ROSEVILLE, Calif. – Sunrise Ford Racing has two teams competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and both are in contention for separate honors this year.
Second-year driver Derek Thorn leads the championship standings by 20 points with three races remaining to decide the title, while series rookie Dylan Lupton has a significant lead in the chase for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.
Each driver hopes to build on his lead when the series heads this week to All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., for the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, Oct. 12. It’s the 13th event on a 15-race schedule.
“I feel very fortunate that we’re in this position to be holding the points lead with three races left,” said Thorn, who pilots the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford for championship car owner Bob Bruncati. “Fate’s kind of in our hands. It’s going to come down to us not making any mistakes.”
While Thorn has led the standings nearly all season, Greg Pursley has recently surged from fourth to second in points – bolstered by three wins in the past five races.
“With Pursley having the momentum he has, it’s going to be hard to beat him,” Thorn said. “They’re the kind of team that spares no expense in testing and making sure their stuff’s right. Greg’s got the experience at these last three tracks where he can go out and win each one of them. He’s got the capability of doing it.”
Avoiding errors will be critical in these final three races, according to Thorn, who was originally from Lakeport, Calif., but now resides in Bakersfield.
“We’ve just got to approach each race and go out there and do our best and not make any mistakes,” the 27-year-old said. “You’ve got to play a defensive role, but at the same time with all these talented guys behind you, you’ve got to play an offensive role. It’s a juggling match. The biggest thing is to have a good time doing it. I can’t thank Bob Bruncati enough for putting us in this situation to be in the points lead.”
Lupton, meanwhile, is far enough ahead in the rookie standings that he could possibly clinch the title with a strong finish at Roseville. Nonetheless, he does not intend to change his approach to this race.
“We haven’t really done anything too special,” said the 19-year-old driver from Wilton, Calif., which is about 27 miles south of Roseville. “I’ve been running every race as hard as we can and kind of just letting the rookie of the year points fall as they may, which has gotten us a 20-point advantage. So, all we need to do is stay out of trouble, but I’m not going to back off at all. I’m going to run as hard as I can to go get a win. It’d be nice to clinch the rookie of the year points two races early, so that we don’t have to worry about that at all – but it’s not really weighing on my mind. We’re just going to go out there and run hard and try to get the win.”
The driver of the No. 9 Video/Lupton Excavating/Sunrise Ford Ford, who in addition to leading the rookie points is fifth in the overall standings, says his team is on course for the goals they set this year.
“Our main goal is finish top five in points and get the rookie of the year title,” Lupton said. “We have two of those where we want to be right now.”
He has also put together a string of 11 consecutive top 10 finishes this season.
“The guys have been happy that I haven’t brought back torn up race cars,” he said. “The only race we didn’t finish in the top 10 was Phoenix, where we got into a crash. After that race, we’ve kept the car clean and had a top 10 every race. That’s a big accomplishment and we also got a win.”
While his goals are within reach, Lupton makes it clear he is not letting up.
“I just want to keep going out and getting top fives and get some more wins.”