2024 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at 34 Raceway

Ricky Thornton Jr. Announces His New Ride For 2024 Season

Ricky Thornton Jr. Announces His New Ride For 2024 Season

Ricky Thornton Jr. has announced his new ride for the remainder of the 2024 season.

Jul 10, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Ricky Thornton Jr. today announced his new driving home for the remainder of the 2024 season. Thornton, the reigning DirtonDirt.com Driver of the Year, is joining forces with North Carolina-based Koehler Motorsports as the Chandler, Ariz., native continues his pursuit of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Castrol FloRacing Night in America championships. 

The deal swiftly came together after the 33-year-old’s “extremely unexpected” release from SSI Motorsports on Sunday as the 16-time winner this year now becomes teammates alongside 52-year-old Jimmy Owens and the two sons of car owners Bobby and Jessica Koehler, 22-year-old Jordan and 16-year-old Evan.

Thornton, who joins Koehler Motorsports crew chief Kenny Payton, plans to debuts with the team Thursday at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, on the Lucas Oil Series, driving Jordan Koehler’s No. 114 Longhorn Chassis through July 20's Silver Dollar Nationals at Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D., before settling into a Koehler ride carrying his familiar No. 20RT.

As for resources, Kenny Payton serves as crew chief and Thornton’s addition to the team doesn’t impact Owens.

“They were planning on going Summer Nationals racing and they’re nice enough to let me race Jordan’s car these next couple weeks,” Thornton told DirtonDirt.com on Wednesday. “Just very thankful we’re able to put something together so quickly and really surround ourselves with what I feel like is a really great team.

“Obviously super excited to be teamed up with Koehler Motorsports with Bobby and Jessica, and being a teammate to Jimmy Owens. Jimmy’s always been my hero growing up, so it’s pretty cool to be able to interact with him and know that his team isn’t going anywhere. That was my main thing once we started here. I didn’t want Jimmy’s program to change if they were going to bring me over. 

“For the most part, just excited to move over and start a new opportunity. Super thankful. We had a lot of people calling and showing support. That side of it has been pretty awesome.”

Thornton added that he fielded 40 to 50 driving opportunities early this week, with roughly 10 of those full-time offers, but the Koehlers’ strong support, “family environment,” and opportunity to perhaps race the team’s modifieds and micro sprint cars won over the current Lucas Oil Series points leader.

“I would say within two hours of the news story breaking, Bobby called and I talked with him for an hour-and-a-half,” Thornton said. “After our call, it was a huge possibility with seeing how the next day or so went to put everything into place to make it happen.”

Hoker Trucking and Coltman Farms Racing are among Thornton’s primary partners following him to the Koehler-owned team from SSI. Thornton’s also welcoming new backers in Capital Waste, Iktimate Towing, and Environmental Service.

Thornton, whose 50 victories since the start of last year are second-most in Dirt Late Model racing, currently leads the Lucas Oil Series standings by 235 points over Jonathan Davenport. He sits third in the Castrol Series standings, six points behind leader Jason Feger, after Monday’s 20th-to-seventh performance where Steve Sheppard generously lended Thornton his. No. 5s machine for a night.

Until Thornton’s surprise departure from SSI — a full-fledged partnership that began May 2020 — the Morgantown, Ind., operation owned by Todd Burns had been his lone touring Dirt Late Model ride. He’s hoping the new connection with the Koehlers is just the beginning.

“Hopefully this can be my forever home,” Thornton said.