Derek Thorn scored his series-leading 39th career win in SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series competition when he pulled into Victory Lane at Irwindale Speedway (CA) following the R.J. Allen Inc. 100 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse. Thorn took the lead early in Saturday night’s event and never looked back in route to his triumph. It was sweet revenge from his Summer Showdown effort, when mechanical failure ended his bid for the $25,000 victory late in the event while leading.
In the past, Thorn had been dominant in qualifying at the ½-mile facility, but he had struggled to finish off events on the long-run. Saturday night that thought crossed his mind several times before claiming the $5,000 victory, thanks to the “Winner’s Bonus” from Performance Friction Brakes.
“That did concern me a little bit (qualifying third),” Thorn volunteered. “This place has always thrown me for a curve. Mike (Keen) has always given me great cars here, and we have had great speed. Just sometimes race-run wise, we are really good and sometimes you are scratching your head a little bit.”
Thorn took an aggressive approach to the start of the race after pulling the eight card to begin the event. By lap 10, Thorn secured a lead that he never relinquished through several restarts and several hard challenges from Linny White.
“Mike Keen did such a phenomenal job with this thing,” Thorn began. “You just don’t know when the race starts, you can fire off and you don’t know where you are going to stand until you really get rolling. The thing was just on rails for a long time.”
Thorn continued, “When we got to the front I could pick and choose on the restarts, as to where we were at, and save a little bit. Mike Keen did an awesome job, and I can’t thank Byron and Carol Campbell enough for assembling this awesome team and all these guys and all their hard work for getting us where we are at. I think anyone in the field could have drove this thing tonight.”
The evening started with SRL Irwindale Speedway track record holder Dylan Lupton repeating his Fast Time performance from back in March, with a fast lap of 17.240 seconds. That effort earned him his second PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award Cole Moore was just 0.014 seconds off that lap, with 19 of 26 Super Late Models within half a second after top Rookie of the Year contenders Jace Hansen and Tyler Fabozzi aborted efforts after blowing motors on their first laps. Both Fabozzi and Hansen went to back-up cars, but struggled during the race without additional practice.
Linny White continued his mastery of the eight-car redraw, after selecting the number-one card. For White, he has selected the number one three times and the number two once in the last four races. Lupton pulled the number two followed by Kyle Neveau, Craig Raudman, Trevor Huddleston, Cole Moore, Bobby Hodges and Thorn.
White and Lupton battled side by side for multiple laps at the drop of the green flag before White secured the lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Thorn moved under White before 10 laps were complete, earning him the Coleman Powersports “Cool Move of the Race.”
Thorn pulled out to a short lead following the pass, but action was slowed for the first time on lap 18, when Jack Wood spun after contact with another competitor. 2015 SRL Champion Jacob Gomes, who was making record breaking start number 96, was unable to avoid the spinning 2017 PCS Rookie of the Year and was pinned against the turn two wall. Both drivers continued, but Gomes would spend much of the evening making repairs under caution in his Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats Chevy.
Upon resumption, the top-three of Thorn, White and Cole Moore maintained control of those positions for the remainder of the race, with the fourth position a hotly contested revolving door. Lupton, Hodges, Huddleston and Kyle Neveau all fought for the position, with Neveau ultimately securing the spot.
Hodges strong run came to an end when he spun off the front bumper of Huddleston on Lap 49. His fine recovery, nearly back into the top 10, ended with brake issues and an ultimate 25th-place finish after completing only 57 laps.
John Moore finished fifth in the event with Blaine Rocha following in sixth, just ahead of Trevor Huddleston who recovered from his Lap 49 penalty.
Bobby Hodges teammate, Jesse Love, ran a steady race to finish eighth and score his first top 10 of the season. That result was good enough to earn the top Rookie of the Year Contender Award for the event.
2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series Champion Chris Eggleston finished ninth, followed by Northwest star Gracin Raz, who edged out returning series veteran Keith Spangler for the final position in the top 10. Early contender Dylan Lupton completed the top dozen, after an ill-handling car saw the recent NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series top five competitor slowly slip outside the top 10. 23 of 26 cars took the checkered flag to complete the event.
After the race Thorn expressed his thoughts about Linny White and his new Rowdy Manufacturing Super Late Model.
“I think in racing you can’t count anyone out,” Thorn stated. “Linny is a great driver and they got this (Rowdy Manufacturing) chassis. But I feel like our Fury’s have been really good lately. They have been doing their homework and we have been doing ours. I think we have found some things that work really well with this chassis, and we have something to build on. I think we will continue to move forward.”
After two third-place efforts had been White’s best finishes in SPEARS Southwest Tour Series action, before his Kern County Raceway win, he was pleased with the result Saturday night.
“We fired off good, and the car was really good in the beginning,” White explained. “We were rolling with him through the corner. Then about Lap 50, it started tightening up. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we run a spool and he runs a Gleason. I think for tracks like this, maybe we ought to consider that option. For what we did and what we had, I’m pretty glad to bring home a second.”
White continued, “I think we needed one more adjustment. I think I would have opened the stagger a little bit, and maybe start the trackbar a little higher on the right side. Other than that, my crew gave me a pretty dang good car to drive.”
By finishing third, Cole Moore retained his championship lead, putting a little distance between his two nearest competitors entering the event. It was another strong finish for the 2018 Rookie of the Year.
“Everything (in the race) kind of shook out early,” Moore recalled. “The 43 (Thorn) took the lead and the 99 (White) was already up there. I got up to third and that’s really just kind of how it stayed up in the top three. We gave it our best, and they were just a little bit better, about a half-tenth a lap, and that was enough. I’m proud of the team, because this is our best finish at Irwindale. We extended our points lead, so it was a good night.”
The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series will now take its summer break, before returning to action on September 28 for the “SPEARS Southwest Tour 125 presented by 51 FIFTY LTM” at Madera Speedway (CA). The October Classic at Kern County Raceway will follow on October 26. The event will feature a special “throwback” theme for the drivers, as they are encouraged to sport paint schemes from prior to 1990. Former NASCAR Southwest Tour or Cup Series schemes are welcomed, but any “throwback” scheme is encouraged. The team at Kern County Raceway and the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series continue to try to bring fun back to this prestigious event from the former Mesa Marin Raceway (CA).
Unofficial Results: 1. Derek Thorn, 2. Linny White, 3. Cole Moore, 4. Kyle Neveau, 5. John Moore, 6. Blaine Rocha, 7. Trevor Huddleston, 8. Jesse Love*, 9. Chris Eggleston, 10. Gracin Raz, 11. Keith Spangler, 12. Dylan Lupton, 13. Tyler Fabozzi*, 14. Toni McCray*, 15. Andy Allen, 16. Eric Nascimento Jr.*, 17. Dan Holtz, 18. Jace Hansen*, 19. Jacob Gomes, 20. Cale Kanke, 21. Bob Lyon, 22. Scott Sanchez, 23. Tracy Bolin, 24. Jack Wood, 25. Bobby Hodges, 26. Craig Raudman
*Rookie of the Year Candidate
-Story & Photos by: Kevin Peters, SRL