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RaceChaser Notes: Ricky Thornton Jr., Street Stocks Shining, Tyler Hall's Memorable Night

Ricky Thornton watches a B feature during the Dakota Tour stop at Red River Valley Speedway

Ricky Thornton Jr. of Adel, Iowa, is one of the dirt modified drivers in the nation right now. But in late May, he earned what he called the biggest win of his racing career — in a late model.

The 29-year-old Thornton won the World of Outlaws Drydene Double Down Late Model Special at Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minn., on May 24. The win was worth $20,000.

“The late model you’ve got to be aggressive all the time,” Thornton said. “The cars drive so much different. How to get in the mindset — you don’t drive into the corner as hard with a mod as you do a late model. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a really good car.”

Thornton has raced both late models and mods in 2020 against some of the top competition. This week, he has the 20RT modified on the Dakota Classic Modified Tour, which is heading into Night 3 tonight at Nodak Speedway in Minot.

I caught up with him at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, where he later won the $2,400 to win IMCA Modified feature. He finished 10th at Jamestown last night. He’s tied for third in the points with 70 as Jake O’Neil leads with 76 and Austin Arneson is second with 72.

Thornton estimates he runs 70 shows a year, so he spends plenty of time on the road. Three years ago, he ran an incredible 147 shows.

“A lot of work,” Thornton said of the travel. “You’ve got to make sure your stuff is prepared. Six nights, is kinda of a long week. The biggest thing is to make sure you have tires and fuel.

“You get in the routine, and it’s what you do,” Thornton added.

Thornton won the modified portion of the tour in 2015, and won the stock car portion in 2019. He’s just running the modified this year. This year, he’s not as focused on the tour points as much as feature wins. He won at Nodak, Estevan and Dickinson in 2019.

“Last year we had three wins in the mod,” Thornton said. “If we can do that I’ll be extremely happy.”

Street Stock Tour Thriving

RaceChaser has been of the biggest advocates for the Wissota Street Stock class. The quality of racing and drivers is outstanding, and often goes overlooked. I’m thrilled the Steffes Street Stock Tour, which was organized by Sheyenne Speedway co-promoter Benji Froemke, has been a hit. There were 33 cars at I-94 Sure Step Speedway on Friday and 24 at Viking on Saturday. The racing has been terrific with some photo finishes.

The race on Saturday was one for the ages and it came down to another battle between Eric Riley and Jonny Carter that was decided by inches. Riley won by .007 of a second and picked up $1,350 for the win that had the fans on the edge of their seats. It was so close I'm glad I didn't have to make the call. Ironically a few weeks ago the two engaged in similar finish at River Cities Speedway.

I’m really happy for Eric Riley. He’s a good guy paid his dues in a tough, competitive class. He took a few lumps as he started out with some spinouts, but has gotten better every year. Now, he’s a threat to win every night on pretty much any track. He has three street stock tour wins at Jamestown, River Cities and now Viking — and combined those wins were worth more than $3,200.

The street stock drivers get along well, and there’s a group that hangs out together outside the track. But I’ll tell you this — on the track they will race each other very hard. Maybe even a little rubbing. Nothing dirty, but good, hard racing. Riley, Justin Vogel, Jonny Carter, Ryan Satter, Kyle Anderson, and Kyle Dykhoff are buddies off the track but they won’t back down on the track one bit. That’s what makes it fun — and the racing is clean.

Also good to see promising young drivers like Jake Froemke and Parker Anderson from outside the region come in and compete well.

Vogel, by the way, started on the pole at Viking on Saturday, and if I was a betting man, I would have bet on him prior to the race because of all of the success he’s had at the half-mile. He was running well in the top five when he broke a left upper A-frame.

It’s good to see the Street Stocks running for some money — most tracks they run for $200 or $250 to win. Many of the tour stops, perhaps all, have paid $100 to start, which to me is as important as what is paid to win. Starting money for the cars that don’t finish as well is important.

The street stocks are getting a chance to shine at different tracks during this tour and they are capitalizing with terrific racing.

Memorable Night for Hall

Tyler Hall of Fertile had perhaps the most memorable night of his racing career on Friday at Red River Valley Speedway. He won his heat at the Dakota Classic Mod Tour and then drew the pole for the feature.

I talked to him before the feature and he was nervous, but also looking forward to the opportunity that was in front of him. And he didn’t back down, leading more than 3/4 of the race. If not for a caution with seven laps to go, Hall probably would have won the race, but Thornton made a move on the outside to pick up the win.

Hall’s performance showed the quality of local IMCA modified racing is pretty stout.

By the way, I am very thankful to have Eric Riley Racing and Tyler Hall Racing as RaceChaser sponsors. Both are good guys and quality drivers and are great for racing.

Viking Speedway Opener

The rain earlier in the day threw a wrench into Viking Speedway’s opener and led to a little delay in the start until things were worked in. Feature time it was fast and had some character but the street stocks put on a spectacular show. I mean Brett Hoium was blistering that track in the mod feature.

I really hope no one bitches or complains about the track conditions or anything. Viking’s board had to work hard to get a Covid-19 plan approved by local government officials to let racing even happen. That meant social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, seating that allowed the spread of fans in the stands. I thought it went well. A month ago, racing looked in serious doubt at the half-mile.

Keep this in mind, several Minnesota tracks have not raced yet this year — Proctor, Fiesta City in Montevideo, Granite City in Sauk Rapids, Madison (which is set to open June 18) being among them. Bemidji and Greenbush opened this week for the first time.

I appreciate the work Viking did to get racing back on the track.

First Career Wins Club

The first career wins club is growing locally which is fun to see:

By my count we are up to 7 in the coverage area -- (if I am missing anybody let me know)

Brodee Eckerdt — June 5, IMCA Hobby Stock, Red River Valley Speedway

Bryce Haugeberg, June 19, Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint, River Cities Speedway

Justin Hainline - June 21, Mini Stock, Sheyenne Speedway

Seth Klostreich, - June 27, Wissota Street Stock, River Cities Speedway

Nick Ranten

- July 3, NOSA Sprints, River Cities Speedway

Kalvin Kesselberg - July 9, IMCA Stock Car, Norman County Raceway

Ryan Gierke - July 9, Wissota Midwest Modified, KRA Speedway

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