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Third Time is the Charm as Thorn Claims Snowball Derby

The win is the final start for Campbell Motorsports as a team.


hero image for Third Time is the Charm as Thorn Claims Snowball Derby

The third time was the charm after all.

Oddly enough, it took snapping the three-year pole streak in the Snowball Derby to finally win the race, and it came under the most storybook circumstances. Before the race, Thorn confirmed the Byron Campbell Motorsports team would shut down at the end of the year and this was their final race together.


The victory bookends the most dominant three year stretch in race history as Thorn led 846 of 918 laps over the past three years. Thorn lost a door slamming duel to Ty Majeski in 2020 and was on the wrong end of a bump and run by Chandler Smith in 2021.

So, when Sammy Smith teased sending his Wilson Motorsports No. 22 three-wide under Thorn and Stephen Nasse, the six-time Southwest Tour champion and two-time ARCA West champion felt a degree of déjà vu.

No doubt about it.

"I didn't want to see those multiple restarts, that was nerve-racking enough," Thorn said. "The car was so dang good and until the air pressure came up, I couldn't come off 4 for the restart real hard.

"Then came Sammy, spotter warned me a restart or two that it might happen, and it didn't happen, but it could have gone south in a hurry. Nasse gave me a little bit of room. He checked up a little bit and it worked out."

But can you imagine Thorn leading a near perfect number of laps once again and still not pulling it off? And unlike the previous two defeats, there would be no ‘next time’ with Campbell Motorsports shutting the team down.

And they actually sealed the deal.

"I don’t know how you could ever script that," Thorn said. "I never would have thought we'd come here three years in a row and be as competitive as we have against the teams that are here.

"It's a testament to Byron and Carol Campbell. They've given us 10 years. People don't see the struggles and the tough weekends, and they stood behind Mike and myself. For this to be the final year, final race, and to have that kind of car. The restarts.

"To finally get the Snowball Derby win, it's something special."

But it could have been completely unraveled by Smith on that penultimate restart.

"As a racer, I want to win and maybe I should have but the angles we were at, I didn’t want to hit him because I was straight and he was kind of sideways," Smith said. "Look back on it and I might have done it a hundred different ways. The past is now the past and I'm just proud to have had a good day today."

To finish second was an uphill climb for Smith as they barely made the race by qualifying 28th. The car needed a lot of work just to get that point and Smith was down most of the week.

"We were struggling bad," Smith said. "Thursday through Saturday, the guys kept working hard while I was a grumpy bear. "We fought hard and were good on long runs. But when we were on tires, we just got too tight.

"Our only shot was to go three wide there, but if I did, it was going to wreck them, and I wasn't going to do that. Congrats to them, I have a lot of respect for him and we'll try again next year."

That respect is the common consensus as most of the field came by tech to congratulate Thorn and Mike Keen for finally breaking through.

The race mostly procedural until the end when the results could have been altered by the series of late race cautions.

The only real threats to Thorn, was pole sitter Josh Berry, who ran in lockstep with the No. 43 for most of the race. Berry got spun by Hunter Robbins twice and wasn't a factor in the finish.

Bubba Pollard showed promise for much of the race, but his strategy dictated that he stay out on older tires after taking his last set on Lap 210, and just couldn't hold serve.

"I thought we were pretty equal in a straight up race," Pollard said.

It was not a straght up race and Thorn just drove by Pollard and Carson Kvapil on a similar strategy. Thorn couldn't be denied and he survived the final three restarts to send Byron and Carol Campbell away as Snowball Derby champions.

But what's next for the driver, who operates a set-up and driver development school out of Madera Speedway?

"I have Derek Thorn Racing, DTR, been working with kids out of Madera Speedway and the Southwest Tour, driver setup and coaching. Bakersfield. Working with some really good people, Jacob Gomes and John Moore in 2023.

"Just branching out. I'm 36 with two kids and a mortgage to pay so I have to be smart about my career. Byron and Carol have given me a platform to stand on to sit here as Snowball Derby champion. I can't think of any better way to have created a name for myself."

Is this a retirement?

"I hope not," he said. "Byron did everything first class. He is without a doubt the driving force behind everything we do. It takes a lot of money, time, preparation and money to do this. To be honest, I don't have the ability to do that per se. We have great partners and awesome sponsors, but these races take a lot of financial asks."

But if this is the end, and it likely won't be, but it was a tremendous way to drop the mic after the past three years at the Derby and the past decade at Campbell Motorsports.

55th Snowball Derby
December 4 2022
Five Flags Speedway

1. Derek Thorn
2. Sammy Smith
3. Stephen Nasse
4. Casey Roderick
5. Cole Butcher
6. William Byron
7. Jake Garcia
8. Jace Hansen
9. Jacob Gomes
10. Ty Majeski
11. Preston Peltier
12. Carson Kvapil
13. Bubba Pollard
14. Michael Hinde
15. Daniel Dye
16. Giovanni Ruggiero
17. Ryan Luza
18. Matthew Craig
19. Derek Kraus
20. Noah Gragson
21. Luke Fenhaus
22. Dustin Smith
23. Jeremy Doss
24. Albert Francis
25. Josh Berry
26. Hunter Robbins
27. Jesse Love
28. Corey Heim
29. Blaine Rocha
30. Michael House
31. Tyler Tanner
32. Austin Nason
33. Erik Jones
34. Jake Finch
35. Conner Jones
36. Augie Grill