Derek Thorn Hangs on for October Classic Win at Kern County Raceway

Derek Thorn Hangs on for October Classic Win at Kern County Raceway

Derek Thorn showed why he was voted one of the top-10 short track drivers in the nation over the last decade, as he led all but one lap of the “JM Environmental Wild West Shootout Round #3 Boogie Man 100 presented by KHI Management Inc.”. Despite that fact, the win was not an easy one, as he faced pressure throughout the event from various drivers in the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series October Classic field. One of those was Preston Peltier.

“The “54” (Peltier) has a bright orange front end, so it is very visible. I looked in that mirror and there was a lot of it for a long time”, Thorn chuckled. “It’s one of those things, driving for Byron and Carol Campbell and having Mike (Keen) working on these things. We have always been consistent. Kern has always been one of those tracks where you have to be spot-on here, against Rowdy’s (Jace Hansen) and Preston (Peltier). We got track position early and we were able to maintain. Tires were a big concern the whole race, whether or not they were going to blister and stay underneath us. We definitely got a tire vibration towards the end. One of the tires was starting to vibrate, and fortunately we ran out of laps.”

Preston Peltier got the day started by setting the PFC Brakes “Zero Drag Fast Time” Award, turning a lap of 17.463 seconds. 20 of the 25 drivers qualified within a half second, with Jace Hansen, Dan Holtz, Christian McGhee and Derek Thorn completing the top-five. The top-eight re-draw found Thorn drawing the pole position followed by Holtz, Jacob Gomes, Brandon Farrington, Peltier, Mark Neff, Hansen, and McGhee.

The 100-lap event got off to a quick start, with Thorn getting the jump, racing to the lead in the slower inside groove. Gomes was able to advance to second, as Holtz fell to third. The first caution flew on lap-18 for debris, as Thorn was able to hold off the advances of Gomes, with Peltier also challenging Holtz on the inside line for third. The restart allowed Peltier to advance to second in the outside groove, as Gomes and Holtz settled in behind him. A competition caution fell on lap-25, with Hansen advancing into the top-five in fifth, as the teams were able to make adjustments at the break.

The restart had the leaders maintaining position, with the third and fourth position changing hands between Gomes and Holtz. Thorn picked up an extra $1,000, from JM Environmental, for leading lap-27, just before a quick debris caution slowed action on lap 28. The field ran green until lap 46, when Linny White spun into the inside wall from eighth position, after advancing from 10th. During that period, Thorn and Peltier had run side by side for a good portion of the segment, with Thorn keeping Peltier pinched down in the lower groove. Hansen had also moved under Holtz, to get the fourth position for the desired outside restart.

Upon the resumption of action, Hansen joined the lead battle. The lead trio pulled away from the fourth-place battle between Gomes and McGhee. The lead trio ran in formation, with Peltier challenging on the inside of Thorn, while Hansen filled the whole on the outside behind Thorn. The triad battled back and forth, with Peltier leading lap 50, and earning $500 from AKM Maintenance. The caution once again flew, for a spin by Mark Neff, who had suffered suspension issues. Upon the lap 65 restart, the battle now included McGhee, as the top-four ran in formation. On lap 63, Hansen and McGhee went by Peltier in a three-wide move down the back stretch, a move that earned Hansen the Fluidyne High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”. Two laps later, Peltier stopped in Turn 4 with a tire going down. Hansen emerged in the second position with McGhee, Gomes, and Holtz the top-five.

The final restart saw Thorn resume the lead, with Gomes using the outside line to get by McGhee. Hansen pressured Thorn numerous times to the inside, but was unable to complete the pass. McGhee and Gomes also battled for third, with McGhee finally getting by with 10 laps to go. He began to slowly close on the lead duo, but ran out of time when the checkered came out on lap 100, handing Thorn his 47th career victory.

McGhee was very happy with the performance of the Garcia Racing Team’s new Fury Race Cars Super Late Model. The third-place finish was very encouraging for the San Clemente, CA driver, tying a career best. But he felt he could have finished better, with more favorable track position.

“We got a little off-track in qualifying, with it being a little loose with no drive off”, McGhee explained. “It carried into the race until the first break on lap-25. They made a great adjustment, but track position is such a key here, and we were back in seventh or eighth for the first 50 laps. It’s hard to come back, from that far back, and catch Thorn when he had the golden horseshoe, and pulled a “one”. It kinda makes it hard when you’re at track like this, when track position is such a key. Everybody has pretty much equal cars, and you’ve got to be quite a bit quicker to pass on the bottom.”

The 2016 SRL Rookie-of-the-Year continued, “At the end, I stayed behind Gomes a little to long. I was waiting for a caution (for an outside restart position) to come out, after how the race went, but we didn’t get one. When it was time to go, the 43 (Thorn) and the 08 (Hansen) where too far gone. I started to gain on them, and with five to go I was picking up half a tenth to a tenth (of a second), but I just ran out of time.”

Jace Hansen also had his best career finish in the series, after finishing third in the SRL Rookie-of-the-Year battle in 2019, after missing one event. Hansen was very happy with the teams new Rowdy Manufacturing Super Late Model but will be looking for a one position improvement, when the series heads to the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“It was an all-around good weekend for us, with this new Rowdy Race Cars car”, Hansen began. “We had good speed all weekend and it made it easier on us. It put us right where we want to be, but we need to get just a little more, obviously.”

Hansen continued, “Those two (Thorn and Peltier) were racing side-by-side pretty hard for quite a few laps. I was trying to save and to save. I could kinda roll in with them because they were battling so hard. I started to hang with them because Preston and Thorn would kinda get together, and I was like “hey, if they bobble, I can make a move here”. I think I just burned up the right rear a little bit, trying to keep pace with them that early in the race. I should have let them battle it out for a while and come back a little later. All in all, it was a really good weekend for us. I can’t complain about finishing second in this series. There are a lot of good guys here. We had a good week and we just need a little bit more.”

Trailing McGhee at the finish was three-time Tucson Speedway Super Late Model Track Champion Brandon Farrington, who battled past Gomes in the closing laps, to score the “Rookie-of-the-Race” Award. 2015 SRL Champion Gomes, was able to hold off Dan Holtz over the last two laps to claim the final top-five position. The second five consisted of the two-time Mesa Marin (CA) Super Late Model Champion Holtz, former NASCAR Northwest Tour Series Champion John Dillon, two-time SRL winner Blaine Rocha, 100th start driver Carlos Vieira and All American 400 bound driver Kyle Neveau, who earned the Coleman Powersports “Hard Charger” Award. 19 cars completed all 100 laps, in the seventh of nine events of the season.

After the race, Thorn was thankful for his team and sponsors for their hard work and support.

“I really want to thank my sponsors, Jim Putnum, with Power Grade Inc., Santa Maria Brewing Company, Double Eagle Transportation, H&M Motorsports, 51 FIFTY, Race for Autism, Reeves Complete Auto Center, AP Brakes, Joes Racing Products, Swift Springs, Joiner Motorsports and Fury Race Cars as well as all the guys who work so hard to make this program successful.”

The next event for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series is the $10,000-to-win “Retro Custom Metals 137” from the Bullring at LVMS on November 21st. Derek Thorn was the winner of last season’s event, where 31 cars appeared. Last minute emergencies prevented top-eight drivers Cole Moore (3rd), Tyler Fabozzi (5th) and John Moore (8th) from appearing, which will result in a shake-up of the championship standings.


  1. Derek Thorn, 2. Jace Hansen, 3. Christian McGhee, 4. Brandon Farrington*, Jacob Gomes, 6. Dan Holtz, 7. John Dillon, 8. Blaine Rocha, 9. Carlos Vieira, 10. Kyle Neveau, 11. Buddy Shepherd*, 12. Cale Kanke, 13. Chris Clyne, 14. Keith Spangler, 15. Eric Schmidt, 16. Joey Iest*, 17. Dean Thompson*, 18. Bobby Hodges, 19. Jim Vermillion, 20. Scott Sanchez, 21. Preston Peltier, 22. Mark Neff*, 23. Linny White, 24. Andy Allen, 25. Thane Alderman

*Rookie-of-the-Year Contender