When you talk about Super Late Model racing at Kern County Raceway, the name Derek Thorn is usually involved in the conversation. It was no different on Sunday during the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour race, as the Bakersfield, California driver took control of the race in the second half to win the Bullwark FR October Classic 175.
The weekend started off with qualifying on Saturday, as Thorn set the pace on the weekend and put down the fastest lap. After the redraw for the top eight, Thorn drew a four and started from the outside of the second row.
Jack Wood drew the pole but Wood’s luck ran out there, as he was unable to start the race after his car began having electrical issues while pulling in the pits from pre-race ceremonies. That put Jacob Gomes and Ricky Schlick on the front row for the 175-lap feature.
The biggest incident on the day came out on lap 21 when the red flag was displayed after Tracy Bolin made hard contact with the outside wall in turn two. Joe Farre was also involved in the incident.
The race layout and procedures mirrored that of a smaller version Winter Showdown. The race was 175 laps with controlled cautions. Teams were allowed eight tires total in the race but could only change two tires per stop.
No drivers opted for tires during the first chance that they had. This set up a restart with Gomes and Doss on the front row. The two drivers battled for a few laps until Doss took the top spot. Doss held onto the lead until the first controlled caution came out on lap 63.
Gomes and Craig Raudman were the only lead lap cars to stay on track while the remainder of the field came down for their first two tires, fuel and adjustments.
Even on old tires, Gomes was able to hold onto the lead for seven more laps until Thorn made the pass for the lead. Gomes slowly slid back positions, giving Doss second place after a nearly 15-lap battle for the position.
Thorn only needed that one pass for the win as he led the final 101 laps of the race after making the right adjustments on the final stops to secure the win.
It was a busy weekend for Thorn as he also secured the 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship on Saturday night at Kern County.
“We were bouncing back and forth all weekend between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car and SRL car,” Thorn told Speed51.com. “I thought we had a really good balance on it, but as the track started to rubber up by lap 20 or 30 the track got really tight. I’m just proud of Mike Keen, he made some changes the first stop that got us out front and made some more changes that second segment that just made the car that much better. My hats off to him for making the right call at the right time.”
Thorn debuted his Fury chassis for the first time at the Winter Showdown and said it was a learning experience with it. Now, that success rubbed off on other racers on the west coast including Gomes as he was right up front in the battle with Thorn and Doss most of the race.
“I was happy for Gomes. They joined on with that new Fury car, so I guess we’re kind of teammates now, more or less in a roundabout way with the support of Fury,” Thorn stated. “He had a good run going, the car seemed a little tight. Doss was fast the first segment, I don’t know if they made some changes and dialed themselves out of it or we made enough changes to catapult back in front of them. It was cool to be behind the wheel battling with them.”
The race layout was similar to the Winter Showdown and gives a little preview to what the race could look like in February. Thorn enjoyed how the flow of the race went.
“I liked the layout a lot, felt like it was a good combination. Kept us from having to change all four (tires) at once. It brought a little bit of strategy into it but didn’t over complicate things. The cars were really good at the end of the race,” said Thorn.
Doss knew he had a car to beat early in the race, but after the first pit stop things started turning back.
“The first 60-70 laps the car was really good. We came in and got some left-side tires and the car just wasn’t the same after that. We fought the car there at the end,” said a frustrated Doss.
Coming into Kern County Raceway, Doss had a 40 point lead over Eric Schmidt. With just one race left it will come down to the end to decide this year’s champion. Doss has had his struggles at Kern County recently and took it as a positive to finish up front.
“All in all it was a good points night as we gained another five points. Hopefully we can go back to Vegas and have a good run,” Doss said. “It feels good, I don’t think Thorn was any faster than anybody at the beginning of the race, he just didn’t slow down like the rest of us did. It was a high note for us considering we DNF’d the last few times here and finished up front this time.”
The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour will head to the The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on November 17 to decide the series champion in a $10,000 to win race.
To relive all the action from this weekend’s October Classic at Kern County Raceway Park visit Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
-Story by: Jeremy Anders, Speed51.com Northwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Kyler Hope
SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Unofficial Results
October 28, 2018 – Kern County Raceway (CA)
Pos # Driver
1 43 Derek Thorn
2 75 Jeremy Doss
3 05 Eric Schmidt
4 20 Cole Moore
5 2 Craig Raudman
6 7 Austin Herzog
7 16 Jacob Gomes
8 27 John Moore
9 21 Blaine Rocha
10 51 Carlos Vieira
11 71 Kyle Neveau
12 98 Tanner Wattenbarger
13 44 Bob Lyon
14 111 John Dillon
15 26 Andy Allen
16 12 Jim Wulfenstein
17 10 Dylan Lupton
18 24 Scott Sanchez
19 66 Jeff Bischoffberger
20 23 Dan Holtz
21 1 Matt Wendt
22 33 Cale Kanke
23 55 Joe Farre
24 48 Ricky Schlick
25 08 Jace Hansen
26 11 Tracy Bolin
DNS 18 Jack Wood