Derek Thorn continued his mastery of Kern County Raceway (CA) by winning the SPEARS Manufacturing 100 presented by Berchtold Equipment Saturday night. The win at his home track was the Lakeport, CA native’s 33rd career SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series victory.
Thorn took the lead from David Mayhew on Lap 15 and never looked back, despite never opening up a lead of over two seconds. It may have looked easy from a spectator’s point of view, but Thorn was never truly comfortable out front.
“I was worried about holding the lead almost the entire race,” Thorn told Speed51.com. “With the tire here, it almost gives you a false sense of hope and a false sense of worry at the same time, just because you’re not sure what it is going to do. It held on and we were able to run some pretty good lap times at the end, but I felt like I might have had a tire going down in the end. But maybe it was just all in my head.”
In order to score the victory Saturday evening, Thorn needed to fend off 10-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West winner David Mayhew.
“I felt like we were about the same speed for a bit,” Thorn stated. “It’s always a cat and mouse game of who is going to go first, and who is not going to. I’m just so proud of these guys at Campbell Motorsports for giving me such good equipment and the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s our first win of the year, as we have run up front in every race but we have been kind of snake bit by bad luck. It’s great to finally bring one home.”
Thorn opened the evening by setting fast time over the Kern County Raceway record 30-car field. His 17.424 second lap was 0.158 quicker than Mayhew, with the remainder of the top 15 closely bunched together. Mayhew drew the number-one starting spot, followed by Thorn, Blaine Rocha, Cale Kanke, Ricky Schlick, Jacob Gomes, Jeff Bischofberger and Buddy Shepherd, as all of the top-eight redrew for position.
Mayhew jumped out to an early lead, with Thorn falling back to fourth in the opening laps. By Lap 10, Thorn had worked his way back to second and made the low line work to make the winning pass on Mayhew on Lap 15. It was a pass Mayhew wasn’t too troubled about at the time.
“The race went well and we were just set to cruise the first fifty laps or so,” Mayhew explained. “When he got by us, I wasn’t really too concerned about it. I tried to go hard a couple times and we could get to him, but you could tell when he wanted to go, he could go. Towards the end, we started to get a little snug and a little loose off, so we went into conservation mode trying to baby the tires because we had such a bad time blistering tires at the (Winter) Showdown. To come home second, for a part-time deal, was a major improvement over where we were just a few months ago, so it was a major improvement.”
The first of only three yellows came out on Lap 16 when Brandon White’s strong run came to an end with a broken power steering pump. On the restart, Thorn was able to maintain a short lead as Mayhew fought off a bevy of challengers for second.
The final caution came out on Lap 92, when ignition box problems stalled the machine of Madera Speedway (CA) winner Jeremy Doss. Doss had worked his way up from the 17th starting spot into the top five, only to finish 21st. This gave Mayhew one last shot at Thorn in a final eight-lap shootout, but it was Mayhew who had to defend his position from Bischofberger.
On the restart, Thorn got a good start and Bischofberger lost some ground to Mayhew with only fourth gear. But two laps later, Bischofberger was hounding the rear bumper of Mayhew and pulled alongside with only a few laps to go. But at the finish it was Thorn winning, with Mayhew just holding onto second over Bischofberger.
“I was trying to save my tires and leave a little juice in them,” Bischofberger told Speed51.com. “I was really coming before the last restart, but I had to take the restart with my car stuck in fourth gear. That really hurt me, so I was pushing in the clutch and trying to get it to go, so I didn’t get as good of a restart. Then I was driving it the last few laps and it started to get a little tight. But at the end of the day I can’t complain as my brother (Allen) did a great job of crew chiefing it with Mike Doss and JD Motorsports with Jeremy (Doss) teaching me a little bit of race strategy, and my wife letting me come out here with an eight-day-old baby girl.”
“He (Bischofberger) was coming really hard, and on the restart he’s (spotter) saying you got four and a lap later he says you got two, and I’m like, ‘we’ve got trouble,’” Mayhew recalled about the final restart. “I gave him the bottom because I knew he was a little loose off. It is super hard at the end of these long runs to complete the pass. He drove us clean, we gave him the bottom and he was just a little too free underneath us to complete the pass.
“It’s good fun racing and it’s great when you can trust somebody who gets up underneath you lap after lap, especially 10 to 12 laps in a row. You’re waiting for the door to slam, but he drove a great race and we both made it to the finish without any incident.”
2017 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship runner-up Trevor Huddleston finished fourth, holding off Rookie of the Year point leader Buddy Shepherd.
Carlos Vieira worked his way up from the 15th starting spot to finish sixth ahead of two-time SRL winner Blaine Rocha, 2017 Rookie of the Year Ricky Schlick, 2015 PCS Champion John Moore and 2017 SRL winner Bobby Hodges.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Southwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Unofficial Finish: 1. Derek Thorn, 2. David Mayhew, 3. Jeff Bischofberger, 4. Trevor Huddleston*, 5. Buddy Shepherd*, 6. Carlos Vieira, 7. Blaine Rocha, 8. Ricky Schlick, John Moore, 10. Bobby Hodges, 11. Cale Kanke, 12. Kyle Neveau*, 13. Cole Moore*,14. Cole Cabrera*, 15. Jack Wood*, 16. Keith Spangler, 17. Bob Lyon, 18. Michael Sandoval, 19. Joe Farre’, 20. Dan Holtz, 21. Jeremy Doss, 22. Linny White, 23. Tanner Wattenbarger*, 24. Scott Sanchez, 25. Jim Wulfenstein, 26. Eric Schmidt, 27. Craig Raudman, 28. R.J. Johnson, 29 Jacob Gomes, 30. Brandon White.
*SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year Challenger.
FLUIDYNE “Cool Move of the Race”: Jeff Bischofberger
SRL Championship Standings – Top 10: 1. Derek Thorn 350, 2. Jeff Bischofberger 330, 3. Buddy Shepherd 310, 4. Carlos Vieira 300, T5. Jeremy Doss 280, T5. John Moore 280, T5. Ricky Schlick, 8. Cole Moore 258, 9. Cale Kanke 251, 10. Dan Holtz 249