Thorn Graduates From Pupil to Master in Music City by Matt Kentfield
20-Year-Old Uses November Lessons to Win First ASALM Feature
Last November, Derek Thorn walked away from Music City Motorplex (TN) happy about finishing second in the ASA Challenge Series portion of the All American 400 weekend, but still dejected that he let his chance for victory taken away by wily veteran Eddie Hoffman late in the race.
Thorn dominated the race last fall, but Hoffman played a calm and patient strategy to eventually overtake Thorn’s youthfulness.
Derek Thorn did his best Elvis impression with his new winner's guitar in Nashville. (51 Photos)
After the race, Thorn admitted to being “taken to school” by Hoffman.
But if last year Thorn was taken to school, Saturday night he took the lessons and turned them into his graduation to the top of the ASA Late Model world. He put all of the lessons learned from Hoffman last year and his own mistakes in recent races this season to win the Spring Clash 200 Saturday evening.
“Finishing second to Hoffman here last year taught me a lot,” said Thorn. “Between learning from Hoffman last year and screwing up in San Antonio (in the most recent ASA Challenge event earlier this month), I’ve learned a lot. At San Antonio I overdrove the car and did a bunch of stupid stuff. I got a bunch of crap for it the entire week. I knew I had to be patient in this race if I didn’t want to listen to them for the next two weeks before the next race.
“But I watched that video from last year of Eddie a hundred times and there was no one point in the race that he was after anybody. He just picked them off one by one. He just played a conservative race and we did the same thing tonight. We played a conservative race, and even though Eddie got the guitar last year, we got it this year. That’s pretty cool.”
Early on, Thorn watched Colt James do what he did last fall – check out to a commanding lead early on. But, at a worn-out old track like Music City, that usually doesn’t bode well for late in the race. Once James fell back mid-race, the race win was left for Thorn and Charlie Menard to duke out.
Menard inherited the lead on lap 120 after the halfway break and brought Thorn with him by James. The top-two ran nose-to-tail for many laps, but eventually it was time to go for Thorn on lap 138.
“I was getting the lap times on the radio and I knew they were pretty quick,” said Menard. “I thought he was going to be on the pedal a little more to pass me and he was, but he kept it underneath him and he did a great job.”
A great job for Thorn came after months of thinking about what could have been back in November. It was four months of making sure he didn’t make the same mistakes as All American weekend and studying up on his Nashville racing history, making this win even sweeter.
Charlie Menard did his best to hold off Thorn, but to no avail.
And he did it the toughest way possible – on the outside.
“I took a peek off of three, and I think his spotter told him ‘car high’ because he held it down a little bit and he came back up in front of me. Going into one I knew I had the best opportunity to get him because he had lost a little bit of momentum coming off so low. He drove it down on the bottom and I jumped to the outside and I kept my foot in it.
“I got a heck of a run coming off and Charlie ran me cleaner than anybody I could’ve ever imagined. It’s great to race with a guy like that.”
Menard wasn’t struggling with his #13 machine when he lost the lead. He wasn’t even trying to be patient, like Thorn was. He just couldn’t hold off a determined Thorn.
“I was on the internet the other day and saw the list of drivers that have won at this racetrack and it’s absolutely incredible,” said Thorn. “Sterling Marlin, Coo Coo Marlin, Ted Musgrave and guys like that, it’s just incredible to win at such a historic place, especially being 20 years old and beating guys like Charlie Menard in this ASA series.”
With the win, Thorn continued a whirlwind career that saw him, just a year ago, not even with racing plans to the top of the ASA Late Model world, along with his 5K Motorsports team.
“It’s absolutely incredible just to be here. Just a year ago I was driving a truck in Lakeport, California not knowing what my racing career was going to be like. Now to come this far in less than a year and to be here holding the Copley guitar in Nashville victory lane is amazing.
“Plus the team hasn’t won a race in the ASA division and I think it’s a big motivation for us. We jumped up a bunch in points I bet, too. It’s just great for Ken and Larry (team owners). They spend a lot of time and money for us to come out here and to be able to get a win for them this early in the season is incredible. I hope this keeps them motivated knowing that I’ve got the ability to get the job done.”
Menard was never able to mount a charge in the closing laps and finished second. Keeton Hanks, Travis Dassow and Thorn’s “teacher” from last November, Eddie Hoffman, rounded out the top-five.