Make no mistake about it. When it comes to Super Late Model racing on the West Coast, Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn is the standard bearer.
Thorn set the bar early on Saturday afternoon by setting his 48th quick time in 76 Spears Southwest Tour races, just missing his track record of 17.397 seconds with a lap of 17.424 on the half mile oval.
He capped the night by leading all but the first 15 laps of the 100-lap feature en route to his 33rd series victory. Bakersfield’s David Mayhew was second, followed by Jeff Bischofberger, Trevor Huddleston and Buddy Shepherd of Bakersfield.
Thorn had a 10-car lead when a caution feel on lap 92 when Bischofberger’s teammate, Jeremy Doss, stopped on the track.
“I was really worried on that last restart, the 75 (Doss) drew an intentional caution or something, I don’t know what he was doing,” said Thorn. “The 17 (Mayhew) and I seemed to have pretty equal race cars. This tire just can’t go the distance. You have to try and save it as much as possible. It’s kind of a cat and mouse game.
“Mayhew was on the same same strategy. Same car, same chassis, stuff like that. I thought I had a flat tire or something. I’m really glad the race is over. I was biting my nails.”
There was no reason to fret.
Thorn quickly opened up a three-car length lead as Mayhew had to fend off a challenge from Bischofberger.
“He was playing with us at the end,” Mayhew said of Thorn. “I don’t care what he says. I was sliding around there pretty good at the end and on the defense.”
Thorn started on the outside of the front row with Mayhew on the pole Bischofberger charged to third late in the race after starting seventh.
“When it comes to saving tires, Jeremy’s been all over my butt about not burning my stuff up too early,” Bischofberger said. “I tried to save enough to get to the end and I think we did.”
For Shepherd, who ran third around the midway point, it was all about getting the best finish he could.
“The car got tight and I knew we’d be fighting it,” he said. I just tired to make the best of it.”
In Late Model competition, Jagger Jones took the lead on lap 18 and led the rest of the way for the victory in a 35-lap feature.
Early leader Brad Deberti, Brandon Weaver and Jones staged quite the early battle for the lead, going three wide into turn one at one point.
Weaver, who led the 12th lap, chased Jones from the 18th lap on but finished about four car lengths back. Paul Ebersbacher finished third.
Jones is the grandson of former Indy 500 winner, Parnelli, and it was his first win at the track. Tanner Wattenberger was fourth and Deberti fifth.
“I got the pole but had to start sixth because of the invert,” Jones said. “I had to make it three wide in one, I got a little loose but it worked out.”
Braden Rogers took the lead on the fourth lap and led the rest of the way, holding off Josh Ayers to win the 25-laps legends feature. Colton Page was third.
“It was pretty tight,” Rogers said of his car. “Keeping it on bottom was a bit of a struggle.”