Bakersfield, CA – Two men entered the ring at Irwindale Speedway (CA) Saturday night, and both did what they needed to do to win the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series championship. At the end of the night, Jeremy Doss won the battle, in the “Prelude to the Showdown 100”, with his 12th series victory. But it was Jacob Gomes who won the war and the series title by the smallest margin in its history. The two-point margin was in doubt until the end, but a pass for third with 10-laps remaining sealed the championship for the former 2015 titlist, and his place in history, as one of only three drivers with multiple series championships. He joins West Coast legends Derek Thorn and Jim Pettit II.
“It is great”, Gomes exclaimed! “Those are two of the greatest short track racers that have ever been born. There are a lot of other ones that have never had championships, but to join a list like that is unbelievable. Everyone always says if you win one, it could be a fluke, but if you win two, it really means something. So, this means a lot to everybody that’s involved and everybody that’s put me in a position to be where we are. This is great! The trophy will look great next to the one I have been starring at for so long.“
Doss, on the other hand, did all he could do to secure the championship. He earned his fourth career PFC Brakes “Zero Drag fast Time Award” and grabbed the lead, after a lap 60 restart, to pick up his third win of the season, and his second win in-a-row. The win was a continuation of the improvement the team has seen during the second half of the season, and it gives him momentum heading across the country.
“I feel like our car was very similar to how it was at Kern County (Raceway Park), so I was pretty confident going into the race”, as Doss recalled his last victory. “I knew I had to do my job and take care of it, so we had something left at the end. So that is what we did. We got the win, the first here at Irwindale in the SRL in the Super Late Models, and our first pole here. Gomes was just one position better than us this year. But still, that’s not gonna bring me down. Congratulations to them. I’m very happy with the momentum that is on our side entering the “Snowball Derby” and the “Snowflake” (at 5 Flags Speedway (FL)).”
Doss continued, “I just want to thank Bob Lyon and the Lyon Motorsports Team, Cody Glick, my dad Mike Doss, Hamke Racecars, Earnest Performance, PFC Brakes, Swift Springs, Pit Stop USA, Peters Racing Engines, Horsepower Project, Apache Rental Groups, Shell Roofing Solutions, Alliance Rental Solutions, and everyone who is involved with this team. It feels good to win two in-a-row.”
The team had been consistent throughout the 2022 campaign, but had fallen just short of victory, after Gomes had reeled off three wins in-a-row following the season opening “All-Star Showdown 200”. But Doss scored a win in Round #6 of the season, in the #75 Doss Motorsports Super Late Model. He then got one in the Bob Lyon #44, winning in three of the last four series events. Doss feels the improvement has resulted from concentrating on the long runs, as well as figuring out what the car and driver needed to be successful together.
“I just feel like we are making all the right calls. We kinda learned that we always had short-run speed, but we fell off at the end of the race. So, we really worked on long run speed. Then it really paid off in qualifying, and it paid off in the race. We ended up finding out what I like and what the car likes. Unfortunately, it was just a little to late by one spot, but it still feels really good.”
Austin Thom started at the front of the field, after drawing the number one card. Dustin Ash pulled the number two to start alongside. Ash got the early jump in the preferred upper groove to lead lap one, as Thom dropped back through the field. Doss started fifth, but also fell back, as far as eighth, saving his equipment early. Cale Kanke was the driver on the move, as he advanced to third from ninth starting behind Sean Hingorani, when the only incident related caution flew on lap 20. Dan Holtz and Austin Thom made contact, with Holtz into the Turn 1 wall and Thom also spinning.
The restart saw Doss move to fourth with multiple battles throughout the top-six, as Ash pulled out to a comfortable lead. But Hingorani, Kanke and Doss began to close on the leader by lap 35. Kanke was able to battle by the rookie just after lap 40, with Doss following. The trio pressured Ash for the lead, with Kanke making the move on lap 50, under the Las Vegas resident. Doss followed with Hingorani to third on lap 51. Gomes, who had been running between fifth and seventh also closed to the bumper of a fading Ash for fourth. But the Competition Caution flew on lap 60 with Kanke, Doss, Hingorani, Ash, and Gomes the top-five. Austin Herzog, John Moore, and Andy Allen completed the top-eight.
The restart saw Doss battle to the lead on the bottom line, with Kanke battling back hard on Doss’ bumper. Ash and Herzog took advantage of the outside line to move to third and fourth, as Hingorani and Gomes dropped back. By lap 70, Gomes was able to get by Hingorani and battle Ash and Herzog for third, as Doss continued to hold off Kanke. Both Herzog and Gomes where able to get by Ash, as Gomes now needed just one more position to win the championship. As the laps began to wind down, Doss began to pull away from Kanke, and Gomes continued to nudge Herzog for third.
The battle for third continued to intensify, as Gomes continued to apply pressure to Herzog’s rear bumper and left rear quarter panel. John Moore also joined the fray, as he repeatedly pressured Gomes to the inside for fourth. Just as the race wound down to the final ten circuits, Gomes was able to upset Herzog enough to make the pass for third, gain the championship lead, and earn the Fluidyne High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”, as Gomes recalled the championship move.
“It was nine or ten to go and I thought we were going to get a caution late, but we never got it. I had to do everything I could do there at the end of it. I had nothing to lose. Jeremy was leading it, and he was in front of me, and nothing was going to stop me. I had to do everything I could do.”
On lap 100, Doss took the checkered to earn the victory ahead of a vastly improving Kanke, 2022 champion Gomes, Austin Herzog, and John Moore. Dustin Ash held on to sixth followed by Sean Hingorani, Rookie-of-the-Year Zach Telford, Andy Allen, and series veteran Keith Spangler.
With the championship battle the center point of the weekend’s attention, Cale Kanke may have flown under the radar. But the Frazier Park, CA driver showed his mettle and his vast improvement with the RPM Motorsports team, after consecutive second-place finishes.
“Man, I am just excited that we are going in the right direction”, Kanke exclaimed with a smile. “We have had really good cars and we are running with these guys and have a competitive car to run with these guys, close. We run against the best guys, with Doss and Gomes. I’d like to congratulate Jacob on the championship. But to be the best, you have to run against the best, and that is what we are doing.”
Kanke continued, “We have just been doing our homework, and Willie Allen has been really helping us out a bunch with Rackley/WAR. He has been getting us better in the right areas. We can call him up at any point in time and talk us through it, so we are starting the races in the right area.“
Kanke is the son of former SRL Series champion Mike (M.K.) Kanke, the all-time wins leader in the former NASCAR Southwest Tour Series. Cale has been involved with the SRL since he participated in the Legend Series, as its two-time champion in 2010 and 2011. He made his first Super Late Model start in 2015 and has participated in 38 events, entering the Irwindale season finale. He had yet to lead a lap in Super Late Model competition, but made a pass for the lead over Dustin Ash, leading 11 laps. The effort was a big boost for his emotions.
“There is a lot of emotion, quite honestly”, Kanke admitted. “I’ve grown up running around these cars when my dad was running these cars when I was two years old. So, just to come here and run, leading like that, is just special.”
After the championship battle was over, Gomes, wanted to thank those who helped make the 2022 season happen.
“I gotta thank SunnyValley Smoked Meats, Dave Reeves, Ron and Susan Del’Osso, my mom and dad, Mike Keen, Derek Thorn, and Miss Vicky”, Gomes credited. “They do so much. They help get us here every race. Thank you, Mike David with David Racing Products, my buddy RS, Studio 10 and just my whole family.”
The schedule for the 2023 Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series will be released later this year, but it will find the series opening the year in a combination race with the SRL National at Irwindale Speedway on January 21st. The $25,000-to-win “All-Star Showdown” will open the series 23rd season.
Results: 1. Jeremy Doss, 2. Cale Kanke, 3. Jacob Gomes, 4. Austin Herzog, 5. John Moore, 6. Dustin Ash, 7. Sean Hingorani, 8. Zach Telford, 9. Andy Allen, 10. Keith Spangler, 11. Nick Cooper*, 12. Zach Morris*, 13. Scott Sanchez, 14. Jason Gilbert, 15. John Dillon, 16. Austin Thom*, 17. Buddy Shepherd, 18. Dan Holtz, DNQ. Eddie Wilcox*, DNQ. Jake Bollman*, DNQ. Andre Prescott, DNQ. Trevor Huddleston, DNQ. Logan Jewell*