Thorn Wins Title; Gaulding Scores Controversial Victory

Derek Thorn

Derek Thorn celebrates his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

AVONDALE, Ariz. - Gray Gaulding turned Cole Custer in Turn 3 of the last lap to win Saturday night’s Casino Arizona 50 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix International Raceway, while Derek Thorn won the series crown.

Gaulding scored his first K&N victory in 17 starts combined in the East and West Series. Jesse Little placed second with Cameron Hayley, David Mayhew and Brandon McReynolds completing the top five.

Custer, who started on the pole and led 49 laps of the 50-lap race, led entering Turn 3 with Gaulding closing. Gaulding ran into the back of Custer’s car, turning it as Gaulding went on to the win. Custer finished sixth.

“I don’t know why he just can’t pass us clean if he’s going to do it,’’ Custer said. “I know how he races, and I know that he’s an idiot and can’t control himself. He wrecked Corey LaJoie at the start of the year. I don’t know what he’s doing.’’

Gaulding said he was going for the victory.

“On the last lap, my intention wasn’t to take him out,’’ Gaulding said. “I was trying to follow his line. He has a higher arc and when he was in that corner, a lot of that speedy dry was still up there. As soon as I touched him, he was around. I really didn’t even hit him that hard.

“Everybody is going to look at it as (I) wrecked him for the win. At the end of the day, I was going for kind of the bump-and-run. At this track and the speeds we’re running, there is no bump-and-run, the bump-and-run is going to lead to a wreck.’’

Gaulding said he had to do whatever he could to score his first series win.

“I hate having to win one like that, but when it’s right on the tip of your tongue, sometimes you’ve got to take it. If I was in the same seat (as Custer), I would probably be a little bit upset, but at the end of the day, it’s the last lap, the last corner. You’ve got to get after it.’’

While that happened, Thorn was headed toward a 15th-place finish that gave him the series title. He beat Hayley by six points for the championship.

“Definitely not one for the record books,’’ the 27-year-old said of his race. “We just happened to put together an awesome season. We weren’t always the fastest but we were a model of consistency.’’

“This championship is by far an all-time high.’’

 

 

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