The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West made its inaugural appearance at the Havasu 95 Speedway, the quarter mile paved oval located in Lake Havasu City-Arizona, last Saturday, April 14th, in front of a SRO crowd who made it very clear that they liked what they saw that night.
However, no one in Lake Havasu City on this night was happier than Derek Thorn who crossed under the checkers to win the Toyota-Napa Auto Parts 150, presented by Gene Price Motorsports. The impressive outing in this race marked the Bakersfield-California resident's first West Series win in only eight starts.
Thorn's excellent Arizona evening began early in the day during qualifying when he won the Coors Light Pole after ripping off a lap of 15.277 seconds, (58.912 MPH), in his Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Springs Ford Fusion.
While he made that qualifying lap look easy, winning this race was another matter. Thorn spent much of night racing hard with Dylan Kwasniewski and then having to fend off a late race challenge from eventual runner up David Mayhew.
When the Toyota-Napa Auto Parts 150, presented by Gene Price Motorsports, received the initial green flag, Thorn jumped into lead and opened a three car length lead by lap 14. But his race rhythm was disrupted by a caution flag, on lap 22, due to a double car spin in turn four. Thorn quickly discovered that the evening was destined to be a case of multiple double file restarts. The yellow caution flag flew a total of eight times and consumed 45 laps of the race.
The most prevalent of these caution flags came on lap 70 following a single car spin in turn three. Five laps, and another double file restart, later Dylan Kwasniewski was clearly aware that the laps were clicking off very quickly, the race was now at the half way point and it was go time.
Thorn and Kwasniewski sailed under the green flag side by side and stayed that way until Thorn was able to regain the point on lap 84. The two hard chargers traded the race lead a few times during this side by side run with the margin often being the thickness of the paint on their front bumpers.
This pattern was repeated two more times following caution flags on laps 87 and 98. All of this side by side action was much to the delight of the capacity crowd who completely abandoned the seats they paid good money to sit in.
Following a turn two collision that involved three race cars, the final yellow flag of the race was presented on lap 114 with the restart coming five laps later. This time Thorn made very quick work of clearing Kwasniewski and the two potential race winners opened up an eight car length lead over David Mayhew who had now worked his way to third.
Unfortunately, Kwasniewski's Rockstar Energy Drink/Royal Purple Ford began to fade from the previous hard racing and, with only eight laps remaining in the race, Mayhew's MMI/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet took over second and began a last ditch effort the chase down Thorn. Unfortunately for that effort the time spent dueling for second, combined with the element of lapped traffic, allowed the race leader to pull away. Thorn sailed under the checkers with a margin of victory of 1.010 seconds. Michael Self, Golden Gate Meat Company/Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and Eric Holmes, Napa Auto Parts Toyota, completed the top five.
After parking his Ford in the Havasu 95 Speedway victory lane, a very happy race winner said: "I've got to pay tribute to the Sunrise Ford team, Bob Bruncati, (team owner), and Bill Sedgwick, (crew chief), as well as all of the guys at our race shop. It was really hard coming to this track, because no had raced here, (except Kwasniewski). It's hard to take something from practice and prepare yourself for a 150 lap race. It involved a lot of guess work but my guys did an awesome job of putting an awesome car underneath me."
Based on winning the season opening race at Phoenix, David Mayhew continues to lead the West Series' point standings with a three point advantage over Thorn and a six point lead over Kwasniewski. The series returns to action on April 28th and will run the Utah Grand Prix, a challenging road course event, at the Miller Motorsports Park.
The Toyota-Napa Auto Parts 150, presented by Gene Price Motorsports, was promoted by Bill McAnally Racing Promotions who leased the Havasu 95 Speedway. Judging from the intense competition of this race, combined with the SRO crowd, there are a lot of racing fans in Lake Havasu City-Arizona who are already hoping that this race will become a same time-next year annual event