DIRTcar Late Models

REDEMPTION RUN: Thornton Scores First DIRTcar Nationals Win in Dominant Fashion

Ricky Thornton Jr. Wins at Volusia Speedway Park

The Chandler, AZ driver, led all 30 laps en route to his first Volusia Speedway Park Victory

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]; 2. 44-Chris Madden[8]; 3. 9-Devin Moran[6]; 4. 76-Brandon Overton[1]; 5. 17M-Dale McDowell[4]; 6. 16-Tyler Bruening[7]; 7. 1-Brandon Sheppard[3]; 8. 157-Mike Marlar[12]; 9. 25-Shane Clanton[11]; 10. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[13]; 11. 32-Chris Simpson[10]; 12. 29-Darrell Lanigan[5]; 13. 19R-Ryan Gustin[14]; 14. 18D-Daulton Wilson[17]; 15. 40B-Kyle Bronson[15]; 16. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr[9]; 17. 89-Ashton Winger[24]; 18. 58-Mark Whitener[18]; 19. 36-Logan Martin[21]; 20. 11-Spencer Hughes[16]; 21. 14M-Morgan Bagley[22]; 22. 31-Tyler Millwood[19]; 23. 97-Cody Overton[23]; 24. 11B-Stacy Boles[20]

World of Outlaws, DIRTcar set to take over Florida Feb. 7-19 for DIRTcar Nationals

Sprint Cars, UMP Modifieds, Late Models and Big Block Modifieds stars return for Big Gator championships

In less than two months, more than a hundred of the best drivers in the world will venture to Volusia Speedway Park in search of eastern Florida’s rare golden gator.

However, the only way to capture it… win the 51st DIRTcar Nationals.

Four divisions of race cars, six series between them, will commune at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” Feb. 7-19, to compete in their own Big Gator championships with big checks and unique gator trophies on the line each race.

DIRTcar UMP Modifieds (Feb. 7-12)
With the 51st DIRTcar Nationals starting a day earlier in 2022, that presented the opportunity for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds to have a full week of non-stop action. They’ll kick off the event on Monday as part of their six straight days of racing action. The division’s traditional “All-Features” night will be on Thursday, Feb. 10, with split fields competing on Friday, Feb. 11. The Gator Championship will be on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Attracting more than 100 cars last year, the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds field includes superstars like multi-time champion Nick Hoffman, multi-time DIRTcar Nationals winner Kyle Strickler, and a plethora of current and former NASCAR stars like Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, David Reutimann, David Stremme, Matt Crafton, Justin Haley and Kenny Schrader.

All Star Circuit of Champions (Feb. 8-9)
The two days of All Star Circuit of Champions racing will kick off the Sprint Car Big Gator Championship for the week, featuring the series’ regulars like 2021 All Star champion Tyler Courtney, Cory Eliason, Kevin Thomas Jr. and more, along with several World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series stars. The All Stars have competed during DIRTcar Nationals for 30 years with the first race in 1983.

For the past two years, the winner of the opening All Star race went on to win the overall Big Gator Championship. In 2020 that was Brad Sweet and in 2021 it was Logan Schuchart.

World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars (Feb. 10-12)
For the 17th consecutive year, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will commence its epic year-long season at Volusia Speedway Park during the DIRTcar Nationals. Bringing together the best Sprint Car drivers in the country, the three days of racing have produced some of the most exciting shows from late race passes to intense multi-car battles.

Three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet, started his last two championship runs by winning the Outlaws’ opening night at Volusia. To do so again in 2022, he’ll have to compete against one of the most competitive fields of drivers in Series history, including 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz, 2021 championship rival David Gravel, 2021 Rookie of the Year James McFadden, 2021 Big Gator champion Logan Schuchart, rising young-guns Carson Macedo and Sheldon Haudenschild and many more.

Super DIRTcar Series (Feb. 14-19)
The most elite Big Block Modified drivers in the country will escape the cold of the northeast for six days of on-track action at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. It’ll be the 24th consecutive year the Series has ventured to Volusia. Monday, Feb. 14, will be a practice day for the drivers before the 2022 Super DIRTcar Series season starts on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

With the five races not serving as points events, it allows the field of drivers to run as hard as they want and throw caution to the wind. That produced three different winners in a row last year with NASCAR Truck Series star Stewart Friesen, Michael Maresca and 2021 Big Gator champion Max McLaughlin. Those drivers, along with eight-time and defending Series champion Matt Sheppard, 2019 Series champion Mat Williamson and Australia’s Peter Britten, will be vying for the iconic golden gator trophy again.

DIRTcar Late Models (Feb. 14-15)
Like the Sprint Cars, the chase for the Late Model Big Gator Championship will be split between two series – the DIRTcar Late Models and the World of Outlaws Late Models. However, fans will still get to see the same caliber of drivers between both series like four-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brandon Sheppard, 2006 World of Outlaws champion Tim McCreadie, 2021 Summer Nationals champion Bobby Pierce, Florida’s Kyle Bronson, 2021 Big Gator champion Devin Moran, 2021 crown jewel king Brandon Overton and many more.

In 2021, McCreadie picked up his sixth DIRTcar Late Model victory at Volusia, while Pierce picked up his first. Overall, in the 19 years of the DIRTcar Late Models competing at Volusia, there have been 28 different winners.

World of Outlaws Late Models (Feb. 16-19)
Volusia Speedway Park will be the home for the World of Outlaws Late Models in January and February with the season-opening Sunshine Nationals, Jan. 20-22, and then four days of racing during the DIRTcar Nationals to wrap up the Late Model Big Gator Championship. The seven days of Florida racing will set the stage for the Series’ 2022 championship and showcase the stout 2022 class of drivers, including the exciting rookie contenders Max Blair and Kyle Hammer.

Brandon Sheppard tied Josh Richards for the most championships in 2021 when he picked up his fourth title. In 2022, he’ll be on the hunt to surpass that and beat Richards’s win record. Richards currently holds the most wins with 78 and Sheppard has 77. Volusia could see him break that record with Sheppard having won six World of Outlaws races in a row at the track from 2018 to 2020.

For tickets to the 2022 DIRTcar Nationals, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch the DIRTcar Nationals live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.