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Thorn can seal 6th championship at Kern County Raceway Park on Saturday

Derek Thorn (copy)

In this file photo, Derek Thorn poses with the trophy after winning the JM Environmental Wild West Shootout in Stockton in August.

Derek Thorn is poised to claim his sixth Spears SRL Southwest Tour championship in his home base of Bakersfield.

Thorn has won eight straight races since finishing 26th in the 2021 All-Star Showdown on Feb. 6. He holds a 119-point lead over second-place Jacob Gomes of Manteca heading into Saturday’s Bulwark FR October Classic at Kern County Raceway Park, where he has already won two races during his hot streak.

Even if Gomes finishes first on Saturday, Thorn would only need a 34th-place finish for 61 points to equal his score. And as the competition itself noted on social media, there aren’t even 34 cars entered in the competition, so Thorn merely needs to compete to win.

He does have the opportunity to claim some unusual prize money for the second time this year. In August, Thorn took home an extra $16,000 by starting from the back of the pack and weaving his way to the front.

This time, he can claim his own bounty money. Back in July, Motor City Buick GMC established a bounty on Thorn such that any driver who beat him would claim $2,500, which after three more victories for Thorn has escalated to $3,500. Now Thorn himself has a chance to win that money, along with $7,000 more for a victory if he can fend off the field.

An additional $10,500 would bring Thorn’s winnings to $90,700 on the year, according to the SRL Southwest Tour website. He has already exceeded the competition’s single-season record of $71,077, which he himself set last year, and was already more than double any previous competitor’s winnings.

The race also has significance for Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd, a rival of Thorn’s throughout the year who finished second in Roseville in September to bounce back from an 18th-place finish in Stockton. The young Shepherd is 129 points up on the next closest rookie, Kole Raz, and is therefore in the driver’s seat for Rookie of the Year.

Racing begins at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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

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