Thornton repeats with opening night Late Model Super Nationals crown

Ricky Thornton Jr.
Ricky Thornton Jr. raced to a second consecutive Late Model championship, on opening night of the 38th annual IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s at Boone Speedway. He is pictured with IMCA President Brett Root. (Photo by Tom Macht,

BOONE, Iowa (Sept. 7) – Ricky Thornton Jr. became a two-time champion at last year’s IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s.

He became a two-time Late Model champion on a windy opening night of the 2020 event.

Thornton got the lead back from Jeff Aikey on the 32nd of 50 circuits, then led Richie Gustin through lapped traffic to the $3,000 checkers Monday night at Boone Speedway. 

“It was really hard this year, admitted Thornton. “I tried high, I tried low and I was finally able to move by him (Aikey) for the lead.”

Thornton had started seventh, Gustin from sixth. Aikey, who was chasing his career eighth and seventh Late Model crown, ended in third while Andy Nezworski worked his way back into the top four with 11 laps left.

Nebraskan Cory Dumpert had the fastest car at the start, building a half straightaway advantage over Nezworski before a lap eight caution. Thornton got up to second but could only watch as Aikey drove by to the front on lap 17.

After Dumpert got too high and fell off the pace, both Thornton and Gustin took turns at the front of the fast-paced feature with Gustin and Nezworski close behind. The front pair were in lapped traffic when Thornton got by for good. 

The win came in just his second night back in a Todd Cooney-owned car, a 2020 Capital. 

“Every Super Nationals championship is special,” said Thornton, also the 2016 Modified king, “but this one means a lot because we really had to work for it.” 

Darrel DeFrance was sixth in his record-extending career 30th Super Nationals start. Aikey raced in the Late Model main event for the 22nd time, Greg Kastli for the 20th

All three drivers were in the starting field when the division joined the Super Nationals program at Boone in 1988. Aikey and Thornton are among the five drivers to have won championships in multiple divisions.

Feature results – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel; 2. Richie Gustin, Gilman; 3. Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls; 4. Andy Nezworski, Buffalo; 5. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern; 6. Darrel DeFrance, Mashalltown; 7. Justin Kay, Wheatland; 8. Nick Marolf, Moscow; 9. Charlie McKenna, Ames; 10. Gary Webb, Blue Grass; 11. Curtis Glover, Knoxville; 12. Jacob Waterman, Colona, Ill.; 13. Andrew Tilley, Omaha, Neb.; 14. Greg Kastli, Waterloo; 15. Logan Duffy, Independence; 16. Curt Schroeder, Newton; 17. Kaleb Jasperson, Pierce, Neb.; 18. Joe Zrostlik, Long Grove; 19. Greg Krohn, Albion, Neb.; 20. Darren Mish, Hazel Green, Wis.; 21. Cory Dumpert, York, Neb.; 22. Zach Zentner, Cedar Rapids, Neb.; 23. Joel Callahan, Dubuque; 24. Jon Passick, Waterloo.