Ricky Thornton Jr. Announces New Car for 2024 Season

Ricky Thornton Jr. Announces New Car for 2024 Season

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

The deal comes swiftly after the 33-year-old made an “extremely unexpected” departure from SSI Motorsports on Sunday, with the 16-time winner now teamed with Jimmy Owens, 52, and the two sons of car owners Bobby and Jessica Koehler, Jordan, 22, and Evan, 16.

2024 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at 34 Raceway

Joining Koehler Motorsports crew chief Kenny Payton, Thornton plans to make his Lucas Oil Series debut with the team on Thursday at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. He will drive Jordan Koehler’s No. 114 Longhorn Chassis in the Silver Dollar Nationals at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, South Dakota, on July 20. He will then drive Koehler’s familiar No. 20 RT.

As for sources, Kenny Payton is serving as crew chief and Thornton joining the team doesn’t affect Owens.

“They were planning on doing the Summer Nationals and they were kind enough to let me race Jordan’s car for the next couple of weeks,” Thornton told on Wednesday. “I’m just so grateful we were able to put something together so quickly and surround ourselves with what I think is a really great team.

“I’m obviously very excited to team up with Bobby and Jessica at Koehler Motorsports and be Jimmy Owens’ teammate. Jimmy’s always been my hero since I was a kid, so to be able to interact with him and know that his team isn’t going anywhere is pretty cool. That was the biggest thing for me when we came here. I didn’t want Jimmy’s schedule to change if they were going to bring me in.

“Mostly, I’m just excited to move and start a new opportunity. I’m so grateful. There’s been so many people calling and showing support. That side of it has been pretty awesome.”

Thornton added that he had received 40 to 50 driving opportunities earlier this week, about 10 of which were full-time offers, but that the Koehlers’ strong support, “family atmosphere” and perhaps the opportunity to race the team’s modified and micro sprint cars convinced the current Lucas Oil Series points leader.

“I would say Bobby called two hours after the news broke and I talked to him for an hour and a half,” Thornton said. “After we called, it was probably a matter of seeing how the next day or the next day would go to get everything in place to make this happen.”

Hoker Trucking and Coltman Farms Racing are among Thornton’s major partners following his move to Koehler from SSI. Thornton also welcomes new backers in Capital Waste, Iktimate Towing and Environmental Service.

Thornton, whose 50 wins since the start of last year rank second in Dirt Late Model racing, currently leads the Lucas Oil Series standings by 235 points over Jonathan Davenport. After a 20th-to-7th-place performance on Monday, when Steve Sheppard generously lent Thornton his No. 5 machine for one night, he sits third in the Castrol Series standings, six points behind leader Jason Feger.

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

“I hope this is my forever home,” Thornton said.