One year ago this weekend, Derek Thorn hoisted the K&N Pro Series West championship trophy, his second such piece of hardware, coming half a decade after his first.
This weekend, he’ll be back at Kern County Raceway Park — but not in a K&N car.
He’ll be competing in a super late model for Byron Campbell in the Spears SRL Southwest Tour, continuing a relationship he’s had with Campbell for 10 years.
"He still gives me the opportunity to go out and run the Tour, I guess kind of like the old NASCAR Elite Series back in the day, a more late model style deal," Thorn told NASCAR.com. "Trying to win as many races as we can."
Winning is engrained in Thorn, a seven-time K&N West winner across over 50 races. But off the track, his life is as busy as ever.
Thorn and his wife welcomed their second child and first daughter, Emery, and recently celebrated their son Hudson’s second birthday
"It’s been busy around the house trying to get (Hudson) acclimated to his new baby sister, going through the terrible 2s and testing our patience," he said with a laugh. "Living life, everything right now is absolutely going great."
Rewind 365 days, and things were going just as great in track for Thorn, Bob Bruncati and the No. 6 Sunrise Ford team. They wrapped up a dream season, finishing outside the top five only once and winning two races en route to the championship.
Racing-Reference: Derek Thorn Career Statistics
"Everything just came together," Thorn said of his 2018 campaign. "We had a five-year gap between me driving the No. 6. It was a new car, and we just kind of picked up where we left off. The chemistry was still there, the results showed on the race track, the guys in the shop did an awesome job preparing new cars. The luck kind of fell our way as the season progressed. There’s a dozen other teams trying to do the same thing you’re doing, trying to go after a championship, But to be able chase after wins and then seal the deal up for another championship after a five year hiatus for Bob Bruncati was pretty cool."
This season, Thorn has watched as much K&N Pro West racing as he can. With the addition of FansChoice.TV and social media, he feels removed, but still a part of the series which gave him so much success.
"I catch it while it’s happening, but I definitely catch up on it during the week and see what’s going on with the No. 6 and No. 9 with Jagger Jones and Trevor Huddleston," he said. "It’s cool to be able to keep tabs on that, especially with FansChoice.TV."
Thorn was happy to see his No. 6 back in Victory Lane two weeks ago at All American Speedway with Jones behind the wheel, the first time that car had claimed a checkered flag since Thorn did.
"It is cool to see the guys back there," he said. "Jagger’s got some learning to do, but it’s great to see they’ve got speed. And then’ve been in contention, they just haven’t been able to find that win. To see that all come together is pretty cool."
Thorn is content with his current situation with Byron Campbell.
"Byron has given me an amazing opportunity to not only keep a roof over my head but also to race super late models throughout the country," he said. "To have that, live 10 minutes from home, have a happy and healthy family with a roof over our head, to be able to race in general. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts. So far, everything is going really well."
Although the NASCAR season is coming to a close, two of the biggest events on the calendar for Thorn are yet to come: the All American 400 at Nashville and the Snowball Derby in Pensacola. He’s already won a handful of races in SRL this season, and was leading the Summer Showdown at Washington’s Evergreen Speedway before blowing an engine.
He’ll be racing this weekend alongside the K&N Pro Series West, and hopes to make the event a memorable one.
"Hopefully we can get a win at our home track and carry the momentum into the two biggest races of the year."
The NAPA/ENEOS 150 will go green at 7:45 p.m. PDT on Saturday from Kern County Raceway Park.