Ricky Thornton Jr. Processes Crushing Show


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Aug 18, 2023

Ricky Thornton Jr. Processes Crushing Show

WHEATLAND, Mo. — Overtaken by the whirlwind of emotions for being denied his

WHEATLAND, Mo. — Overtaken by the whirlwind of emotions for being denied his first Show-Me 100 victory after failing the so-called droop rule, Ricky Thornton Jr. sat inside his race car a little while longer Saturday outside Lucas Oil Speedway's tech shed.

There wasn't a real reason Thornton remained parked in the area designated for post-race tech. Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series officials already told the apparent winner his deck height was 3/8-inch too high, instead making runner-up Devin Moran the $50,000 winner with Thornton penalized four spots to a fifth-place finish.

Thornton, utterly stupefied the race he manhandled ended that way, sat motionless inside his race car, trying to process that something out of his control tarnished one of the greatest performances of his rising career.

"We had a part failure in the left-rear chain mount," Thornton said. "It just broke. We were 3/8-inch too high. … There's nothing really in the rule about your chain breaking. It just says if you’re so high after this, you get docked.

"It sucks. I wouldn't say we were the dominant car all weekend. But I felt like we were one of the best cars all weekend. We got to battle (Jonathan Davenport) there pretty good in the feature. We were able to get by him.

"It sucks to lose off a part failure. We’ll move on. It gives us that much more of a reason to go dominate next week at West Virginia (Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells, W.Va.)."

WATCH: Highlights from Saturday's Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Show-Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway.

Thornton said he's "never physically broke" a chain mount prior to Saturday. He knows the amount of preparation his Anthony Burroughs-led SSI Motorsports team puts in, and that debacles like Saturday aren't because of their negligence. Lucas Oil Speedway was evidently rough on Saturday's 31-car field, so much that only 14 drivers finished the 100-lap race that saw 13 cautions.

All told, practically every driver that took the Show-Me 100 green raced harder than they likely imagined. Jonathan Davenport, who led the most laps in the race, ran out of gas less than two laps away from the finish while eventual winner Devin Moran admitted to "racing like an idiot" because racing conservatively wasn't conducive to success on a night like Saturday.

Then there's Thornton, whose car skipped through the corners countless times down the stretch, the repeated motion that likely broke the left-rear chain mount.

Devin Moran Can't Believe He Won The 2023 Show-Me 100

Full Show-Me 100 results

"It's one thing if we had a super smooth racetrack and if I was four or five inches too high (in the rear deck height)," Thornton said. "I mean, 14 cars finished. It got violent there halfway through. … there's nothing we could have really done or changed. It sucks.

"You wish there was some kind of a rule where if the track's super rough, or if you have a part failure like that, you do something about it. At the same time, if you do that, you’re picking and choosing who gets it and who doesn't. At the end of the day, we ended up fifth. Congrats to Devin on his win. We’ll move on."

Lucas Oil Series director Rick Schwallie wasn't in the vicinity of post-race tech, as those duties Saturday were handled by Ernie Leftwich, director of the Lucas Oil Midwest Late Model Racing Association, the Lucas Oil Series's sister tour that co-sanctioned the weekend.

"I’m fully confident in Ernie's ability to do what he's doing," Schwallie said. "He did his job."

Nevertheless, enforcing the droop rule that governs deck heights across three of Dirt Late Model's national tours this year sapped all the pleasure from Schwallie's evening. If there's anything Schwallie wants people to know, it's that outcomes like Saturday are just as miserable for him as the average fan.

"It's not any fun to do. Nothing about that was any fun," Schwallie said. "It's not fun going to explain to James (Essex) and Dustin Jarrett what's happening, and what car's pulling into victory lane. None of that is fun. Even Devin won the race — it was his biggest career win — and it's not even fun for that guy. You know how much wind it takes out of the sail to have a win that way?

"It was a very difficult night. I don't even know what to say. The racetrack was fine all night until feature time. It slowed down probably during the course of the feature, and it was black all the way across except the top 10 feet. It just got way high, and they kept at it. It was the fastest place to be on the racetrack. It was tough on equipment."

Some drivers, even those who weren't in Wheatland, Mo., posted on social media venting their disapproval of the so-called droop rule. Bobby Pierce tweeted "a half-inch wasn't what made (Thornton) so fast tonight. That car was on rails."

Kevin Rumley of Longhorn Chassis tweeted the following: "Droop rule = most ridiculous rule in racing history. Good job for those who voted for it, you know who you are."

Moran, meanwhile, couldn't fully enjoy his first Show-Me 100 win.

"It's just a sucky way for someone to lose," Moran said. "Ricky has been the best car all weekend. JD won both nights and Ricky was right there both nights. (Ricky) should be the one with the $50,000 check tonight. … I mean, I guess we go by the rules they give us. I don't know. It's a sucky deal at times."

Pandemonium in Wheatland! 😳@RThornton20rt's stripped of his dominant Show-Me 100 victory; he fails the dreaded droop. @lucasspeedway is stunned.This is so weird. Moran ran second for a total of four laps. Now he's handed the biggest win of his career. pic.twitter.com/rCOffjszrO

Tim McCreadie, who was elevated to a runner-up finish after Thornton's relegation to fifth, said Saturday's outcome "is a shame" and that "this race deserves better," both in the context of how it ended and how it played out with the rough racetrack.

So, in the midst of the oppressiveness around the so-called droop rule and how it greatly altered Saturday's outcome, could there be amendments to the rule sometime in the future?

"It's way too early to think that. At the end of the day, it's so fresh to try to even process that part," Schwallie said. "Is that fun to do? That's not any fun to do, I can tell you that."

Schwallie did reveal two aspects he's pondered when it comes to the future of the so-called droop rule.

"It makes you think, naturally, is that what I want to put ourselves through? And is that what the fans want to see?" said Schwallie, who isn't hinting that any sort of alteration with the so-called droop rule is imminent.

He's just candid about the variables he hypothesizes when it comes to the loaded topic such as the droop-rule.

"It's too early to knee jerk that decision," Schwallie said. "Nothing will change immediately. We have to let this digest and find out where we’re at with that. It’ll be an opportunity for those not in favor of the droop rule to be plenty vocal. And yet, there are people that are in favor of it. Us and the business have to evaluate where we’re at. It's way too early to even think anything like that.

"Obviously, as I said, that ain't no fun to go do. The natural instinct is to think twice about it, if you want to go through that again. But the rule was the rule, and it's the rule we collectively did this year. It's industry wide. That's what it is. At the end of the day, they have to make the call on what the rule is. It is what it is. I don't know what else to say, really."

"We had a really great crowd, a really great weather forecast for the first time here in quite a few years," Schwallie added. "This is the first year we were able to race all three nights in a row. … everything about the weekend went great right up until the very end. We win and lose. Tonight wasn't much fun."

When Burroughs, the SSI Motorsports crew chief, was asked to summarize the evening, he said he doesn't have any comments on the apparent win stripped from his team. If anything, it raises the determination of Thornton and his team as they head to West Virginia Motor Speedway with the Lucas Oil Series next weekend.

"We have a lot of really good-paying shows coming up," Thornton said. "I wouldn't say we’re the best car everywhere we go, but we’re a top-five car everywhere we go. We’ll load up and start working on it. It sucks. We go over this thing with a fine-tooth comb. You just have a part failure. I’d say it's the racetrack. It was pretty rough tonight. It sucks."


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WATCH: Highlights from Saturday's Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Show-Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway.