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DIRTcar Late Models

Pierce Breaks, Thornton Victorious on Thursday Night of 30th Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora

Thornton (20RT) and PIerce (32) racing for the lead. (Tyler Carr Photo)

Madden charges 14th-to-fourth, Clanton finishes sixth after starting 19th

While Ricky Thornton Jr. tasted victory Thursday night at Eldora Speedway, five-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Bobby Pierce was left to pick up the shattered remains of what could have been a big win on one of Dirt Late Model racing’s biggest stages.

Thornton, the 33-year-old national Late Model champion from Martinsville, IN, took the lead from the outside pole in the preliminary Feature of the 30th Dirt Late Model Dream and led until fourth-starting Pierce – the defending World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series champion from Oakwood, IL – hunted down the former Dirt Modified standout and passed him with a big slide job in Turn 3 on Lap 16.

From there, Pierce appeared to be on his way to a $25,000 payday when he slowed in Turn 4 coming to complete Lap 38 and brought out the caution flag; steam pouring out from underneath the hood of the Longhorn Chassis #32. He nursed the car to the infield before safety crews came and pushed him back to his pit stall, done for the evening.

“I didn’t know anything was wrong until bam – it broke,” Pierce said. “It was not a part failure, it was on our own doing. [It was] the oil cooler cover. When we’re warming up these engines, we’ve got something over the oil cooler, the warmup board in front of the radiator, and both of those get taken out. It got missed.

“Nine times out of ten, I freakin’ see it, make sure it gets taken off. It just so happened I never even looked.”

Pierce with smoke under the hood. (Tyler Carr Photo)

While Thornton went on to the win, Pierce had led 23 laps total in the main event, thanks to a car set up for him to run his preferred high line around the half-mile oval. He took the green from outside Row 2 after coming in ranked fourth in Every Lap Matters event points – which awards drivers with points based on their results in Qualifying and Heat Races – and was pleased to at least have a car handling to his preferences.

“We fell back a little early in that Feature, I think I fell back to fifth or so, but then once I got on it and we came to the front, it was great,” Pierce said. “Car was great.”

Pierce and his team will take Friday to make repairs and be ready to try and qualify for the 100-lap, $100,030-to-win main event on Saturday, though he says he will need some help from the event format to have a shot at a transfer position in the Heat Races.

“Right now, I’m just hoping we get like a six for that invert,” Pierce said. “I’m guessing I’m around that spot, if we get like a six invert. I think that’d put me front row of a Heat Race, but it’s probably going to take the six. That’s really the only thing that can save us now – we rebound as much as we can.”

A fellow World of Outlaws regular to Pierce, Chris Madden made his presence felt in the main event, advancing 10 spots over 50 laps in his drive from 14th on the grid up to a fourth-place finish using the low/middle grooves.

Madden (44) and Dillard (97) racing in the top-10. (Tyler Carr Photo)

“The racetrack got really good right there, other than that curb around the top,” Madden said. “I’m just really good at keeping my car straight and being able to carry a lot of speed straight and circle real well.”

The South Carolina racer, who recently announced his plans to end his full-time racing career in favor of a more scaled-back schedule for 2025 and beyond, has finished second in each of his last three Dirt Late Model Dream main event starts. His loyal Southeastern fanbase, which watched him claim back-to-back Xtreme DIRTcar Series championships in 2020 and 2021, wants to know – is 2024 finally Madden’s year for a crown jewel win at Eldora?

“They say that every year,” Madden said. “Hopefully, it is. Maybe we can pick up that victory this year, and we’re gonna give it all we got.”

2015 World of Outlaws champion Shane Clanton also showed his prowess around the half-mile as he charged from 19th on the starting grid to finish sixth.

“Eldora’s one of my favorite places to come,” Clanton said. “I know I’m pretty good here, and I’ve just got a knack for being able to keep the right-side tires loaded and carry speed.”

Clanton, 48, of Zebulon, GA, won the Dirt Late Model Dream in 2012 and is attempting this year’s event with a new operation for the first time since his last team switch in 2019, when he moved to Iowa-based Skyline Racing. He, along with new Capital Race Cars co-owner Chad Smith, have forged a new partnership for the 2024 season and gathered the resources to come and compete at Eldora with some help from their friends.

Tyler Carr Photo

“I knew my career needed to slow down and spend more time with family, but still get to do what I’m doing here,” Clanton said. “Luckily, I’ve got a good customer, Ryan Crane, letting me use his trailer, and Bubba Pollard letting me use his truck to come up here. If not for them guys, it’s hard to do what I’m doing.”

New World of Outlaws standout Cade Dillard showed speed throughout the program as well, finishing eighth after starting sixth. The field’s lone Louisiana driver will attempt to make his first Dirt Late Model Dream main event start on Saturday.

Fellow Outlaw Kyle Bronson had a similar outcome, starting eighth and finishing seventh. The former DIRTcar UMP Modified racer from Brandon, FL, aims for his sixth-straight main event start this Saturday.

Prospective DIRTcar Summer Nationals contender Kye Blight, of Bunbury, Western Australia, notched a preliminary Dream Feature start, finishing 20th after starting 16th.

Erb Jr. (28) and Babb (18) racing late in the Feature (Tyler Carr Photo)

Four-time Summer Nationals champion Shannon Babb endured his own struggles, starting 23rd on the grid and advancing to 14th before blowing a right-rear tire, forcing him to pit and finish 16th. Likewise, three-time Summer Nationals champion Dennis Erb Jr. arose from his early difficulties, starting 22nd and finishing 15th.


DIRTcar Late Model competition continues from Eldora Speedway’s presentation of the 30th Dirt Late Model Dream – Friday, June 7, with another 50-lap, $25,000-to-win main event.

ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)

Feature (50 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[2]; 2. 71-Hudson O’Neal[15]; 3. 11R-Josh Rice[1]; 4. 44-Chris Madden[14]; 5. 111-Max Blair[11]; 6. 25-Shane Clanton[19]; 7. 40B-Kyle Bronson[8]; 8. 97-Cade Dillard[6]; 9. 1-Tim McCreadie[5]; 10. 76-Brandon Overton[7]; 11. 0-Scott Bloomquist[10]; 12. 18D-Daulton Wilson[3]; 13. 93-Carson Ferguson[12]; 14. 96-Tanner English[13]; 15. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[22]; 16. 18-Shannon Babb[23]; 17. 79-Donald McIntosh[20]; 18. 10-Joseph Joiner[17]; 19. 6L-Dustin Linville[21]; 20. 31AUS-Kye Blight[16]; 21. 17SS-Brenden Smith[18]; 22. 32-Bobby Pierce[4]; 23. 22-Chris Ferguson[9]; 24. 95-Jerry Bowersock[24]

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