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Gray Gaulding Wins at Phoenix International Raceway & Derek Thorn Grabs Series Championship

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2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion - Derek Thorn Showing off the Torphy at Phoenix International Raceway
2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion - Derek Thorn Showing off the Torphy at Phoenix International Raceway
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season finale at Phoenix International Raceway produced a couple of first-time winners.

Gray Gaulding won his first race and Derek Thorn won his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series championship.

Gaulding, a driver from Colonial Heights, Virginia, became the youngest winner of a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race. He is 15 years, 8 months and 30 days, breaking the mark set by Dylan Kwasiniewski, who won his first race when he was 16 years and 2 months.
Gray Gaulding in Phoenix International Raceway's victory lane celebrating his first win
Gray Gaulding in Phoenix International Raceway's victory lane celebrating his first win


"That's probably the hardest I've ever drove, Gaulding said. "When I got out of the car, my hands were shaking. What a good night though."

Thorn, from Lakeport, California, won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship by six points over Cameron Hayley.

Gaulding led only one lap in the race, the final lap, and battled with Cole Custer for the win. Gaulding tapped Custer, who led a race-high 49 laps of the Casino Arizona 50, sending Custer spinning out of control on the final lap at Phoenix International Raceway.
Multi-car accident at Phoenix International Raceway during the Casino Arizona 50
Multi-car accident at Phoenix International Raceway during the Casino Arizona 50


"I knew what I needed to do on the last lap," Gaulding said. "I was closing and closing and closing. I had to take advantage of it, no doubt about it. A few guys came over to me and said a few words. I hate having to take somebody out, but as close as it was, and as fast as we were, it was a huge battle and I knew I had to take advantage of it."

Custer, who also won the pole, slipped to sixth place after spinning out. Gaulding and Custer are regulars in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

"All those guys set the bar high for us," Thorn said. "We on the West Coast tend to be more in a bubble. Competition is what drives the sport. It keeps everybody competitive. It keeps everybody moving forward. These guys always come out and give us a rude awakening."
Cole Custer wins the Pole in the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway
Cole Custer wins the Pole in the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway


There were only two caution periods in the race. The first was a red flag on the opening lap because of multi-car crash. The race resumed on lap 5.

Rookie Jesse Little finished in second place, followed by Hayley in third. David Mayhew was fourth and Brandon McReynolds was fifth.

Thorn entered the season finale with a 16-point lead over Greg Pursley in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings. Thorn finished in 15th place in the race at Cole Custer wins the Pole in the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway. Hayley's third-place finish cut the lead to six points, but not enough to catch Thorn.

"This championship is by far an all-time high," Thorn said. "Hopefully it's not the end of my career. At the same time, I've been trying to cherish every moment. Racing itself is tough right now. It's tough for any kid."

Pursley, the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion, finished in third place in the final series standings. Michael Self, who was ninth in the race at Cole Custer wins the Pole in the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway, came in fourth place in the West Series standings. Rookie Dylan Lupton was fifth in the final series standings.


Related K&N News Articles about Phoenix International Raceway: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Driver Greg Pursley Wins at Phoenix International Raceway; Eric Holmes Wins NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Race at Phoenix International Raceway
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