Two-time SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour champion Derek Thorn put his stamp on his third start in the prestigious Snowball Derby, finishing in third in the 300 lap wintertime classic. Over 60 drivers flocked from across the country to compete at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL for the largest asphalt Late Model race in the nation.
Thorn piloted the Campbell Motorsports / Surface Pumps Inc / Hronis Racing / Kern County Raceway Park #43 owned by Byron and Carol Campbell to his best career finish at the derby, topping a ninth place run in 2013. The Campbell Motorsports team persevered over a litany of mechanical issues in the opening days of practice with their newly acquired GARC chassis with Freight Train horsepower. After repairs, Thorn instantly made an impact when he topped the charts for the final practice on Friday.
“The whole team had to really come together during Thursdays practice to over come a driveline failure. When those things come loose it tears up everything, transmission, bell housing, starter, driveshaft, yokes and interior sheet metal," Thorn said. "Fortunately we had the parts to replace everything that broke it just cut into the days practice. However, we had a great car and were able to go right to the top of the board in the days final practice session.”
In Friday's qualifying, Thorn clicked off a 16.300 second lap around the half-mile which locked him in 11th for the start of the 47th Annual Snowball Derby.
Fresh off their 2014 championship, the #88 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pit crew was on hand for pit stops, and with Crew Chief Mike Keen on the wrenches, Thorn went to work. At the lap 50 mark, Thorn was riding in 14th position and he fell to 18th by 1/3rd race distance. The first round of pit stops propelled the Lakeport native to ninth and he improved to eighth by lap 150.
A competition caution on lap 193 saw all of the leaders pit, and Thorn jump up to fifth and in contention with 100 laps of racing left to go. Racing action was halted on lap 220 with a lengthy red flag after a fire and Thorn restarted ninth. By lap 280 Thorn overhauled ARCA standout Grant Enfinger for fifth and a late caution on lap 295 changed everything. Thorn pitted while some of the leaders stayed out, but used fresh tires to place himself squarely into a three-wide battle where he emerged second as the leaders tangled around him.
Thorn fought it out with Dalton Sargeant and John Hunter Nemecheck through a pair of late race restarts as the race was extended to 323 laps. The 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series, West champion eventually finished third.
“We’ve had a lot of success at Campbell Motorsports over the past handful of years and I had no doubt that we’d run competitively here at the derby, but a third place run at one of the toughest races in the country is a huge testament to this team," Thorn said. "Just to qualify for this race is intense let alone running the race. We had our share of ups and downs throughout the race but at the end of the night when it counted everything and everyone came together and I’m just so proud to have such a great group of guys and gals that made this whole weekend a success."
Race fans can follow Derek Thorn on his Twitter page @DerekThorn6 and can also learn more on his official website at www.derekthorn.com
-Blakesley Sports Media Press Release. Photo Credit: Blakesley Sports Media