Derek Thorn, age 35 of Lakeport, rolled the dice just before the start of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour “JM Environmental Inc. Wild West Shootout – Touch Too Much 227 presented by 51 FIFTY” at the Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday and the gamble paid off big time as he cashed in the biggest check of his career after taking the victory.
In addition to $10,000 payout for the winner and a $1,000 payout for the leader at the lap 117 midrace break of the Aug. 14 event, a special prize fund of $5,000 per race was at stake for any driver qualifying in the top eight that opted to start from the back and win. With no driver claiming the bonus in the previous two races at Roseville and Kern Raceways, the “To the Back Challenge” fund rolled over to $15,000 for Stockton.
As the 21-car field lined up for the start of the race, five of the top eight qualifiers, including Thorn and Manteca’s Jacob Gomes who qualified 1-2, elected to start from the rear.
At 227 laps, the race was the longest scheduled event in SRL history and it got even longer when a total of 10 yellow-cautions came out before the midrace break, three of which were serious enough to turn into lengthy red flag race stoppages. The worst of the three saw Andy Allen, of Garden Grove, crash hard into the Turn 3 pit exit sending the huge six foot tractor tires protecting the exit scattering high into the air and across the track. Allen’s car was destroyed, but fortunately Allen walked away unharmed.
The cautions played into the hands of the fast cars starting in the back by continuously closing up the field every time it began to string out. Jacobs actually worked his way back to third by lap 25 only to see his hard work go down the drain when he spun out after being tapped by Atwater’s Carlos Vieira on a lap 50 restart.
Thorn was next to claw his way to the front of the field. After sizing up race leader Kole Raz, of Lake Oswego, OR, for several laps Thorn took advantage of slower traffic to swoop under Raz for the lead on lap 82 where he remained until the mandatory service break at lap 120.
“Starting from the back actually seemed to work in our favor. It kept us out of the chaos going on up front,” explained Thorn. “You never know how things will work out and everything seemed to go in our favor over the first half of the race.”
The second half of the race was a bit tamer although there were still several cautions including one for a major three-car pileup that left the car of Roseville’s Eric Schmidt literally hanging from the Turn 3 fence like an oversized wall decoration. Thorn would never relinquish the lead in the second portion of the race although Jacobs, who for the second time in the night fought his way up from the back of the pack, pressured him to the checkered flag.
“When I got into it with the 51 car (Vieira) it knocked the toe out pretty good. We were able to fix that, but then I smacked the back wall pretty hard and it was just tight after that,” said Jacobs, the 2015 SRL champion. “Thorn is the best there is right now so coming from the back twice and finishing second to him isn’t bad.”
A total of 11 cars were still running at the end of the grueling race with Ripon’s Eric Nascimento and the Granite Bay father/son team of John and Cole Moore rounding out the top five.
“It got pretty tough at the end. I’m glad I had track position on the 16 car (Gomes) because if the roles were reversed he would have been awfully hard to get by,” said Thorn, a five-time SRL champion who is well on his way to number six with seven wins in eight starts this season. “Taking home 26 thousand bucks is an awesome day!”
Jeremy Doss, age 24 of Upper Lake, picked up his third win in three starts at Stockton in 2021 by dominating the 60-lap Spears SRL Pro Late Model feature.
Napa’s Dylan Zampa started from the pole of the 21-car field and controlled the first half of the race as Doss slowly made his way to the front from his fourth row starting spot. Doss would take the lead from Zampa following a lap 27 caution and he stayed there until the end as Zampa, Ukiah’s Cole Brown, Tanner Reif, of Henderson, Nevada and Bakersfield’s Seth Wise completed the top five.
“I felt like at about 10 laps into the run that the car really came to me. We were able to run the bottom while most of the others couldn’t and did a lot of passing down there,” said Doss. “I just tried to be patient, stay clean and let the race come to me and it worked out.”
Stockton’s Nick Hall set the pace in the first half of the 25-lap B-4 feature as Manteca’s Josh Cross stayed glued to his rear bumper and probed for a way to get by him. Cross was finally able to inch his way under Hall on lap 17 to secure the lead and then hung on over the remaining laps for his fifth win of the season.
“That was fun. He (Hall) was really tough tonight, but when I saw him heating up his tires I knew that I could get him. I waited for the right moment and when he pushed up a bit I took it,” said Cross.
Stockton’s Jordan Lovelace held off Manteca’s Jayden Cross in the B-4 Juniors division to pick up his sixth win of the season in wire-to-wire fashion.
The local racing action moves to the Stockton Dirt Track, located at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 28, with the Champions Classic featuring the King of the West-NARC Fujitsu 410 Sprint Car Series, 360 Winged Sprint Cars and NorCal Dwarf Cars.
The Annual Rods, Ribs and Brews Car Show and Swap Meet will take place at the 99 Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 4 and the Stockton Late Models will headline two Saturday night programs on Sept. 11 and 18.