Derek Thorn closes out on NASCAR K&N West title, Hailie Deegan earns top rookie honors
Derek Thorn’s return to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West ended with another championship celebration.
After stepping away from full-time competition at the end of the 2013 season, Thorn got the urge to return to action for Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford team and rolled to his second championship this season.
The Lakeport, California, driver concluded a season filled with success, scoring two wins and top-10 finishes in all 14 events. He finished fifth in the season finale, the NAPA Auto Parts 175 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, at California's Kern County Raceway Park on Saturday.
His previous K&N Pro Series title came in 2013, and in his three years of full-time racing, he has two championships and a third-place finish in the standings.
"The five-year hiatus we had, the guys have come a long way in the shop," Thorn said. "There were some races we were competing for wins, and some we were competing just to finish in the top five. To keep a championship hope alive, you have to be able to capitalize on every opportunity and make the most of the bad days."
Derek Kraus won the season finale, grabbing his fourth win and sweeping the two races at the California oval. The victory was the fifth consecutive at Kern for the No. 16 out of the Bill McAnally Racing stable -- with Kraus winning the last three and former champion Todd Gilliland winning the two previous events.
Thorn’s 2018 championship run included two victories -- one at Colorado National and another at Evergreen Speedway in Washington state. He finished inside the top five in all but one race, and ended with an average finish of just over three. In the final championship standings, Thorn defeated his Sunrise Ford Racing teammate, Ryan Partridge, by 27 points, completing a clean sweep of the top two spots for Bob Bruncati.
"The No. 22 (Trevor Huddleston) and the No. 9 (Ryan Partridge) teams deserve a lot of credit. Without the team dynamic, I don’t think we would be here," Thorn said. "It’s awesome to be able to win this right in front of the hometown crowd."
Trevor Huddleston, who charged through the field late, tied his best career finish with a third. David Mayhew was fourth, just ahead of Thorn.
Hailie Deegan, who clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, finished sixth. Cole Rouse was seventh, followed by Kody Vanderwal, Todd Souza and Matt Levin.
Thorn, his entire Bob Bruncati team, and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West top finishers and special award winners will be honored at NASCAR Awards Charlotte on Friday, Dec. 7.