Throughout his career, Derek Thorn has won a lot of races on the west coast Super Late Model scene. But on Saturday night in the shadows of the Las Vegas strip, he added a new chip to his stack of victories by winning the $10,000 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series finale at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Thorn, who missed a points-counting race earlier this season, entered the race with a mathematical shot at the championship. However, he knew he needed a win and a miracle in order to make it happen. Without the pressure of a tight championship battle on his shoulders, he was happy to add a new win to his resume.
"This is actually the first time that I've won this race," Thorn said in Victory Lane. "Retro Custom Metals always builds this awesome hood and there's ten grand to win, but I'm always contending for championship and I'd finish third, fifth, sixth or second. We didn't win the championship but we won the race. We're going to the Snowball Derby here in a couple weeks, so hopefully we can carry this momentum back there."
Thorn didn't appear to have a dominant car during the first half of the 150-lap season finale; however, adjustments at the Lap 75 break allowed him to pounce for the lead when the opportunity presented itself. When John Moore drifted up the race track on Lap 92, Thorn took advantage and powered to Moore's inside for the race lead. From there, he didn't look back on the way to claiming his fifth SRL win of the season in nine starts.
"That's not bad, yeah. These guys are good," he said. "Byron and Carol Campbell give us a good team. [Crew Chief] Mike [Keen], I don't know what he did at the halfway break but he took us from a fourth or fifth-place car to a first-place car. Hats off to him, he's the one that makes us look good. These guys have worked hard this weekend. This has been a good season. Unfortunately, we missed a race so we were out of the points contention but congrats to Cole Moore."
Behind Thorn, the battle for the 2019 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour championship took place between front runner Cole Moore and a hard-charging Linny White. Moore entered the night as the front runner but still needed a strong run to secure his first SRL championship. He did exactly that, contending near the front and ultimately finishing fifth to win the championship.
"This year was insane," Moore stated. "We were right there so many times, almost won so many races. I kept telling myself that it was about the war, not the battles. It came down to the end there. Hats off to Linny, hats off to Derek and all the competitors. This weekend was absolutely insane, went through some serious adversity with a head injury this week, as you can probably see. I just want to thank my whole team."
Linny White, a two-time SRL winner in 2019, kept fans on the edge of their seat Saturday night at The Bullring. After starting 24th, the driver of the No. 99 Super Late Model charged to the front and got as high as second before ultimately crossing the finish line third. Unofficially, he ends the season nine points back of Moore in the championship battle.
"We started out a little bit rocky with the old car. We built this car about the third or fourth race. We had new car blues at the first race [at Las Vegas] and then we've just been lights out ever since. The car was really good but I had to use it up because we had a mechanical failure earlier during qualifying. Ahh, I should be excited but I'm a little disappointed. I felt like if I would've done what I needed to do and win the race tonight we'd be standing there as a champion, but my hats off to Cole. Derek, he's always great and always good, so congratulations to him."
Tyler Fabozzi, a former regular at The Bullring, turned in a strong second-place finish en route to claiming Rookie of the Year honors in his first full-time season on the SRL circuit. White completed the podium, while veteran Craig Raudman and eventual champion Cole Moore completed the top five.
Speed51 will have more on the battle for the 2019 SRL championship soon.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51