LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Lakeport's Derek Thorn was on his way to a potential second season victory Saturday during the third round of the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series at the Bullring in Las Vegas. After taking the lead again early and leading 64 laps of the Stream Pay Per View TV – Blackjack 121, disaster struck aboard the Superior Crankshaft/JRI Shocks Toyota when an oil line ruptured that resulted in a major fire late in the race. Thorn was able to walk away from the blaze with out injury; however the fire caused significant damage to the #26 Camry and a disappointing 19th place finish.
"The last thing I expected was the car to erupt in fire like that."— Derek Thorn
“The fire was intense, the flames got big in a hurry. The oil line must of been leaking for awhile, when it finally erupted it seemed like fire was everywhere instantly,” said Thorn. “I have never been on fire before and being as tall as I am, I feel real lucky everything went as smooth as it did getting out of the car. I have to thank Simpson and Ringers gloves for making such great safety equipment, I was able to walk away unscathed and for that I can't thank them enough for keeping me safe.”
Entering Saturday's event, Thorn carried a great deal of momentum into the .0375 bullring which is one of the most popular stops on the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour. After scoring a third place finish in the series opener at Vegas back in March, Thorn garnered his first victory of the season at All American Speedway in Roseville last month. The win awarded him the series point lead as he returned to Vegas for the third segment of the 10-race campaign.
From the moment he entered the track in Vegas, Thorn and his Junior Joiner led crew were ready for action. In the first practice of the day they were the fastest car in competition with a top lap of 14:871 which registered at 90.781 miles per hour. In the second practice of the day they turned the eighth quickest lap in the field with a 14:905 lap at 90.574 miles per hour and were feeling confident with the overall balance of the car.
“The car was awesome to start off the race, this car we have been running has been great and it was proving the same again,” added Thorn. “We had the lead and the car started to free up a lot, I'm going to say it had a lot to do with the oil leak. I held off the 16 for as long as I could, but once he got by I was just trying to hang on to salvage a good point’s night. The last thing I expected was the car to erupt in fire like that.”
In qualifying, Thorn drove to a top speed of 92:025 miles per hour to post a 14:670 second lap. The effort was strong enough for fifth place overall, giving him a fourth place starting position after the invert for the Stream Pay Per View TV – Blackjack 121.
At the drop of the green flag, Thorn wasted no time whatsoever in powering his way to the front of the field showing his talent by using the high outside groove. With just three laps down he overtook Jacob Gomes for the third position and one lap later moved into the bridesmaid position after overtaking Bear Rzesnowiecky and set his sites on the lead that was held in the early laps by Jeff Oleen.
After taking the lead from Oleen on the 16th lap, Thorn began to dominate the event out in front until the 80th lap when he fell back several positions in a heated battle for the lead. It wasn't until lap 103 that the oil line ruptured and the #26 Camry became engulfed in flames. Thorn was somehow able to get his car stopped on the apron of the front stretch and climbed quickly from his badly burned machine without injury.
“To see that much fire in the cockpit area and our driver still inside was difficult to watch said Marty Melo SP Marketing Director. “Derek did a great job activating the fire suppression system and getting out of the vehicle. I want take this opportunity to thank Sheri Luft of Simpson that helped design Derek’s race suit and everyone at Simpson for providing such top quality suits.”
Following Saturday's damaging accident, crew chief Junior Joiner and the Superior Crankshaft Team will be hard at work to rebound in the series point standings. The next SPEARS SRL event will take place on June 4 at Stockton 99 Speedway. Thorn currently sits 5th in the series point standings entering round four of the series.
Derek Thorn is proud to carry the sponsorship of Superior Crankshaft and a number of marketing partners in the 2011 SRL Spears Southwest Tour. Among the many contributors are Joiner Race Car Chassis, PepperJack Kennels, Sigma Engineering, JRI Shocks, Joe Gibbs Driven, Eibach Springs, Joe's Racing Products, ARP Bodies, Finishline Signs, Fastenal, and Encore Metals.
“I can’t thank Superior Crankshaft and Cheryl Archer enough for providing me such a great Simpson Suit and such great support this season,” added Thorn. “I was really hoping to get my second win of the season in the books; we will show up to Stockton on a mission. Special thanks to Joiner Motorsports, JRC, JRI, Joe Farre at Sigma Engineering, Misty Melo of PepperJack Kennels and Eibach Springs for their continued support”
In addition to sponsoring Derek Thorn, Superior Crankshaft is proud to be the official Crankshaft of the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series and the sponsor of the Winner's Bonus program for each event. To learn more about Superior Crankshaft Racing and primary driver Derek Thorn, visit them online at www.superiorcrankshaftracing.com. Derek Thorn's personal website can be found at www.derekthorn.com. Further information on Superior Crankshaft and the series can be found at www.superiorcrankshaft.com and www.srlsouthwesttour.com