Derek Thorn was the last man standing in a wild west showdown at Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday night, when the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series invaded the historic facility for the “JM Environmental Wild West Shootout – Shoot to Thrill 127 presented by 51 FIFTY LTM.”
Thorn scored his record setting 44th career SRL win and fifth at Stockton, by wrangling a three-wide pass for the lead, just before the lap 64 midrace break. The win was worth $5,000 to the Lakeport, CA native, thanks to the “Winner’s Bonus” from Senneker Performance.
The record-breaking win for Thorn was predicated by a record setting moment in qualifying. Thorn posted a 12.967 lap on the ¼-mile oval, to garner his 58thcareer “PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award”. It broke the Track Record set by Mike Mendenhall in 2009 at 13.084. It was the first time a Late Model had turned a 12-second lap at the facility. He also scored an additional $500 from JM Environmental Inc. for the accomplishment. 19 of the 20 drivers were less than 0.5 seconds off of the pole.
The unique feature started straight-up, so Thorn lined-up on the inside of the front row, for the initial start. He was flanked by his teammate Carlos Vieira, who got the jump in the preferred outside groove. There were battles throughout the field, but by lap 10 the top-10 were in a tightly bunched single file line led by Vieira, Thorn, Eric Schmidt, Tyler Fabozzi and Jacob Gomes. The field ran clean and green through lap 27, when Vieira picked up an extra $1,000 from JM Environmental Inc, for leading that lap.
The first caution came out on lap 36, when Jason Gilbert broke a rear end, and Andy Allen couldn’t avoid the slowing Gilbert. Both drivers retired and Blaine Rocha dropped out with an oil leak, after breaking into the top-five in his new Super Late Model purchased from Lucas Jones. The restart found Vieira choosing the outside lane, fending off Thorn, Schmidt, Linny White and Jacob Gomes. As the field began to approach the mid-race break, Thorn and Schmidt were ratcheting up the intensity, with Thorn making repeated attempts on the high side in turns 1 and 2, while Schmidt was running up the inside of Thorn.
On lap 60, Thorn was trapped on the high side, behind his teammate Vieira, as the trio entered turn one. With Schmidt getting under both Thorn and Vieira, the four-time SRL Champion put his nose to the outside of Vieira making it three-wide off turn two. The trio raced down the back stretch three-wide, with Thorn wrestling the lead from Vieira, with Schmidt to second and in pursuit. The action only calmed when the halfway break was reached on lap 64.
Thorn recalled the race winning pass, which earned him the “FLUIDYNE High Performance Cool Move of the Race.”
“The car was rolling pretty good in (turns) one and two on the outside, and it was where I was practicing all day. Carlos was running the bottom and I was trying to roll the top on him, cause I couldn’t get him on the bottom. So, I rolled the top and eventually Schmidt got up next to me. Carlos entered one a little bit lower than before, and it allowed me to roll the outside of Carlos a little bit.
Thorn continued, “Obviously at that point you are kinda racing the spotter, so Bryan Brown, the spotter for Carlos, I’m glad he called me outside. It could have gone either way. So, I rolled the outside on Carlos and made a beeline for turn three, and from there we were just able to maintain or monitor where we were at on the racetrack.”
Eric Schmidt was able to parlay the move into his advancement to second at the halfway break.
“It was just an opportunity”, Schmidt recalled. “Derek was committed to the top and I was committed to the bottom and Carlos was committed to the middle. None of us lifted and luckily, we all got out of there intact. It was fun. This little place here, you can’t just check up or you will lose three or four car lengths. Luckily going into three, you’ve got room to do that. No where else can you do that other than maybe Irwindale. It was an opportunity that we took advantage of to get to second.”
The second half of the event calmed down at the very front, with Thorn able to slowly pull out a lead on Schmidt. But a ferocious battle for third, between Jacob Gomes and Linny White, waged on behind the two leaders. Each caution, the two contestants would swap the position, battling side by side, lap after lap. The final restart of the race, on lap 103 for Tracy Bolin riding the top of the turn three and four wall, found White in the preferred upper groove, eventually fighting to the third position. Gomes fought back, moving White up the track to take the lead inside five laps to go. White retuned the favor a lap later, with Gomes falling to fifth. The two series regulars would finish in those positions, with Vieira taking advantage to finish fourth.
“The top line was the preferred line here, and we were just fighting for it”, White explained. “We had a good run together, we were bouncing off of each other, but we kept it pretty clean. He got me getting into three, and I tried to cross him over. We got down into one, and I anticipated him driving in a little bit harder, but he didn’t drive in as hard as I anticipated and I got into him a little bit and it put him up the track. I really slowed up to let him gather it back up. When I realized he was going to gather it back up, I went ahead and took the position. We had a good time. He got out of the car with a smile on his face, and I got out with a smile on my face. There was no ill intention, it was just good hard racing.”
Gomes recalled the same pass, at the end of the event.
“We went back and forth a little bit, then he got me pretty good. It got us sideways and I got it gathered back up without spinning it out. I wasn’t giving up like that. Carlos got by us when that happened. I gathered it up and kept going. It was all good. I have had horrible runs lately, but it’s good to be back going in the right direction again.”
For four-time series champion, Derek Thorn, the key to his second half domination was a man who he has come to rely on over the years, to always make the right adjustments during the race.
“Mike Keen is good at the halfway break tweaks”, Thorn admitted. “He is a seasoned professional when it comes to that stuff. I’m lucky to have him. He is the one who makes these cars fast. Byron and Carol Campbell are the ones who put this whole program together and have given us the opportunity to chase trophy’s and race races that I would have never had the opportunity to do. To have the success we have had, to have another win, to run well at a track that I have a love-hate relationship with at Stockton is great. It seems like everything always get torn up here, but we came out of here pretty good. Mike did a good job with this thing, and I can’t thank the team enough for their hard work.”
15 of the 20 starters finished the event, with 11 drivers completing all 127 laps. Dean Thompson earned the “Coleman Powersports Hard Charger Award”, by improving nine positions to score his first series top-10 finish, in 10th. Matt Wendt was the top “Rookie of the Race”, finishing ninth, for his best career finish. The next event for the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series will be at Irwindale Speedway in two weeks. The “Spears Manufacturing RJ Allen Inc. 100” will be the fourth of 10 events in the 2020 season.
- Derek Thorn
- Eric Schmidt
- Linny White
- Carlos Vieira
- Jacob Gomes
- Cole Moore
- John Moore
- Tyler Fabozzi
- Matt Wendt
- Dean Thompson
- Tim Spurgeon
- Kyle Neveau
- Mike Beeler
- Scott Sanchez
- Joey Iest
- Tracy Bolin
- Blaine Rocha
- Randy Hedrick
- Jason Gilbert
- Andy Allen