Thorn caps off SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Season with $10,000 Win in Las Vegasadmin
Three crowns were decided Saturday night, at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV). Derek Thorn won the night by taking home the $10,000 winner’s prize, and a custom trophy from long-time series supporter David Mulcahy in the “Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse”. Tyler Fabozzi took home the 2019 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Rookie of the Year Award. And Cole Moore took home the biggest prize of all, by winning the season, and the 2019 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series Championship. All three drivers were pleased with their results, although Thorn would have like to have both the race win and the championship.
“It is really cool to be here (Victory Lane) finally at the final event of the season”, Thorn told the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series. “It seems like we are either here for the championship, and we don’t win the race, or we miss the championship, because we missed a race, but we won the race itself. It’s kind of a take one, give one kind of deal.”
The evening started with Bobby Hodges throwing down a quick lap of 14.216 seconds, to score the PFC Brakes “Zero Drag Fast Time Award” by 0.004 seconds over Dylan Lupton, in the 31-car field. He led a top eight that also included Tyler Fabozzi, Craig Raudman, Blaine Rocha, Derek Thorn and John Moore. The top-25 cars were separated by less than half a second, in the tightly bunched field.
Dylan Lupton pulled the #1 pill to start on the Pole, alongside the 2016 event winner Blaine Rocha. Championship contenders Cole Moore and Linny White both missed the redraw, and started outside the top eight. Thorn, who missed one event in 2019, drew the number seven. For White, carburetor troubles resulted in a 24th place start, after pulling out of line to repair it. Moore qualified in the 11th position.
Upon the initial green, Lupton jumped out to a short-lived lead, as forth starting Tyler Fabozzi stormed to the lead on lap seven. Lupton was quickly shuffled back, outside the top-five, in the less than desired outer groove. Rocha took up chase of Fabozzi, but it was John Moore who was on the move. The 2015 Pacific Challenge Series Champion charged to the front on lap 38, to earn the FLUIDYNE High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”, just before the second of only two cautions in the first 75 lap segment.
By the lap 39 caution, Thorn had progressed to fourth, with Cole Moore cracking the top-six. By lap 60, Thorn had moved to third, behind J. Moore and Fabozzi, with Linny White up to seventh behind C. Moore. A few laps later, White was able to maneuver by C. Moore, while both tried to follow Craig Raudman through the field, in his final start on his “Farewell Tour”. As the lap 75 halftime break approached, Raudman was able to move by both Rocha and Thorn, to position himself in the third position.
The half-time standings showed John Moore leading Fabozzi, Raudman, Thorn, White, Cole Moore, Rocha, Eric Schmidt, Christian McGhee and Fast Timer Bobby Hodges.
The first of only two second-half yellows flew on lap 77, with Thorn back to fifth, behind the charging White. Upon the restart, Thorn was able to use the preferred inside groove to get by White and make his way up through the field. By lap 90, he was pressuring J. Moore for the lead. A slip by Moore allowed Thorn to take the lead on lap 92, but Moore remained within striking distance, until he exited on lap 112 with a broken ring and pinion in the rear end. In the meantime, Cole Moore and Raudman were engaged in a spirited duel for the fourth position, as White began to slowly close on Thorn for the lead.
A lap 128 yellow would give White the opportunity to close the gap on Thorn, and create a 22-lap shootout to the end (White could win the championship with a victory and a Cole Moore fourth-place finish.). Unfortunately for White, however, the outside groove would play a large role in his chances for victory. Upon the restart, White dropped back and lost contact with the leader as Raudman would get back by Cole Moore to occupy the fourth position. As the laps wound down, Fabozzi gave his best effort to catch Thorn, as White closed the gap on Fabozzi. In the end it wasn’t enough, as Thorn took the $10,000 win, with now 2019 Rookie of the Year Fabozzi in second. White would finish third, nine points behind Cole Moore, who settled for his seventh top-five finish, behind Craig Raudman. Christian McGhee would recover to finish sixth, in front of Rocha, Carlos Vieira, Hodges and Kyle Neveau. Keith Spangler and Dylan Lupton were the final lead lap finishers. 19 of the 28 starters took the checkered flag.
After the win, Thorn was quick to credit Mike Keen, for the changes made at halftime, that resulted in the Campbell Motorsport driver’s victory.
“I thought we had a third or fourth place car there at the halfway break”, Thorn estimated. “I tried to save what I could, but Mike (Keen) made some awesome adjustments, and it really brought the car to life after the halfway break. And it allowed us to get the lead and control the pace. From there it was just a matter of saving tires and keep the gap behind us the best we could, and hope the race was going to stay green.”
Although Thorn finished a mere 29 points out of the championship, he was grateful for those changes, as well as the team’s effort throughout the weekend and the season.
“I really want to thank Byron and Carol Campbell, as well as Mike and Vicki Keen. I’ve gotta thank all these boys right here, Sal, Steve, Adrian and all those guys that keep us going all year round. I think that it at least gives us (the win) a little momentum heading to the Snowball Derby.”
Finishing second was Tyler Fabozzi. It was his best career finish in the SRL, despite two additional top-five efforts.
“We had a great car at the start of the race”, Fabozzi began. “But as we got further into the race, I think I pushed too hard and started to burn the tires off, while other guys were saving their stuff. We made a few adjustments at the break. We came out of the break and once again I drove the thing a little hard, and got the brakes too hot. Once I got the car gathered back up, we were able to make a solid run, but it wasn’t enough to get around the 43-car (Thorn). But we will be back!
Linny White finished third, and earned the Coleman Powersports “Hard Charger Award”. He had a great season, but it was the beginning of the championship season that hurt the veteran driver. Two DNF’s in the first three events, created a hole that he was just short of crawling out of. But a new Rowdy Manufacturing Super Late Model, led to his success in the final two-thirds of the season.
“We started out a little bit rocky with the old car”, White told the crowd. “We built this car about the third or fourth race. We had new car blues at the first race (at the Bullring), and then we’ve just been lights out ever since. The car was really good, but I had to use it up, because we had a mechanical failure earlier during qualifying (carburetor). I should be excited, but I’m a little disappointed. I felt like if I would’ve done what I needed to do, and win the race tonight, we’d be standing there as a champion. But my hats off to Cole (Moore). Derek (Thorn), he’s always great and always good, so congratulations to him (for the win).”
One driver, who will not be back full-time next season, is the 2001 NASCAR Southwest Tour Series Champion Craig Raudman. One would never know that the 25+ year veteran of the series was on his way out. A solid fourth place run had the veteran driver excited, but also thinking about what could have been.
“You know, tonight I felt so good”, Raudman began. “I never got sweaty or anything. The car drove really good during the first half. The car got a little tight in the second half, and I lost some spots, but all-in-all, compared to what we had Friday night, it’s a virtual miracle we ran as well as we did. We had a great car, but you can’t win every-one.
“I think if we hadn’t made the changes we did at the break, we would have finished a whole lot better, but that’s the risk you take”, Raudman speculated. “In racing you only get one shot. You take your chance, make a decision, and you can’t take it back. I make mistakes, we all make mistakes. We are all a team, and we are in this together. Our common goal is to win, and we came up a little short tonight.”
Despite the strong finish, taking the checkered flag was bitter-sweet for the west coast star. The final event of the season was the end of his full-time participation in the series, that he has participated in for so long. He will miss the competition and the friends he has made.
“I’m just trying to figure out my emotions right now”, Raudman volunteered. “It hasn’t set in, that this is it, that this is the end. The biggest thing I think about, the racing stuff, is all the people. I’ll miss all the people. I’ll still be going to some racing stuff, but I don’t know, it’s hard to say. It is just so much. I’ve been doing this deal for 25-years in this series, and it’s a lot of people, friends I know, and people I call my good friends. It’s just gonna be different.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the young-gun Cole Moore. Moore had a great season that was exemplified by his consistency. He had seven top-five finishes in the nine events, and finished outside the top-10 only one time. The new champion was still waiting for the concept of the championship to hit him, but the race proved a roller coaster of emotions.
“Oh man, I don’t think it has hit me yet”, Moore explained. “That race was just so intense, and I think the points might have gone back and forth a few times during the race. I know the battle on the track went back and forth with me and Linny, late.”
Moore continued, “Wow, it was a crazy year and I wish we would have had a win, but it feels like we did. It doesn’t feel like we didn’t have a win, because we led a lot of laps. Overall it was just an amazing freaking experience this year. We put forth a championship effort. I can’t thank my sponsors and all the people who help me enough.”
The fifth-place finish was just good enough to bring home the championship, but the handling of his Super Late Model, during the event, gave him cause for alarm.
“I was very concerned (about the championship)”, Moore admitted. “My car wasn’t the car it was in practice. Maybe we had a bad (mismatched) set of tires or something. It just made it that much more to remember, I guess. It all played out well for us and we took advantage of some restarts to make some moves and make it happen.”
The 2020 championship season will begin on February 1st, at Irwindale Speedway. The All-Star Showdown will pay $25,000-to-win, at the beginning of what is sure to be the biggest season to date. With a new series record for car-count in 2019, with 27.1 cars per event, the upward trend is sure to continue in 2020.
Results: 1. Derek Thorn, 2. Tyler Fabozzi*, 3. Linny White, 4. Craig Raudman, 5. Cole Moore, 6. Christian McGhee, 7. Blaine Rocha, 8. Carlos Vieira, 9. Bobby Hodges, 10. Kyle Neveau, 11. Keith Spangler, 12. Dylan Lupton, 13. Bob Lyon, 14. Tracy Bolin, 15. Eric Schmidt, 16. Jacob Gomes, 17. Mike Beeler, 18. Andy Allen, 19. Scott Gafforini, 20. Randy Hedrick, 21. John Moore, 22. Scott Sanchez, 23. Dan Holtz, 24. Bear Rzesnowiecky, 25. Dylan Cappello*, 26. Eric Nascimento Jr.*, 27. Jesse Love*, 28. Jace Hansen*