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Sunrise Ford Team Brings Back Derek Thorn for the 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West

Bob Bruncati and his Sunrise Ford racing team has assembled a championship-caliber lineup to challenge Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Derek Thorn, who won the 2013 K&N Pro Series West championship driving for Sunrise Ford, is back. Ryan Partridge, who was the runner-up in the K&N Pro Series West standings in 2016, is on board for a second stint with Sunrise Ford. The two are expected to loosen the grasp McAnally and his team have on the K&N Pro Series West.

“We gotta put a wrench in the gears,” Partridge said.

Derek Thorn, NASCAR, K&N Pro Series West, Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati

Derek Thorn won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship in 2013.

The Bill McAnally Racing drivers won 11 of the 14 K&N Pro Series West races in 2017. Todd Gilliland, one of the Bill McAnally Racing drivers, won his second K&N Pro Series West championship in a row last year. The Bill McAnally Racing team has won the past three K&N Pro Series West championships.

Thorn and Partridge are part of Bruncati’s plan to end the McAnally dynasty.

“I never thought five years later I would be back behind the wheel and doing it again,” Thorn said. “We’re hoping to pick up where we left off five years ago. Same crew, same crew chief. I’m excited to be back as part of those guys’ team. Hopefully we can perform to the highest of our ability and compete for a championship.”

Thorn has won five races in his career in the K&N Pro Series West. He has 26 top-five finishes in 37 K&N Pro Series West races. He is reunited with crew chief Bill Sedgwick. Thorn and Sedgwick teamed up to win the K&N Pro Series West championship in 2013.

Thorn said Bruncati wants to recapture the formula that produced a championship season five years ago.

Derek Thorn, NASCAR, K&N Pro Series West, Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati

Derek Thorn will drive for Bob Bruncati's Sunrise Ford team in the K&N Pro Series West in 2018.

“I think he wants to get his program to the point where he feels like he can go out each and every week and compete for wins, do what it takes behind the scenes,” Thorn said. “I feel like Partridge is an extremely talented race car driver. We should be able to work through some things and get the program at Sunrise Ford to be where we want to be, to where we can go out each and every week and be confident that we can run up front.”

Bruncati is showing some vision with his team too. Trevor Huddleston, an up-and-coming late model driver at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California, will drive in select races for Sunrise Ford in the K&N Pro Series West. But the nucleus of the team will be Thorn and Partridge.

“The chemistry is there. It works, it clicks,” Partridge said. “It’s a great package all around. Me and Derek go way back racing against each other. When it comes to giving feedback, it’s nice, because he’s a driver I can trust with his input and feedback. He can be on A, B and C packages and we will be on DEF and at the end of the day we can come together. Did this work? It didn’t work, let’s try this. It really cuts our learning curve in half.”

The team was put together a little late though. The two drivers were at Irwindale Speedway testing on Feb. 26. The K&N Pro Series is introducing a new tire for the teams. Thorn said they have been playing a little catch-up in regard to the new tires.

“We have some things to learn in a fast period of time,” Thorn said. “Some of the teams in the series have had access to these tires for about a month or more. We are looking to have it for about a couple of weeks before the start of the season. I feel like we’re a little bit behind the 8-ball compared to some of these guys. We have to make up for some lost time and hopefully we can find some speed.”

For Partridge, he is reunited with his old crew chief, Jeff Schrader. The two teamed up for a runner-up season in the K&N Pro Series West in 2016. In his career, Partridge has won four K&N Pro Series West races and was third in the standings in 2015. Even though Partridge has spent a year away from the K&N Pro Series West, he said the chemistry on the team has not changed.

Ryan Partridge, NASCAR, K&N Pro Series West, Sunrise Ford, Bob Bruncati

Ryan Partridge will drive for Bob Bruncati's Sunrise Ford team in the K&N Pro Series West in 2018.

“It feels like we are just a bunch of good ole boys working on race cars and having fun on the weekends,” Partridge said. “I think that’s really what it takes to stay relaxed, stay focused. There is zero animosity between anybody on the team. We’re all just going for a common goal. That’s what it feels like.”

Thorn said he has confidence in his team, but it takes a different approach to race for a championship. His team has high expectations and Thorn wants to make the most of his opportunity.

“My approach to this deal is to take it one race at a time,” Thorn said. “In the K&N Series, racing for a championship takes a different mindset. Sometimes you have a little more give and take than others. Take advantage of the great days at the race track and try to make the most of the bad days. Try to squeeze out every last point you can. When it comes down to the end of the season, the difference between winning the championship may be only a few points.”

The NASCAR K&N West season will begin at Kern County Raceway on Thursday, March 15th.


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