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Thom claims season open at 99 Speedway

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POSTED April 8, 2013 1:24 a.m.

STOCKTON — Despite the cold weather, Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn remained red hot as he picked up the win in Saturday night’s SRL Spears Southwest Tour Series Strandwold Brothers 125” season opening event at the Stockton 99 Speedway.

Thorn, the defending SRL champion, started the 125-lap race from the sixth spot in the 23-car field. Following a paint trading battle with Seaside’s Jim Pettit II in the early laps, Thorn was able to weave his way through the front runners, which included Manteca young guns Ross Strmiska and Jacob Gomes, to take the lead from pole sitter Greg Voight, of Goleta, on lap 34.

“It was a little rougher than I would have liked between Pettit and that sort of set the tone for the rest of the night,” said Thorn afterward.

Thorn seemed to have the race in hand as he gradually pulled away from a pack that included Strmiska, Gomes, Pettit and Voight who were all engaged in a fierce battle for second until the third caution of the night came out when Ripon’s Michael Sandoval spun out.

When the race resumed Pettit and Thorn went side by side for several laps before Pettit was able to edge into the lead on the outside. Thorn would stay right on his bumper however, and on lap 111 he was able to slip underneath Pettit to retake the lead for good.

“We got kind of roughed up early on. I was pushed into the wall a couple of times so it wasn’t handling well at the end of the race,” said Pettit. “Thorn got pretty aggressive at the end and I couldn’t hold him off.”

Thorn is now two for two in 2013 having also taken the checkered flag in the SRL season opener at Madera Speedway three weeks ago.

“I wasn’t sure if I could catch him but I was able to feel him out and capitalize on where he was struggling and get back by him, explained Thorn. “Pettit is always tough.”

Following Thorn and Pettit across the finish line were Gomes, Strmiska and Roseville’s Zane Lovelace.

“The car was pretty good at the start, but we couldn’t get to the front. We had a good run though,” Gomes said. “The leaders were going at it pretty good at the end so I was just hoping something would happen and I could take advantage of it.”

Strmiska was also pleased with his effort although he lost a position twice after getting caught in the wrong line on two different restarts following cautions. Saturday’s race was the first time the SRL had used double file restarts instead of single file at Stockton.

“I like double restarts. I am used to them from running late models, but they just didn’t go our way tonight,” said Strmiska. “We had a decent run tonight, though.”

The SRL Series will now head to Las Vegas on May 11 and will return to Stockton on Saturday August 17.

The 99 Speedway will be back in action next Saturday, April 13, with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program featuring the Western Late Models, Super Stocks, BCRA Midgets, Basically-4s and Mini Cups.

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