After coming up short the past two years, Derek Thorn finally added a Snowball Derby victory to his resume at Five Flags Speedway on Dec. 4, 2022 (Photo: NASCAR)
Entering Sunday afternoon, Derek Thorn had led a combined 539 laps during his last two Snowball Derby appearances.
Yet on both occasions, Thorn had to settle for second.
The two-time ARCA Menards Series West champion successfully channeled his frustration from the last two years to put together one of the most dominant performances of his career, leading 307 of 318 laps from the outside pole earn his first Snowball Derby victory.
Checking one of the most prestigious short track events in the United States off his bucket list in his 10th appearance proved to be both a cathartic and emotional moment for Thorn.
“It took a minute,” Thorn said. “This was my final race with [Campbell Motorsports] and it’s been a hell of a 10-year journey. It’s been tough, but what better way to end my last race [with these guys] than being a Snowball Derby champion.”
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The last three years have seen Campbell Motorsports annually bring one of the fastest cars to Five Flags Speedway for the Snowball Derby, with Thorn earning the pole for each of those races.
While Thorn was unable to claim the pole this year, it took less than a lap for him to overtake polesitter and NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor Josh Berry for the lead. Once he had control, Thorn proceeded to set his own blistering pace for most of the afternoon.
As the race was hindered by several late cautions, Thorn could not help but flashback to 2020 and 2021, when two stellar performances were undone. Those races would ultimately be won by Ty Majeski and Chandler Smith.
Seeing 2022 ARCA Menards Series East champion Sammy Smith dive underneath him on two separate restarts did little to quell Thorn’s apprehension.
“We had plenty of restarts at the end for something to go wrong,” Thorn said. “I saw [Sammy Smith] go three-wide into Turn 1 and I thought ‘oh man, not again.’”
Despite the aggression from Smith and fellow Super Late Model standout Stephen Nasse, Thorn maintained his composure and held off the field to formally put a bow on what had been a long and arduous process to reach Victory Lane during the Snowball Derby.
For Smith, he wanted nothing more than to conclude his stellar 2022 campaign with a Snowball Derby triumph, but was unwilling to do anything that would take him or others out of contention during the final restarts.
“I thought we were really good all day,” Smith said. “We put on some tires but got a little too tight. I thought [that last restart] was my only shot, but I thought if I hit [Thorn] that I would take him out. It was a pretty good weekend even though we struggled really bad early. Hopefully we’ll be good next year.”
Thorn admitted his victory Sunday allowed him to fully appreciate what he and Campbell Motorsports have done to be fully prepared for the Snowball Derby. It all culminated in a complete weekend during the Snowball Derby for Campbell Motorsports, which is set to cease operations once the haulers depart Five Flags Speedway.
While the circumstances surrounding his triumph are bittersweet, Thorn has been grateful for his time at Campbell Motorsports and intends to keep their legacy alive as he looks to pursue another Snowball Derby crown in 2023.
“This is something special,” Thorn said. “We were here for 10 days, and we’ve done this for so many years. [I couldn’t do this] without them. I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to beat our 289-lap record from last year, but what a day.”
Nasse finished behind Thorn and Smith in third, with Casey Roderick and Cole Butcher rounding out the Top 5. NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron finished sixth with Jake Garcia, Jace Hansen, Jacob Gomes and Majeski completing the Top 10.
Berry ended up behind the wall in 25th after a late crash. Other notable names that competed in the Snowball Derby included Derek Kraus (19th), Noah Gragson (20th), Jesse Love (27th), Corey Heim (28th) and Erik Jones (33rd).
Brad Keselowski also attempted to qualify for the Snowball Derby, but wasn’t fast enough in qualifying and didn’t advance into the event via Saturday’s last chance race.
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