The SRL Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway (CA) has not only become one of the most sought after races to win in its short history, but it has also become the first outing of the season for many Super Late Model teams on the West Coast. This holds true for defending Showdown winner and four-time SRL Southwest Tour Series champion Derek Thorn.
The 2017 season ended a bit earlier than planned, with Thorn and the No. 43 Campbell Motorsports team not making the trip east for the Snowball Derby in December, but the team has used that time to their advantage. For two months within the walls of the race shop, the team has been preparing and is ready to come out fighting.
“We didn’t get to go to the Derby like we wanted to, but none the less it’s been a busy offseason for us. We are more than prepared. Mike Keene in the shop has done a great job making sure everything is in the best condition possible to go out there and compete for a win. It’s good to be at this point having everyone come in and get things started. Hopefully it goes in our favor,” Thorn told Speed51.com.
Thorn not only won the 2017 edition of the race, he outright dominated leading all 250 laps, while no one seemed to present a serious challenge. With more entries, stronger teams, and a new 300-lap distance for 2018, Thorn knows that presenting the same domination will be very difficult.
“It will be tough. Racing itself has a little bit of Lady Luck involved, and last year was our year. We had a really good race. It’s every team’s goal is to go out and dominate a race leading every lap. In reality to do it two years in a row won’t be any small feat, but we’re definitely going to try.”
Of course, Thorn accepts the greater challenge, especially with it boosting an event at a track in his California backyard.
“I feel like the talent level is just as good if not better than the last few years the winter Showdown has been around. It rivals some of the best short track races in the country and to be at Kern which is one of the nicest facilities, to be out there driving for Byron and Carol Campbell, competing against those guys at that caliber is pretty cool.”
But being just up the road is just where the success starts, Kern is also a track that Thorn and the No. 43 team have matched up well with.
“Having the home field advantage never hurts. The track really suits us. It’s a place we’ve worked out for a couple of years. We’ve had some success there. It’s gone well with my driving style, the crew chief’s style, it’s just worked well for us.”
They’re approach for the weekend, same as last year and any other race weekend.
“We’ve got to take it one day at a time. These big shows with all the laps in the competition, there’s so many things that can go wrong even before the race begins. We need to execute like we do every other weekend and just show up to put our best foot for it. We’ve done all we can in the shop. Time will tell how much speed we’ve got and hopefully Lady Luck is on our side again.”
While the Showdown is high on Thorn’s priority list, it is just the start of a season that will see Thorn also making the return to Stock Cars as he goes for his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.
“We are going to run part-time SRL and we’re going to go to as many open shows as we can with Campbell Motorsports. I’m going to be running the K&N Pro Series West full-time for Bob Bruncati. It will be fun to visit some new tracks. I’m looking forward to all the new things they’re doing this year. It’s going to be exciting to go to run the dirt in Vegas and get out to Gateway.”
The 4th SRL Winter Showdown will be shown to Speed51 Network subscribers for free this Saturday, February 3. Click here to become subscriber.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman