LOCUST GROVE, Ark. — Picking up where he left off Thursday evening, Ricky Thornton Jr. cruised to the Race For Hope 71 title on Saturday night at Batesville Motor Speedway.
Thornton started in the middle row of the three-wide, 30-car start and grabbed the lead on lap one over 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.
Thornton Jr. went relatively unchallenged through the first 40 laps until the mandatory fuel stop. Grabouski, Terry Phillips, Tom Berry and Jason Hughes rounded out the top five at the break.
As the race resumed, Thornton 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 was mired in lapped traffic, which allowed Phillips to close the gap. Phillips came within two car lengths of Thornton 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.
“This track just fits my driving style,” continued Thornton. “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 and Tanner Black rounded out the top five.
Feature (71 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr, ; 2. 75-Terry Phillips, ; 3. 30G-Jordan Grabouski, ; 4. 0-Jake O’Neil, ; 5. 44T-Tanner Black, ; 6. 11X-Tom Berry Jr, ; 7. 12-Jason Hughes, ; 8. 5L-Cody Laney, ; 9. 62-Hunter Marriott, ; 10. 5T-Jeff Taylor, ; 11. 18Z-Zane DeVilbiss, ; 12. 35-David Stremme, ; 13. 77T-Tripp Gaylord, ; 14. 175-Ethan Dotson, ; 15. 01A-Drew Armstrong, ; 16. 7M-Peyton Taylor, ; 17. 02X-Jack Sullivan, ; 18. 8-Kyle Strickler, ; 19. 2A-Casey Arneson, ; 20. 3B-Eddie Belec, ; 21. G1X-Tony Anglin, ; 22. 7X-Mikey Bell, ; 23. (DNF) 6M-Wendell Wallace, ; 24. (DNF) 601-Curtis Cook, ; 25. (DNF) 32-D.J. Shannon, ; 26. (DNF) 83-Kellen Chadwick, ; 27. (DNF) 12J-Jason Ingalls, ; 28. (DNF) 31M-Travis Mosley, ; 29. (DNF) 96T-R.C. Whitwell, ; 30. (DNF) 2T-Tyler Stevens,