The Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model season at Five Flags Speedway (FL) kicked off on Friday evening with twin 50-lap features. Tire strategy was the name of the game as the man in control for much of the night ran a race in “slow motion” before losing the lead in a thrilling finish.
Derek Thorn flew east from California to race with the Jett Motorsports team, and the group won the first of Friday’s features in dominating fashion over Alabama native Bret Holmes. Everything seemed routine in the first feature, but the real action came in the second.
“When the right rear tire started giving up on me it was like the whole race went into slow motion,” Thorn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The race just couldn’t get over fast enough.”
With Thorn slipping and sliding, Holmes started to close in on the lead and potentially his first Pro Late Model win in Pensacola.
“Catching him was one thing and passing him was another,” Holmes said. “I was trying to figure out how to pass him. I got a good run with about 10 or 11 laps to go, got by him and we just pulled off after then.”
Holmes went on to take his first checkered flag at the home of the Snowball Derby over Chris Davidson and Thorn who slipped to third.
For Holmes, taking the checkered flag was more of a relief than it was a joy.
“I knew we could do it,” said Holmes. “Two years ago we were leading a race and got spun out coming to the white flag after we’d led almost every lap. It had just taken us a while. We’d been so close.”
Thorn said he left Pensacola “kicking myself” because he believed there were some things he could have done differently to take the clean sweep.
“In the second 50 we run on the same set of tires as the first 50,” said Thorn. “So I was doing what I could to save. I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt because I could have saved a little bit more for the second 50, but I couldn’t have been happier with the performance of the car.”
While Thorn said he always wants to win, he said he’ll take a win and a third-place run because of how their weekend went.
Thorn, the Jett team, and Augie Grill who helped serve as crew chief, had a plan to test two race cars in practice on Thursday, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
“We had two cars that we wanted to test with Jett Motorsports and Thursday was rained out so we had to cram all that we wanted to do on Friday morning,” said Thorn. “We got down to business, picked one car to race, got to about ten minutes left in practice and we threw a driveshaft out of it. Then we were scrambling to find parts and debating on which car to run. It ended up coming together for us in a kind of hectic fashion, but considering how everything had gone on Friday morning we were happy to have a car that could win.”
Friday in Pensacola served as a rare situation where multiple drivers left feeling happy. Thorn and the Jett Motorsports team were satisfied with their night, and Holmes was thrilled to finally win at Five Flags.
“It was just really a relief to finally come down there and get a win,” said Holmes. “That first win is a hard one. It’s all about getting that confidence and momentum. Now we’re going down there and we’ve got a win so we don’t expect anything less.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Bret Holmes Racing