When Jacksonville, Florida’s Kurt Jett messaged Lakeport, California’s Derek Thorn about driving his Super Late Model in November’s Florida Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), neither one imagined that just two months later, they’d be celebrating a win in the Allen Turner Tune-Up Pro Late Model 100 at Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway, their second Pro Late Model win in as many starts since teaming up.
“Kurt (Jett) sent me a message a couple of months ago about driving his Super Late and after we talked a little while it led to me driving more races for him leading up to the Governor’s Cup.” Thorn told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
After making their first start and winning an Allen Turner Pro Late Model race back on July 10, the pair unloaded Saturday for the 100-lap season finale and immediately climbed the speed chart in practice, finishing on top of an impressive 36-car field that had assembled.
Thorn redrew to start third and pulled past early leader Bayley Currey on lap 8 to take the top spot, a spot he would not relinquish for the remaining 92 laps, despite 10 cautions and a half dozen red flags that put him in a precarious position for several restarts.
“We figured with 100 laps we would have some long green flag runs so that’s how we set the car up. Those first couple of laps on the restart Ryan Luza and (Derek) Scott were really strong. I knew if I could hold them off for a few laps I would be okay but they were tough.”
The race saw nine of its 10 cautions fly in the first 32 laps, dwindling the 35 starters down to less than 20 for the longest green flag run which went from lap 32 to lap 80. During that time Thorn opened up more than a two second advantage on the field.
Allen Turner Pro Late Model Champion Ryan Luza provided early pressure to Thorn and raced side-by-side for several laps following a lap 24 restart before a broken trailing arm sidelined the champion.
Thorn then bested early leader Currey, holding him off for three consecutive restarts before fellow Allen Turner PLM winner Derek Scott Jr took his shot at Thorn with 20 laps to go following the final caution. The Franklin, Texas driver could not muster up enough power to get by Thorn on the high-side, and had to settle for a runner-up finish.
Mobile, Alabama’s Dustin Smith made his way through several incidents after starting just outside the top 10 to round out the podium. Smith got by Cole Rouse after the final caution to take the third spot.
Rouse had his fair share of ‘ups and downs’ throughout the 100 lap event as well, after battling inside the top three early. Making his first ever start at Five Flags, the driver out of Fort Smith, Arkansas received damage in a lap 22 incident and dropped out of contention for a top spot before pitting on lap 32 for repairs. Starting at the tail of the field with 68 laps remaining, Rouse worked his way back into contention for the podium before settling for a fourth-place finish.
For Thorn, he feels very blessed to be with the Jett team. He could not imagine things being any better at this point in the driver-team relationship.
“I couldn’t be any happier or any luckier as a driver. It’s like finding the right woman. I found the right woman and I married her. To find this kind of chemistry (with a team) as a driver is very rare. I count my blessings each day and I enjoy every minute of being here.”
Next up for the Allen Turner Pro Late Models at Five Flags Speedway will be the 17th Annual Snowflake 100, which will run on Saturday December 5, in support of the 48th Annual Snowball Derby.
-By Mark Keeler, Speed51.com Operations Manager - Twitter: @MarkKeeler975
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Five Flags Speedway
Allen Turner Tune-Up 100
|2||01||Derek Scott Jr|
|5||30K||Bobby Knox Jr|
|29||31||Wayne Niedecken Jr|