Tuesday, August 21, 2012

K&N West News & Notes : Portland

Thorn Quickly Adapts To Road Courses This Season
By Kevin W. Green, NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When he came to Portland (Ore.) International Raceway a year ago, Derek Thorn had never competed on a road course in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In fact, he had never done any kind of road racing. But that didn’t stop him from going out and finishing third.

Thorn, who grew up in Northern California racing winged outlaw karts on small dirt ovals and later ran stock cars on paved circle tracks, has demonstrated this season that his podium finish at Portland was not a fluke. In three road-course events this year, the 26-year-old driver finished second at Sonoma, Calif.; fourth at Brainerd, Minn.; and 12th at Tooele, Utah.

He will be looking to add to that when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West returns to Portland International Raceway for the NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125 on Sunday, Aug. 26. It will be the fourth and final road-course event of the season for the series.

“I’ve really had a good time this year on road courses,” said Thorn, who drives the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford for championship car owner Bob Bruncati. “It seems like every track we go to we can run in the top five competitively.”

Despite his success, Thorn points out that he is not where he wants to be.

“I feel I still have a lot to learn to be able to run dominantly in the first position,” he said. “As a whole, it’s a lot of fun to do it. The Sunrise Ford team has a really great program of road-course stuff.”

In his first full season of series competition, Thorn is fourth in the championship standings – with one win, seven top five and nine top 10 finishes in 11 races. While all his background was on ovals, he has quickly adapted to road racing, with an average finish of 6.0 in the first three road-course events. That is third best among the 13 drivers who started all three races.

Thorn is philosophical, meanwhile, in talking about how quickly he has developed his road-racing skills and credits much of his success to his team, headed by veteran crew chief Bill Sedgwick.

“With racing in general, you’ve always got to be open minded,” he said. “You’ve always got to hope that you can adapt fast enough and you can keep up with the fastest guys. We’ve been fortunate we were able to do that. I have high expectations for myself. And the team has high expectations for themselves, as well. I think as a whole we’ve pushed ourselves to be in this position to be able to run up front at road courses.

Two of the top series competitors on ovals and road courses this year are teammates on the Gene Price Motorsports team – defending series champion Greg Pursley, who leads the championship standings, and second-year driver Dylan Kwasniewski, who is second in points. In the three road-course events, Pursley has an average finish of 2.33 – with one win and two third-place finishes. Kwasniewski has an average finish of 3.66 on road courses this year – with a second-place, a fourth-place and a fifth-place finish.

Race: NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125
Place: Portland International Raceway
Date: Sunday, Aug. 26
Time: 3 p.m. PT
TV Schedule: SPEED, Sept. 6, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: 1.967-mile road course
2011 Winner: Luis Martinez Jr.
2011 Polesitter: Luis Martinez Jr.
Event Schedule: Saturday: Practice 12:20-1:20 p.m., 2:30–3:30 p.m. Sunday: Qualifying 11:15 a.m.
Track PR Contact: Paul Gross, paul.gross@chrisevansinc.com
Twitter: @portlandraceway
Event Hashtag: #NAPA125
NASCAR IMC Contact: Shon Sbarra (704) 309-5493 ssbarra@nascar.com


The Race:
This event is the 12th of 15 events on the 2012 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 24 cars will qualify through NASCAR Road-Racing style (group) qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 63 laps (125 miles).

The Track: Portland International Raceway is a 1.967-mile road course. The track hosted four NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events, including the past three consecutive years.

The Records: Qualifying: David Mayhew, July 18, 2010, 94.503 mph, 75.426 seconds; Race: Patrick Long, July 18, 2010, 66.531 mph, 1 hour 56 minutes 4 seconds.

Road Racers:
The Portland race includes a contingent of drivers known for running the series road races. Jim Inglebright, the only previous Portland winner entered, and Austin Cameron are series veterans who now focus primarily on the road-course events. Others who also concentrate on those events include Brian Wong, Scott Ivie, Kyle Kelley, Tom Klauer, Chris Evans and Tim Spurgeon.

Long Trek: The entry list for the Portland event includes a couple of drivers and teams who are traveling cross-country for the event. Dale Quarterley, a veteran of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will be driving his No. 32 Van Dyk Baler Ford. The 51-year-old Westfield, Mass., driver has made five starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – with a best finish of second at Irwindale, Calif., in 2004. Eric Curran, a veteran of the Grand American Road Racing Association, is entered in the No. 53 Action Equipment Dodge. The Springfield, Mass., driver has four starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and two starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, with a best finish of second at Tooele, Utah in 2010.

Series Newcomer: Portland area businessman and road racer Eddie Nakato is set to make his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Portland. He is entered in the No. 07 AR Auto Service Ford.

Varied Tracks Remaining: The four tracks remaining on the series schedule each feature different challenges to the drivers and teams. Following the road course at Portland, the series will compete on the half-mile oval of NAPA Speedway in Albuquerque, N.M.; the tight third-mile oval of All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.; and the one-mile track at Phoenix International Raceway.

Milestone: Michael Self is set to make his 40th career series start at Portland, driving the No. 21 Rockwell/Golden Gate Meat/RCR Chevrolet. The Park City, Utah driver made his series debut on July 19, 2009 at Portland.

Second Win For Self:
As the top finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver in the East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway on Aug. 3, Michael Self was credited with a win. It marked the second victory of the season and second career series win for the driver of the No. 21 Rockwell/Golden Gate Meat/RCR Chevrolet, owned by Jim Offenbach.

Another Iowa Pole For Newberry: Brennan Newberry turned in the fastest lap among NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers in qualifying for the East-West combination race to win his second pole at Iowa. It was his third career series pole.

NEXT TIME OUT: AlbuquerqueNext on the schedule, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will make its inaugural visit to NAPA Speedway just west of Albuquerque, N.M., for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Sept. 29.

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