KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Bobby Pierce powered from fifth-starting position to take the lead from Brandon Overton on lap 15 — holding off Ricky Thornton Jr. during the closing laps to win Friday night’s preliminary feature of the Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals.
Thornton, who started alongside Pierce in row three, passed Overton for second with five laps to go and chased down Pierce. Thornton closed to within one car length of the Illinois driver before falling just .0479 seconds behind the winner, who scored his first career win at Knoxville.
Iowa native Chris Simpson was in the hunt the entire distance, passing Overton on the last lap to round out the podium. Overton was fourth with another Iowa driver, Tyler Bruening completing the top five.
On a racy surface that saw two and three-wide racing all night, Overton jumped to the lead at the start of the main event. Overton led until Pierce passed him for the top spot on the ninth lap. Pierce then started to pull away from Overton after a couple of laps until the first and only caution of the race flew on lap 13 for Tyler Erb.
On the restart Overton was able to regain the lead, but his time out front was short-lived as Pierce retook the point on lap 15. Pierce then appeared to have a comfortable advantage until Thornton started showing momentum on the top side.
Thornton dived to the inside of Pierce in turn four, but Pierce was able to gain enough of a distance on the final lap to seal the deal.
Pierce became the 19th different winner this season.
“The first pass I made on him [Overton] I kind of caught him off guard a little bit. I think that was his first run on the bottom and he kind of missed it,” Pierce said. “I passed him on the top and then I thought I had it in the bag and then that caution came out, and I thought I had it under control, but the carburetor kind of stumbled off four and I thought something bad happened, but luckily it got going again.”
Thornton, who currently sits third in the Lucas Oil championship standings, was pleased with his car in the final laps.
“I knew I was pretty good when I got around those guys and then I got stuck behind Bruening and it slowed my pace down,” Thornton said. “We had a good restart Chris [Simpson] didn’t quite get a good enough restart, so I turned to the bottom and got to third there. Then [Brandon] Overton and Bobby [Pierce] were racing so hard it kind of let me get around Overton. Then Bobby moved up and I could still run up to him. I felt like I was a little better there in one and two.”
Feature (25 laps): 1. Bobby Pierce (5); 2. Ricky Thornton Jr. (6); 3. Chris Simpson (1); 4. Brandon Overton (2); 5. Tyler Bruening (7); 6. Ricky Weiss (18); 7. Hudson O’Neal (9); 8. Jonathan Davenport (10); 9. Tim McCreadie (8); 10. Jimmy Owens (11); 11. Brian Shirley (15); 12. Earl Pearson Jr. (3); 13. Spencer Hughes (13); 14. Brandon Sheppard (20); 15. Garrett Alberson (19); 16. Kyle Strickler (14); 17. Tad Pospisil (22); 18. Chase Junghans (0); 19. Chris Madden (17); 20. Spencer Diercks (4); 21. Frank Heckenast Jr. (16); 22. Daniel Hilsabeck (12); 23. Tyler Erb (23); 24. Aaron Marrant (24)