Derek Thorn played it safe, saved his tires, and won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway.
Derek Thorn won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway
He counted on a feisty fight between Cameron Hayley and Michael Self as well.
Thorn, a driver from Lakeport, California, about 100 miles from Sonoma, said he used to watch NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races with his dad at the track. He remembers watching Jeff Gordon rattle off win after win at Sonoma Raceway. Thorn said he never thought he would win a race at the same track.
"It's been a journey to get to the K&N Series," said Thorn, who was the runner-up in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway last year. "I would have always though being a circle track driver, this is only my sixth road course start, I don't think I ever thought in my mind that I would win here. Top fives is great and it's a good points deal, but to win and come home to this track, with the amount of history it has and the amount of drivers who are behind me that have been coming here for five or six years that have failed to get victories, I feel very blessed to be able to bring home a win."
Derek Thorn takes the checkered flag at Sonoma Raceway.
Thorn won his second race of the season and took over the lead in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings. He passed Self for the lead on lap 53 of the Carneros 200 on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course and stayed out front for the remaining 13 laps.
The race ended under a green-white-checkered flag. The race was red-flagged on lap 63 when Taylor Cuzick crashed in turn 10. It set up the final restart with Thorn in the lead, followed by Self and Hayley.
"I think there's a little bit of a rivalry between Hayley and Self," Thorn said. "I think the two running with each other, they might not have known it while they were doing it, but them two not necessarily intimidate each other, but neither one of them want to get beat by one another."
Derek Thorn toasts his K&N Pro Series West victory at Sonoma Raceway.
Hayley won the pole and led the first nine laps of the race. Greg Pursley passed Hayley for the lead on lap 10 and was out front for nine laps. After running up front, Pursley faded in the closing laps and finished in 21st place.
David Mayhew, Kelly Admiraal, Self and Hayley swapped leading the race until lap 52. That's when Thorn made his move and passed Self.
"It is disappointing for that run to the end," Self said. "We led a lot of laps out there. We had an awesome car. I don't know if I just got greedy or what it was. We just didn't have any rear tires left. We burnt them off there on those last restarts."
Hayley crossed the finish line in second place, passing Self of the final lap. Self was third, followed by Mayhew in fourth and Paulie Harraka in fifth.
"I got as much as I could out of those tires there at the end," Hayley said. "At the end there, lost a little bit of tires there. It happens. Great job to Derek Thorn, great race by Michael."
Thorn took a three-point over Self in the K&N Pro Series West standings. Thorn also snapped Self's three-race winning streak. It was Thorn's fourth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory and his first on a road course.
"It was one of those days you never want to count your chickens before they hatch," Thorn said. "It was definitely nice to be able to take a deep breath after realizing we had it."
Hayley is third in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings, 11 points behind Thorn. Pursley, the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, is in fourth place, a distant 33 points behind Thorn.
The next NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race is at Colorado National Speedway on July 27.