From the drop of the green flag in Pensacola, Derek Thorn was the class of the field on Sunday.
Springing ahead at the start from his outside pole position, the 36-year old from Bakersfield, Calif. led the majority the 55th annual Snowball Derby.
He also outlasted a flood of late cautions. But whether it was the yellow flags that delayed the inevitable or the challengers charging to his rear bumper, Thorn had an answer to every obstacle. And with it, he finally claimed the trophy that’s eluded him.
Following years of heartbreak, Thorn captured his first career Snowball Derby title in record-breaking fashion on Sunday in front of a capacity crowd at Five Flags Speedway.
Outside a few caution sequences, Thorn paced the 36-car field during every trip around the half-mile track. He was in front for a race-record 307 laps. The driver has led 846 laps over the last three years, but finally, he got win No. 1.
Sammy Smith finished second while Stephen Nasse was third. Casey Roderick and Cole Butcher rounded out the top five.
Thorn enjoyed a comfortable advantage until the caution came out with 31 laps to go when pole sitter Josh Berry was tapped from behind and spun on the back stretch.
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With the leader entering pit road, Bubba Pollard and Carson Kvapil stayed out on old tires. Restarting third with 23 to go, Thorn dove inside of Pollard entering turn three and slipped past to regain the point.
He would lead the rest of the way, surviving four additional yellow flags, which pushed the race past the originally-scheduled 300-lap distance.
Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached at (850) 503-3828, on Twitter @PatBernadeau or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Snowball Derby: Thorn too tough to tame, takes home win in 55th Derby