By Jackson Braun
DICKINSON, N.D. (July 10) – Ricky Thornton Jr. looks absolutely unbeatable right now.
The Iowa racer, transplanted from Arizona, found Kupper Chevrolet Dakota Classic Tour victory lane at Southwest Speedway in both the IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Stock Cars for the second event in a row.
The last time any other driver found victory lane on tour was all the way back on Sunday when Matt Speckman held off Thornton in the Stock Car portion of the evening. Thornton has won six out of a possible eight features between the two classes.
An all-North Dakota front row of Robert Hellebust and Travis Hagen led the 28-car field to the Modified green flag. Hellebust jumped out to the lead early as Thornton loomed behind him from the fourth starting spot. Hellebust was able to make the high line work and get enough momentum to keep his car in the top spot by as little as two-thousandth’s of a second for a few laps in the early running.
Several bobbles by Thornton helped Hellebust to create some space and Jason Wolla to contend for second. Thornton was still too smooth, however, as he was able to slide around Hellebust to grab the top spot.
As the laps wound down, 17th starting Hunter Marriott was hustling his way to the runner-up spot.
With a few more laps, Marriott could have made a race-changing move but Thornton held on to grab the $2,400 victory. Hellebust secured third with Wolla and Jason Hughes behind him.
Elijah Zevenbergen and Joe Flory, brought the Stock Car field to green. Flory was in contention early but Thornton eventually found his way to the top spot from his third place starting position.
Flory’s son Dalton was Thornton’s toughest competitor around the 3/8 mile oval, as Dalton found some grip in the low-to-middle groove of the racing surface. Thornton ran his machine up around the high line and made a spectacular move, splitting two lap cars to maintain his lead over Flory.
Dalton was able to maneuver lap traffic just as well as Thornton but did not get a good enough run to catch the leader before the $800 checkers flew. Austin Daae, Speckman and Joe Flory completed the top five.
Going into championship night Thursday at Dacotah Speedway, opening night winner Tom Berry Jr. holds a 14-point lead in the Modified standings over Thornton. Marriott sits third, 24 points back, while Lucas Schott holds fourth 26 points behind. Justin O’Brien sits 29 points behind Berry.
Thornton has had a near-perfect tour in the Stock Cars, with 159 points out of a possible 160. Dalton Flory still sits only seven points behind Thornton, with Speckman nine behind, Daae 10 behind, and five-time champion Zevenbergen in danger of having his four-year streak of being the top dog snapped while he sits in fifth with a 14-point deficit behind Thornton.
Modifieds – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 2. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 3. Robert Hellebust, Minot; 4. Jason Wolla, Ray; 5. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 6. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 7. Joel Rust, Grundy Center, Iowa; 8. Tom Berry, Newburg; 9. Travis Hagen, McGregor; 10. Tracy Domagala, Bismarck; 11. Mike Hansen, Dickinson; 12. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 13. Justin O’Brien, West Union, Iowa; 14. Shawn Strand, Mandan; 15. Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn.; 16. Alex Stanford, Chowchilla, Calif.; 17. Brad Hartigan, Dickinson; 18. Marcus Tomlinson, Turtle Lake; 19. Lucas Schott, Chatfield, Minn.; 20. Travis Olheiser, Dickinson; 21. Spencer Wilson, Minot; 22. Chris Bragg, Springtown, Texas; 23. Tyler Hall, Fertile, Minn.; 24. Hank Berry, Sidney, Mont.; 25. Don Gumke, Jamestown; 26. Billy Kendall, Baxter, Minn.; 27. Travis Mosley, Bearden, Ark.; 28. Troy Cordes, Dunkerton, Iowa.
Stock Cars – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 2. Dalton Flory, Williston; 3. Austin Daae, Estevan, Sask.; 4. Matt Speckman, Sleepy Eye, Minn.; 5. Joe Flory, Williston; 6. Elijah Zevenbergen, Ocheyedan, Iowa; 7. Jace Iverson, Tioga; 8. Michael Swallers, Minot; 9. Aaron Aaseth, Washburn; 10. Keith Mattox, Ray; 11. A.J. Zimmerman, Cleveland, Minn.; 12. Scott Gartner, Jamestown; 13. Justin Bachmeier, Williston; 14. Aden Clark, Surrey; 15. Chase Davidson, Macoun, Sask.; 16. Hunter Fears, Riverdale; 17. Randy Schultz, Swift Current, Sask.; 18. Hunter Preston, Dickinson; 19. Gary Goudy Jr., Stoughton, Sask.; 20. Joe Schrodt, Coleharbor.