitely not the way we wanted to make it there at the end with Brandon breaking, he was really good too. We put ourselves in position and my crew just worked their tails off all year, and especially in the last two months, kudos to them for preparing me such a great racecar and coming up with these podium finishes.”
McCreadie, the two-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion rounded out the Big River Steel Podium in third. “I got the car a little too tight in the center where I couldn’t rotate good enough which I haven’t been able to do most of the season. It was probably the wrong time to do it. We should have kept it in the same vicinity as we were in the heat. We feel a lot better than we did a few months ago. Now we can concentrate on winning at Eldora in a few weeks.”
The winner’s Todd and Vickie Burns-owned, SSI Motorsports, Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored by Big River Steel, Coltman Farms, Hoker Trucking, Dyno One, Inc., Sub-Surface of Indiana, West Side Tractor Sales Company, D&E Outside Services, Certified Inspection Service Company, Inc., Midwest Sheet Metal, Excel Floor Covering, Murty Farms, Sunoco Race Fuels, and Bilstein Shocks.
Completing the top ten were Max Blair, Alex Ferree, Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Overton, and Mason Zeigler.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
35th Annual Pittsburgher Presented by Big River Steel
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway | Imperial, PA
Allstar Performance Time Trials
Fast Time Group A: Michael Norris | 19.388 seconds (overall)
Fast Time Group B: Ricky Thornton, Jr. | 19.259 seconds
Penske Shocks Heat Race #1 Finish (8 Laps, Top 4 Transfer): 1. 10M-Michael Norris; 2. 46-Earl Pearson Jr; 3. 11H-Keith Jackson; 4. 2T-Kyle Lee; 5. 25Z-Mason Zeigler; 6. 48-Colton Flinner; 7. 1Z-Logan Zarin; 8. 58-Garrett Alberson; 9. 01-Ron Hall; 10. 94-AJ Campbell
Summit Racing Products Heat Race #2 Finish (8 Laps, Top 4 Transfer): 1. 76-Brandon Overton; 2. 99-Devin Moran; 3. 10-Garrett Smith; 4. 66C-Matt Cosner; 5. 7-Ross Robinson; 6. 89-Logan Roberson; 7. 66-Justin Kann; 8. 8S-Tommy Schirnhofer Jr; 9. 27T-Tony White
Simpson Race Products Heat Race #3 Finish (8 Laps, Top 4 Transfer): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 2. 39-Tim McCreadie; 3. 11-Spencer Hughes; 4. 1C-Alex Ferree; 5. 69-Jon Hodgkiss; 6. 4-Gary Stuhler; 7. 7T-Drake Troutman; 8. 32J-Shaun Jones; 9. 55C-Chris Schneider
AP1 Insurance Heat Race #4 Finish (8 Laps, Top 4 Transfer): 1. 49-Jonathan Davenport; 2. 18D-Daulton Wilson; 3. 1T-Tyler Erb; 4. 1H-Hudson O’Neal; 5. 111B-Max Blair; 6. 99B-Boom Briggs; 7. J4-John Garvin Jr; 8. 21-Chad Myers; 9. EZ1-Ron Fink
Fast Shafts B-Main Race #1 Finish (10 Laps, Top 3 Transfer): 1. 25Z-Mason Zeigler; 2. 58-Garrett Alberson; 3. 48-Colton Flinner; 4. 66-Justin Kann; 5. 8S-Tommy Schirnhofer Jr; 6. 1Z-Logan Zarin; 7. 89-Logan Roberson; 8. 27T-Tony White; 9. 01-Ron Hall; 10. 7-Ross Robinson; 11. 94-AJ Campbell
UNOH B-Main Race #2 Finish (10 Laps, Top 3 Transfer): 1. 111B-Max Blair; 2. 7T-Drake Troutman; 3. 4-Gary Stuhler; 4. J4-John Garvin Jr; 5. 99B-Boom Briggs; 6. 32J-Shaun Jones; 7. 69-Jon Hodgkiss; 8. 21-Chad Myers; 9. EZ1-Ron Fink; 10. 55C-Chris Schneider
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series PR