BARBERVILLE, FL – A year ago, Ricky Thornton Jr. seemed destined for his first DIRTcar Nationals win—until heartbreak struck. He lost the lead on a late-race restart, spoiling his chances for victory.
History didn’t have a chance to repeat itself Monday night. The Chandler, AZ driver took advantage of a caution-free Feature, leading all 30-laps to score his first DIRTcar Nationals win at Volusia Speedway Park.
Thornton jumped to the roof of his car in Victory Lane, raising two fists into the Florida sky and letting out a joyful scream—knowing he got his redemption and the $7,000 paycheck.
“I felt like we almost had one last year, and we gave it away there late in the race,” Thornton said. “This is pretty awesome.”
While Thornton dominated the event, he knew he had to be sharp at the start of the race. “RTJ” lined up next to Brandon Overton, who won the last DIRTcar Nationals Feature in 2021.
Thornton powered ahead of Overton on the outside lane, grabbing a lead he’d never relinquish off Turn 2. The outside was where Thornton wanted to go, allowing him to set his own pace in the early stages of the Feature.
“I actually preferred starting on the outside; that way, I could run into [Turn 1] as hard as I wanted,” Thornton said. “It worked out for us; I got a really good start and got out in front of [Overton].
“I was trying to distance myself as much as I could; that way, once we did get to traffic and I had to slow down, they wouldn’t get by me. The top never really slowed down all the way, so it’s pretty awesome.”
As Thornton drove away from the field, Chris Madden charged from his eighth starting position to finish second. The Gray Court, SC campaigner, took the opposite approach from Thornton, using the bottom en route to a runner-up finish.
Madden felt he could’ve had a shot at the win if he had a better starting position.
“We needed to start closer to the front,” Madden said. “We qualified good tonight, inverted back, and then started, I think eighth there.
“We had a really good racecar tonight. I’m really proud of my guys; I’m proud of our finish; I’m proud of our car and what we learned tonight. It was a great racetrack, and we had a fun race.”
Defending DIRTcar Nationals champion Devin Moran crossed the line third—his 13th straight top-10 finish in 2022.
The Dresden, OH driver felt he wasn’t good enough on the outside to contend with both Thornton and Madden.
“Ricky was checked out pretty good, and I think Chris [Madden] was a little better than us,” Moran said. “We were probably a third-place car, we were too tight to run the top, and we just need to work on it a little bit and get it ready for tomorrow.”
Pole-sitter Brandon Overton finished fourth, and Dale McDowell rounded out the top five.
Ricky Thornton Jr. didn’t back down from a second chance at winning his first Gator—giving him DIRTcar Nationals redemption. It’s a momentum that keeps his eyes on a larger prize—a “Big Gator” trophy on his mantle.
The quest for a “Big Gator” continues Tuesday night at Volusia Speedway Park as the Late Models return for their second night of action at DIRTcar Nationals. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
The Super DIRTcar Series and the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars presented by Low-E Insulation will also join the racing card.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr; 2. 44-Chris Madden; 3. 9-Devin Moran; 4. 76-Brandon Overton; 5. 17M-Dale McDowell; 6. 16-Tyler Bruening; 7. 1-Brandon Sheppard; 8. 157-Mike Marlar; 9. 25-Shane Clanton; 10. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 11. 32-Chris Simpson; 12. 29-Darrell Lanigan; 13. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 14. 18D-Daulton Wilson; 15. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 16. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 17. 89-Ashton Winger; 18. 58-Mark Whitener; 19. 36-Logan Martin; 20. 11-Spencer Hughes; 21. 14M-Morgan Bagley; 22. 31-Tyler Millwood; 23. 97-Cody Overton; 24. 11B-Stacy Boles