Thornton Jr. becomes first repeat champion of Race For Hope 71

By Mike Spieker

LOCUST GROVE, Ark. (September 28, 2019) – Picking up where he left off Thursday evening, Ricky Thornton Jr. of Adel, Iowa cruised to the IMCA.TV Race For Hope 71 title on Saturday night at Batesville Motor Speedway.

Thornton Jr. started in the middle row of the three-wide, 30-car start and grabbed the lead on lap one over Beatrice, Nebraska’s Jordan Grabouski.

“I knew we had to get a good start. Kyle (Strickler, last year’s event champion) beat me on the start last year and I think that’s what killed me. We got out front and just kind of rode around and saved our stuff,” said Thornton Jr. in victory lane.

Thornton Jr. went relatively unchallenged through the first 40 laps until the mandatory fuel stop. Grabouski, Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., Tom Berry of Newburg, N.D., and Jason Hughes of Watts, Okla. rounded out the top five at the break.

As the race resumed, Thornton Jr. jumped out to a comfortable lead once again. Meanwhile, Jordan Grabouski Racing teammates, Grabouski and Phillips, battled hard for the runner-up position.

In the closing laps, Thornton Jr. was mired in lapped traffic, which allowed Phillips to close the gap. Phillips came within two car lengths of Thornton Jr. with three laps to go, but he wouldn’t be able to mount a serious charge on the driver of the No. 20RT.

Thornton Jr. went on to lead all 71 trips around the high-banked three-eighths mile oval en route to becoming the first repeat champion of the IMCA.TV Race For Hope 71.

“This track just fits my driving style,” continued Thornton Jr. “You’ve got to be up on the wheel, yet conservative at the same time. We aren’t really a big team so to win this $15,000 here really helps us for sure.”

Phillips, Grabouski, 17th place starter Jake O’Neil of Tucson, Ariz., and Tanner Black of Otis, Kan. rounded out the top five.

With the win, Thornton Jr. extended his streak of podium finishes in the Race For Hope 71 championship main event to three and hasn’t finished worse than second.

RESULTS:
A Feature (71 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr, [2]; 2. 75-Terry Phillips, [6]; 3. 30G-Jordan Grabouski, [1]; 4. 0-Jake O’Neil, [17]; 5. 44T-Tanner Black, [14]; 6. 11X-Tom Berry Jr, [12]; 7. 12-Jason Hughes, [3]; 8. 5L-Cody Laney, [15]; 9. 62-Hunter Marriott, [24]; 10. 5T-Jeff Taylor, [9]; 11. 18Z-Zane DeVilbiss, [8]; 12. 35-David Stremme, [5]; 13. 77T-Tripp Gaylord, [4]; 14. 175-Ethan Dotson, [21]; 15. 01A-Drew Armstrong, [18]; 16. 7M-Peyton Taylor, [28]; 17. 02X-Jack Sullivan, [27]; 18. 8-Kyle Strickler, [16]; 19. 2A-Casey Arneson, [20]; 20. 3B-Eddie Belec, [13]; 21. G1X-Tony Anglin, [7]; 22. 7X-Mikey Bell, [19]; 23. (DNF) 6M-Wendell Wallace, [23]; 24. (DNF) 601-Curtis Cook, [11]; 25. (DNF) 32-D.J. Shannon, [29]; 26. (DNF) 83-Kellen Chadwick, [26]; 27. (DNF) 12J-Jason Ingalls, [10]; 28. (DNF) 31M-Travis Mosley, [25]; 29. (DNF) 96T-R.C. Whitwell, [30]; 30. (DNF) 2T-Tyler Stevens, [22]

B Feature (30 Laps): 1. 777-Jared Landers, [3]; 2. 9S-Ken Schrader, [1]; 3. 12T-Tyler Townsend, [2]; 4. 23-Brandon Smith, [4]; 5. 83Z-Zack Vanderbeek, [13]; 6. 11-Richie Tosh, [9]; 7. 90-Jason Beaulieu, [15]; 8. 17W-Ashton Wilkey, [5]; 9. 19XX-Brandon Spanjer, [11]; 10. 70-Jesse Dennis, [21]; 11. 23N-Clay Norris, [28]; 12. 02J-Rusty Jeffrey, [7]; 13. 44-Christy Barnett, [18]; 14. 117-Toby Herring, [8]; 15. 21C-Chad Clancy, [22]; 16. 8H-John Hansen, [25]; 17. 7D-Dennis Schoenfeld, [27]; 18. 19JR-Kody Johnson, [20]; 19. 21M-Tyler Madigan, [30]; 20. X2M-Carl Murphy, [12]; 21. C5-Chris Carter, [26]; 22. 8C-Chad Andersen, [16]; 23. 94-Chris Morris, [24]; 24. (DNF) 02-Kody Scholpp, [17]; 25. (DNF) 73W-Shawn Walsh, [10]; 26. (DNF) 9-Brint Hartwick, [29]; 27. (DNF) 37-Randy Foote, [14]; 28. (DNF) 10W-Brandon Walsh, [6]; 29. (DNF) 0H-Shane Harris, [19]; 30. (DNF) 29-Keith Hammett, [23]

C Feature (25 Laps): 1. 71-Jessie Hoskins, [2]; 2. UFO-Wayne Brooks, [4]; 3. 8W-Randy Weaver, [12]; 4. 26S-Steven Glenn, [18]; 5. 2SLY-Shane Kelley, [3]; 6. 82-Jacob Poel, [8]; 7. 85-Neal Flowers, [21]; 8. 68-Heath Grizzle, [13]; 9. 33-Jeff Mathews, [7]; 10. 38-Craig Garner, [32]; 11. 36-Mark Norris, [23]; 12. 3T-John Taylor, [9]; 13. 511-Tanner Barnhart, [28]; 14. 1XH-David Hess, [29]; 15. 141-Justin Galbreath, [25]; 16. 16-Joey Burch, [19]; 17. 66-Jerry Harris, [27]; 18. (DNF) 427-Miles Keeney, [26]; 19. (DNF) 76-Brad Smith, [22]; 20. (DNF) 11B-Donnie Barnhart, [24]; 21. (DNF) 25B-Chad Mallet, [17]; 22. (DNF) 33M-Madison Holloway, [5]; 23. (DNF) 21W-John Waugh, [16]; 24. (DNF) 17T-Jeremy Tharp, [30]; 25. (DNF) 7S-Troy Schaberg, [14]; 26. (DNF) 48-Alan Brown, [15]; 27. (DNF) 423-Will Poston, [20]; 28. (DNF) 6-Ryan McDermott, [11]; 29. (DNF) 21-Ryan Moore, [33]; 30. (DNF) 73-Joey Gee, [1]; 31. (DNF) 17-Cody Tidwell, [34]; (DNS) 41-Rob Hughes, ; (DNS) 915-Chris Elliott, ; (DNS) 1X-Kris Lloyd,