Ricky Thornton Jr details differences between a late model and modified; Talks 2019 plans

Ricky Thornton Jr has a new car on the way for 2019

Ricky Thornton Jr is a modified driver that has taken on a new role toward the end of 2018. Hudson O’Neal went into shoulder surgery back in August.

Taylon Center, a crew guy on the team suggested a fill-in driver. Ricky Thornton Jr took the gig with approval from Hudson O’Neal.

Since then, Thornton Jr has been turning heads. He been starting and running toward the front in some high-paying crown jewel dirt late model events. Such as winning the preliminary night in the World 100 at Eldora Speedway.

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Portsmouth Raceway Park 2276
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Portsmouth Raceway Park 2276

How’s it been going in the late model?

“It’s been pretty good. I gotta thank everyone there at SSI Motorsports for letting me drive this thing,” Ricky Thornton Jr told RacingNews.co . “We’ve gotten a lot better.”

Do you have a list of things that you’ve learned since jumping into a late model from the modified?

“Yes and no. The difference between the mod and the late model is so huge there’s a lot of little mistakes that I made. I just need to kinda fix those and capitalize when other guys make mistakes.”

Which one’s harder to drive?

“Probably the late model. Just because you bring in the aero aspect of everything.”

Just because you’re going faster, the downforce is multiplied?

“Going so much faster and the nose is so wide and so big. The spoiler’s so tall on them.”

“It’s kinda hard to see around them. You almost gotta put yourself in a position where you can see. But, then at the same time, be in the right spot on the race track.”

“We try to get our decks as high as we can, as far as it being legal. They block a lot of your vision.”

With the tires even being twice as wide, they’re still harder to drive?

“Yeah. Probably the biggest thing is we gotta drive them so much harder. In the modified you can kinda cruise. And just because you don’t have as much tire is why you can kinda cruise and still be competitive.”

“In the late model, if you’re cruising, you’re going to run 30th,” Thornton says with a laugh.

“Just the tire being so much wider, you gotta drive so much harder just so they’re in the race track. That’s compared to sliding across the race track.”

Ricky THornton Jr wins at Eldora Speedway
Ricky Thornton Jr wins at Eldora Speedway (Photo: Mike Ruefer)


Are you in talks with people for 2019?

“As of now, not really.”

“I actually got a new Lethal modified coming for next year. I’ll run for myself here again.”

Nobody has reached out?


Have you reached out to team owners?

“I’ve talked to a couple people. But, nothing really serious. Maybe a door will open somewhere.”

Ricky Thornton Jr in victory lane at Eldora Speedway
Ricky Thornton Jr in victory lane at Eldora Speedway (Photo: Mike Ruefer)

Ricky Thornton Jr details the new ride with SSI Motorsports

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Hudson O’Neal sidelined with shoulder injury


Ricky Thornton Jr | Hudson O’Neal | Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series