Gaulding Wins Race, Thorn Wins Title
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Gray Gaulding won the Casino Arizona 50 on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, but Derek Thorn was the man of the night.
Thorn, from Lakeport, Calif., earned his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship with a 15th-place finish which was enough to hold off a trio of contenders. Thorn carried a 16-point advantage over 2011 series champion Greg Pursley into the night with Cameron Hayley and Michael Self right there, as well.
Gaulding got the win when Cole Custer spun in Turns 3 and 4 on the white-flag lap after some slight contact. It’s the first career victory for the 15-year-old NASCAR Next driver out of Colonial Heights, Va., who becomes the youngest race winner in K&N West history at 15 years, 8 months and 30 days. He eclipses the mark of 16 years and 2 months established by Dylan Kwasniewski in Aug. 2011.
Fellow NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competitor and 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Jesse Little crossed the line in second followed by Hayley in third. David Mayhew was fourth followed by Brandon McReynolds in fifth. Custer recovered to finish sixth while Kelly Admiraal, Brett Thompson, Self and Cuzick completed the top 10.
Custer dominated the event by winning the 21 Means 21 presented by Coors Brewing Company Pole Award earlier in the day and leading all but the final lap of the race.
The final margin for Thorn in the standings was six points over Hayley while Pursley and Self finished 15 and 24 markers back, respectively.
The race was red flagged on the initial start after several cars got tangled on the frontstretch causing a lengthy cleanup.
Thorn and NASCAR’s other 2013 touring champions will be honored at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.