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Bakersfield's Thorn claims seventh straight victory, $26,000 payout in Stockton

Derek Thorn

Five-time SRL Southwest Tour Series champion Derek Thorn finished first at the JM Environmental Wild West Shootout in Stockton on Saturday.

With a first-place finish at the JM Environmental Wild West Shootout in Stockton on Saturday, Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn won his seventh consecutive Spears SRL Southwest Tour race.

The victory stretched Thorn’s overall lead to nearly 100 points with two races remaining, as he eyes a sixth championship. It also earned Thorn his biggest single purse of the year so far: a total of $26,000 in prize money.

Thorn credited Campbell Motorsports owners Byron and Carol Campbell for supplying “everything we could ever ask for to put forth our best effort,” and praised Mike Keene for his work on the car throughout the winning streak.

“It’s just a testament to all the time and effort and energy put into it,” Thorn said.

As part of the “To the Back Challenge,” Thorn and four other drivers who finished top-eight in qualifying elected to start the race from the rear. A winner from the back would receive $15,000 in addition to the standard $10,000 prize.

The value of the prize had increased by $5,000 for each race. Thorn said that this escalation, plus the Stockton race’s protracted length, enticed the five racers.

“It’s 227 laps, which is abnormally long for us,” he said. “Usually it’s about 127, so I think everybody’s mindset was, it’s a long race, a lot of things can happen, there’s only 21 cars.”

Only one driver, Christian McGhee, had previously attempted the challenge, according to a press release, and he didn’t win. But this time, after an onslaught of caution flags, Thorn emerged as the winner, edging 2015 series champion Jacob Gomes and claiming the hefty prize. He also nabbed an extra $1,000 for leading at lap 127.

Thorn is now two races away from another series championship. Despite finishing 26th in the 2021 All-Star Showdown on Feb. 6 in Irwindale, when he encountered tire issues, Thorn sits in first place with 1,345 points. He has built a 99-point lead over second-place Gomes of Manteca and a 114-point lead over third-place Rookie of the Year candidate Buddy Shepherd, a Bakersfield native.

Thorn has been so superior since March that Motor City Buick GMC has placed a bounty on his head: a driver who beats Thorn in Roseville on Sept. 18 or in Bakersfield on Oct. 23 will earn $3,000 or $3,500, respectively. He expressed gratitude that the bounty, along with the race livestreams on SPEARSRacing.tv, has brought attention to the series.

“It allows you to look back,” he said, “and just be humbled that we’ve had such a good run of success.”

If no one secures the bonus, Thorn himself will claim an extra $3,500 en route to his sixth title.

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.

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