Drivers and teams assembled on Saturday evening at one of Dirt Late Model racing’s most historic tracks to contest the 45th annual Spring 50. At the end of the unsanctioned feature it was Ricky Thornton Jr. who pulled his car into the Florence Speedway victory lane to receive the accolades for his win in a race shown live by FloRacing.com. The Arizona native left the Union, KY facility with a paycheck valued at $10,000.
A total of 20 cars were signed in for competition.
Stormy Scott proved to be the fastest in qualifying as he toured the half-mile clay oval in 16.106 seconds. That effort topped Jimmy Owens, Bobby Pierce, Ricky Thornton Jr., Brian Shirley, and Robby Hensley.
Ricky Thornton Jr. was victorious in the first heat race beating out Tyler Erb, Devin Gilpin and Stormy Scott.
Jimmy Owens won a thrilling second preliminary ahead of Brian Shirley, Josh Rice and Darrell Lanigan.
Bobby Pierce took the third and final heat over Hudson O’Neal, Greg Johnson and Robby Hensley.
At the start of the 50-lap feature Thornton went to the early lead with Owens, Pierce, Erb and O’Neal trailing on a track characterized with numerous bumps and ruts. Erb and O’Neal got by Pierce to claim third and fourth respectively on the second circuit.
Owens took the lead away from Thornton on lap 4 while Pierce and Erb fought over third and fourth just behind as the racing action proved to be fierce. Pierce, Erb, Thornton, Rice, and O’Neal engaged in a war for positions within the top-5 as Owens began to slip away from his pursuers.
A lap 13 caution for a flat tire on the O’Neal car cooled the action briefly. On the ensuing restart, Rice pulled up to second behind Owens as Pierce and Erb continued to exchange third and fourth.
Thornton joined the Pierce and Erb fight with those drivers entertaining fans with a three-wide contest that went on for multiple laps. Thornton would eventually take third as Rice pulled right to the rear spoiler of Owens as he looked to wrest the lead away.
However, things quickly turned sour for Rice as he slowed and pulled off the track with mechanical issues just before the halfway mark. Owens then enjoyed a significant advantage with Rice out of the race and Erb, Thornton, Shirley and Pierce battling further back.
The top-5 running car of Hensley slowed to bring out a yellow flag on lap 33. On that restart, Thornton bolted to second and set off in pursuit of Owens. Meanwhile, hometown driver Lanigan entered the top-5.
Owens saw a lead of more than a straightaway disappear as Thornton began to close. On lap 43, the Owens car bounced airborne after hitting a bump in turn two. That provided the opportunity Thornton was looking for as he was able to sweep by Owens.
Owens fought back and the cars swapped positions but Thornton would eventually emerge with the race lead. After surviving a couple of late race restarts, Thornton would ultimately sail under the checkered flag to claim the win on the track that will serve as the site of the crown jewel North-South 100 later in the season.
“Our game plan there was to ride around the bottom as long as we could and save our stuff,” Thornton said in his victory lane interview. “My crew guys were yelling at me early to slow down and let those guys go. I was hoping we would have a late caution so we could get all bunched back up and we did. Jimmy hit that hole really good over there and it kind of gave my my shot and then we were going to do a couple of sliders, I’ve got to think him for racing me clean.”
Feature Finish: 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., 2. Bobby Pierce, 3. Jimmy Owens, 4. Darrell Lanigan, 5. Tyler Erb, 6. Greg Johnson, 7. Stormy Scott, 8. Devin Gilpin, 9. Mike Bores, 10. Tristan Chamberlain, 11. Brian Shirley, 12. Robby Hensley, 13. Dustin Linville, 14. Trevor Landrum, 15. Hudson O’Neal, 16. Josh Rice, 17. Mike Vandermark, 18. P.J. Simpson, 19. Curt Addison, 20. Justin Ratliff