Thornton Runs Down Aikey In All-Star Invitational

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Ricky Thornton Jr. won one of the two qualifiers for the modified division Thursday during the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals at Boone Speedway. (Tom Macht Photo)
Ricky Thornton Jr., shown here earlier in the week, won the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational Saturday at Boone Speedway. (Tom Macht Photo)

BOONE, Iowa – Ricky Thornton Jr. ran down Jeff Aikey in traffic to win the annual running of the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational for the IMCA modified division Saturday night during the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s at Boone Speedway.

The Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational, which features 30 eligible drivers selected by the fans, was a duel between two of the best IMCA modified racers in the country and Thornton and Aikey didn’t disappoint.

Aikey took advantage of his outside second row starting position for the three-wide start, rocketing around the top out of turn four to take the lead before the field got to turn one on the opening lap.

Behind him Thornton, who started on the inside of the fourth row, hugged the bottom to make his way to third at the completion of the opening lap. The lone caution flag of the race waved after one lap was complete for a car stopped in turn four, setting up a restart with Aikey leading polesitter Mitchell Hunt and Thornton.

“I was kind of glad I started on the bottom. They all kind of took off in the slime and I was able to get all the way down by the tires and get up to third,” Thornton said.

On the restart Thornton quickly dispatched Hunt and set off in pursuit of Aikey, who quickly stretched out his lead over the field. It didn’t take Aikey long to catch traffic as he began putting cars a lap down with 21 laps left.

Aikey continued to work traffic and with 16 laps left there was a sea of cars in front of him, which began to allow Thornton to noticeably close the gap to the leader. Three laps later Aikey got caught behind several slower cars, allowing Thornton to close right to Aikey’s bumper as they raced through traffic.

With 10 to go Thornton began to pressure Aikey and on the next lap Thornton used a run from the top to cross over and dive to Aikey’s inside. Aikey wisely pinched the nose of Thornton’s car off entering turn one, costing Thornton all the momentum he’d built up and allowing Aikey to retain the lead.

“I knew once we got to traffic there were going to be so many cars on top of each other and it was going to slow Jeff down,” Thornton said. “I finally got to him and I tried to go under him and then I lost all that ground again.”

With eight laps left Thornton took another run at Aikey, but this time he went to the top through turns one and two as Aikey got trapped behind a slower car. They raced side-by-side down the backstretch, with Thornton pulling clear of Aikey coming out of turn four to take the lead.

Now it was Thornton’s turn to work traffic and he managed to put several cars between himself and Aikey for a few laps. However, Aikey managed to clear the traffic and put Thornton’s car in his sights with two laps to go.

As Thornton tried to work traffic Aikey began to challenge for the lead. On the last lap Aikey went high in turns one and two to try and get a run on Thornton, but Thornton got below a slower car to block Aikey’s run.

Aikey took one last shot in turns three and four, but Thornton carried the momentum through the corner and beat Aikey to the checkered flag by a car length to win the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational for the first time in his career.

Thornton will now turn his attention to championship day on Sunday, where he’ll have the opportunity to win the modified and stock car championships after winning a qualifier in each division already this week. He also won the Super Nationals late model championship on Monday.

“I think I’ll probably have to adjust on the car a little bit. I was a little tight there,” said Thornton of his modified. “I’ll either make it a little better or a whole lot worse.”

Jason Wolla finished third after starting 19th, followed by Tim Ward and Ethan Dotson.

The finish:

Ricky Thornton Jr., Jeff Aikey, Jason Wolla, Tim Ward, Ethan Dotson, Todd Shute, Richie Gustin, Chris Elliott, Joel Rust, Mitchell Hunt, Kelly Shryock, Tom Berry Jr., Jay Noteboom, A.J. Ward, Clay Money, Zane DeVilbiss, Brandon Beckendorf, David Goode Jr., Steven Bowers Jr., Chris Abelson, Tanner Black, Jeff Taylor, Jeff Larson, William Gould, Kyle Brown, Trever Sloan, Jesse Sobbing, Kelsie Foley, Cayden Carter. 

Every night of the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s on Sept. 7-13 will be broadcast live via SPEED SPORT TV affiliate IMCA.TV. Check out all of our coverage of the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals on our coverage index page!