Five years after racing to his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, Derek Thorn of Bakersfield now has two.
The outcome in Saturday night’s NAPA 175 didn’t really matter as Thorn, who finished fifth, had the championship clinched before the green flag flew. He needed to finish at least 21st or better to lock up the title and the starting field was just 18.
Derek Kraus, who started the season with a win at KCRP in March, dominated the race for his fourth straight win. It was also his third straight win at the track, dating back to this race last year.
“It’s a really good race track for me,” Thorn said. “The BMR team brought me a really good car and I really enjoy racing here, it’s a fun track for me.”
A late-race caution set up a torrid battle for position behind Kraus with Ryan Partridge finishing second and Trevor Huddleston third. Bakersfield’s David Mayhew was fourth and Thorn just edged out pole sitter Hailie Deegan for fifth.
Thorn won his first K&N West championship driving for Bob Bruncati Racing in 2013, his last of two years with team. After four seasons with no titles, Bruncati lured Thorn back to the team as he was going all in on a championship run.
“To come back, first year back with Bob and (crew chief) Bill Sedgewick, run full time and get the championship is a really big accomplishment after a four-year stint of not winning a championship,” thorn said. “I feel we accomplished our end goal.”
Thorn finishes the season with two wins, 13 top fives and 14 top 10s in 14 races.
“We have had a really solid year,” Thorn said. “Had some races that didn’t go our way but we were able to salvage a decent finish — taking races where you should finish 15th or 10th and you pull out a top five.”
One of those races that could been disastrous came two weeks in Roseville when Thorn was spun early and lost a lap. But the car was not damaged and he got back on the lead lap and finished third.
“It would have been easy to get caught up in the emotion and get excited,” Thorn said. “Things worked out in our favor. We got the lap back and were able to get to the front without tearing up the car.”
There will be no chance for a repeat K&N West championship for Thorn, who plans to go back to focusing on the Spears Southwest Tour where he is a four-time champion and hold numerous other records.
“Just a one year deal, one and done,” he said. “Come in and win it, get out of the way and let someone else come in.”
It was a busy Saturday for Thorn, who is pulling double duty this weekend as he also is competing in Sunday’s Spears Southwest Tour race.
Thorn, who has won three of the four SWT races he’s competed in this season, qualified No. 1 at 17.673.
The top eight qualifiers will draw today for their starting position in Bulwark FR October Classic 175.
Jeremy Doss qualified second at 17.706; followed by Ricky Schlick, 17.730; Jack Wood, 17.796; and Jacob Gomes, 17.798.
An on-track autograph session takes place at 12:30 p.m., followed by a Super Stock race and the Southwest Tour race.