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Derek Thorn seeking speed above all else in latest Snowball Derby effort

The two-time NASCAR West champion wants to take the Tom Dawson back to California

Jeff Ames | STS

The most recent winner in Super Late Model competition is also one of the most successful short trackers of his era.

But a victory in the SRL SPEARS Southwest Tour season finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring doesn’t portend anything as it pertains to Derek Thorn this week at the Snowball Derby.

But nevertheless, the two-time NASCAR Pro Series West champion, four-time Southwest Tour champion and 2017 Winter Showdown winner feels confident and capable in advance of the second race of the season.

“It doesn’t hurt to be the most recent winner, but Vegas is a different animal,” Thorn told Short Track Scene on Sunday night following a test session. “You’re not going to intimidate anyone here with that.”

READ MORE: Complete Snowball Derby coverage

This will be the fifth year that Thorn has made the trip from California to Pensacola with the Campbell Motorsports No. 43. It’s been a mixed bag of results with a third-place in their Derby debut together, a ninth-place the next year and two consecutive 12th-place finishes.

They’ve been good, but not quite elite, which is something they’re aiming for in 2019.

“It always seems like there are two race-winning cars every year that separate themselves and then there is a group of like 8-10 cars that are in that next tier,” Thorn said. “We’ve pretty much been stuck in that next tier.

“Pit stops have sometimes shuffled things up but with controlled cautions this year, you’re not going to have to get things back on pit road. And really, I think you’re going to see better competition because teams will have time to make changes to their cars instead rushing to change tires and get track position.”

READ MORE: Complete Snowball Derby coverage

Thorn believes that will be a strength for himself and Mike Keene.

“We’re going to treat this as one day at a time,” Thorn said. “That’s what we always do down here. It always starts with speed. You have to have speed. There’s no solution of you don’t speed. So that’s where it starts for us. We have a lot to work on.”

And as a result, the 34-year-old doesn’t allow himself to think about kissing the Tom Dawson Trophy – not even a little bit.

Not until he sees the checkered flag.

“I try not to tempt fate,” he said. “I keep saying it, but it’s going to take speed. I try not to think about winning. That’s not going to make us faster. I think about whatever it takes to be as fast as possible.”

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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