March 21, 2021
Five-time SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Champion Derek Thorn has had a long history of being snakebit, when it comes to prestigious Super Late Model events. While he has victories in some of these events, he has been in position to score multiple more over his career. Saturday night, he picked up a big win at his home track, scoring $10,000 in the Sixth Annual "Winter Showdown 150" at Kern County Raceway. He joins Bubba Pollard as the only two-time winner of the event, after holding off 2018 runner-up Buddy Shepherd, 2014 ARCA Menards Pro Series West Championship Runner-up Dylan Lupton, three-time Summer Showdown winner Preston Peltier, and 2015 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Champ Jacob Gomes.
Despite leading nearly every lap, it still wasn't a win without concern for Thorn, as misfortune was lurking at seemingly every corner of the racetrack. As the event neared it's close, Thorn began to feel like the race may get away from him, as so many have, due to misfortune.
"I think I had a flat tire", Thorn estimated. "The last two or three laps, the car all of a sudden started to do some weird stuff. The Winter Showdown, any Showdown, or any big show like this, we always seem to be snakebit. I'm glad we were snakebit (at the end), because it all counted. We were able to complete all 150 laps and I can't thank all these guys enough."
Thorn continued, "It really took a long time to get to two (Showdown victories). I was telling Mike (Keen), with about 25 laps to go, that it is always something with these Showdowns. Those restarts really didn't help at all. But luckily Mike made some great changes at the halfway break for the last 75 laps. We were kinda able to get the lead, and the car stayed strong, even with all the heat cycles on the tires. I can't thank Byron and Carol Campbell enough. We had a hard start to the year and didn't have any luck at the All-Star Showdown. Fortunately, this was only 150 laps."
The win was special for Thorn, as he remembered one of the racing communities' biggest supporters in the Bakersfield, CA area. James Vernon was a key piece to the puzzle, when it came to the creation of Kern County Raceway, after Mesa Marin Raceway was closed. Without his input, it is doubtful the new state of the art facility would have been built. After his passing last week, Thorn dedicated his victory to the Vernon family, and his friend James.
"This win was for James Vernon, Thorn exclaimed! "One final ride around Kern County Raceway. It was an honor to know him and an honor to know the family. It was awesome that he was getting to ride with us, and it was a big special moment for all of us."
Saturday's Winter Showdown found Preston Peltier drawing first blood, by setting the "PFC Brakes Zero Drag Fast Time Award", at 17.526 seconds around the ½-mile "D" shaped oval. He just beat out Dan Holtz for the honors by 0.016 seconds. Thorn, Jacob Gomes, Buddy Shepherd, Dean Thompson, Christian McGhee and Tracy Bolin rounded out the top eight qualifiers, who then redrew for position in the Fast-Qualifying Heat.
For this event, the SRL ran Heat Races for positioning in the "Winter showdown 150". Christian McGhee was able to score the win in the Fast Heat to earn the Pole Position in the feature. Derek Thorn drove from seventh to finish runner-up and earn the desirable outside pole position. Dylan Lupton won Heat Race #2 to start ninth, with Carlos Vieira victorious in the Heat Race #3 to start 10th.