Bakersfield, CA – Jacob Gomes continued his winning ways, scoring his first series victory at Irwindale Speedway in the “Spears Manufacturing 100 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse”. The 2015 Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series Champion made it three wins in-a-row in SRL competition, by leading every lap of the $6,000-to-win event at the Southern California ½-mile oval. It was Gomes 10th career victory, breaking a tie for fourth on the all-time list with Jeremy Doss and Jeff Anthony. It was also Gomes first win at Irwindale, finally earning the victory in his lucky 21st start at the facility and 121st overall.
“It was the biggest sigh of relief ever, going across the line (first) finally, knowing that we have lost it short of two laps to go. We have lost it short of everything. To have everybody on board to finally get it there. We are conquering all the goals I have never had the chance to accomplish. We have tried, and have had a lot of bad luck, and hard times, and we are finally fighting all the demons and getting everything in order and having the right people with us. My dad and everybody have put everything into this thing. It is our job that we want to do, and it is finally great to win.”
Earlier, Gomes earned the PFC Brakes “Zero Drag Fast Time Award”, clicking off a lap of 17.337 seconds on the ½-mile oval, with 23 Super Late Models on hand. Gomes earned an extra $500 from J&M Racing and Loyd McGee in honor of long-time Irwindale Speedway supporter Michael Atkinson. First-time SRL starter Jake Bollman was second quick, with Andy Allen a career best third. Cale Kanke, Buddy Shepherd, John Moore, Jace Hansen and Trevor Huddleston completed the eight redraw participants.
Andy Allen drew the No. 1 pill to start on the pole alongside Bollman, with Gomes third and Huddleston fourth. The green dropped and so did Gomes, to the far inside line, to secure the lead by the end of lap-one. The first yellow flew on lap five, for a spin by Zach Telford, in tight racing. The restart saw Jace Hansen use the preferred outside line to move around both Allen and Bollman. Gomes led lap #17 and picked up another $500 bonus from J&M Racing. The two drivers on the move, however, were Buddy Shepherd and Jeremy Doss, as Shepherd dispatched of Allen for third by lap 19, with Doss to fourth on lap 23, after contact with Allen. The contact resulted in a yellow for the slowing former Super Late Model winner at Irwindale.
The lap-23 restart was wild, as Shepherd didn’t come up to speed, and the field staked up behind him, with major damage to John Moore, Trevor Huddleston, and Dan Holtz. Dustin Ash also spun, and Shepherd pitted, with his crew checking for damage and the cause of the issue, as Shepherd recalled.
“We started seventh and were in third at the time. I got it in gear and a bearing, or the clutch went away, just like when a clutch goes out coming around the corner. I left it in high gear the rest of the race and we didn’t have any more problems.”
The ensuing restart found Gomes out to a comfortable lead again over Hansen, with Doss moving back by Bollman on lap 35, and Linny White making his first appearance in the top-five. The top-three separated themselves from the battles behind them as Shepherd began making his way back through the field. On lap 46, Shepherd took advantage of a pass by Dylan Zampa, under Cale Kanke, to sweep under both of them to get to sixth. The move earned him the Fluidyne High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”.
On lap 51, the caution fell for the last time for a spin by Andre Prescott, who was having a solid evening. The restart found Gomes once again leading Hansen, Doss, White, Bollman and Shepherd. On lap 57, Shepherd used an outside move to dispatch of Bollman, and a dozen laps later he was able to get around White for fourth. As the laps began to wind down, Hansen began to reel in Gomes, sticking his nose inside the championship leader on several occasions. By lap 90 the two were battling hard, as Doss also closed on the leaders. But when the checkered fell, Gomes was able to stave off the challenges and score the emotional victory.
Jace Hansen crossed the line second but was found to have too much left side weight in post-race inspection, moving Doss to second. Buddy Shepherd was third with Linny White and Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist Dylan Zampa the remainder of the top-five. Jake Bollman, Dustin Ash, Chris Davidson, Cale Kanke, and Jeff Bischofberger completed the top-10.
Prior to the disqualification, Gomes recalled the final laps racing with Hansen, having to hold off the Colorado native.
“We were a little bit (worried). We were just trying to save everything we can. You don’t want to burn it up to lead every lap. You don’t want to overextend the car and be in a bad position later on. Maybe I didn’t do a good enough job of saving as much as I should have, by doing the right things. But he got to us with about 10 to go, and it was a little nerve wracking for a minute. But I had to work on myself for a good solid five laps to find grip somewhere, to try to do the best I could. We were able to gap him a little bit, so it was a good effort.”
With the win, Gomes is having the best season of his career, even considering his 2015 series championship. He has now won three in-a-row, leading every lap of those events.
“I think it has been great”, Gomes exclaimed. “We have a great car! We had some little things this weekend, but we worked on it and got it a little better than we were from the last time that we were here. We are figuring out everything that we have got, so I am really excited to go back to Kern. I think we had a great car at Kern, so we are going to have some good shots to win this year. A lot of people put a lot of effort into this, and I can’t thank everyone enough!”
Jeremy Doss finished second in the event, moving ahead of Hansen for second in the championship standings. Doss had an up and down weekend which finished on a high note.
“I felt like in practice yesterday we fired off pretty good, but then the track got rained on. When we fired off today, we just struggled a little bit. In practice we just couldn’t hit it right. So, we put it back to the way we started this weekend. In qualifying we thought the car was pretty good, but we just lacked the speed. At race time it came alive. It would fire off a little tight, but it would come to me on long runs. So, it was a big improvement, and I am happy with P3 (P2 after Hansen DQ). Add it to another top-five here. I really want the win, but unfortunately, we will have to wait until next time.”
Doss continued, “I just want to thank Bob Lyon for letting me run his car, Alliance Rental Solutions, Shell Roofing Solutions, Hamke Racecars, Earnest Performance, PFC Brakes, Swift Springs, Horsepower Project, Peters Racing Engines, and the entire crew for working so hard this weekend. They busted their butts. Our expectations going into the race weren’t too hot, but we came out with a good finish.”
Buddy Shepherd may have had a winning car, but he had to go to the rear of the field on lap 23, after his mechanical issue. Despite the setback, he had a good time racing to the front and is looking forward to going back to his home track next month.
“I wish I didn’t have to go back there, but I had a good time, the car is one piece and I had good battles with a lot of the guys there”, Shepherd recalled. “Coming up I had some good slide jobs and that was a blast. I guess I’m a dirt guy still. We had a good run, and I think the result doesn’t really show how good the car was tonight. But we will go to Kern (County Raceway Park), get some good sleep, get it back together, and we will go racing again.”
The next event for the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series will be at Kern County Raceway Park for the “JM Environmental Inc. Wild West Shootout Round #2. It will pay $10,000 to the winner of the 100-lap affair and will feature green flag runs of no longer than 27 laps.
1. Jacob Gomes, 2. Jeremy Doss, 3. Buddy Shepherd, 4. Linny White, 5. Dylan Zampa*, 6. Jake Bollman*, 7. Dustin Ash, 8. Chris Davidson, 9. Cale Kanke, 10. Jeff Bischofberger, 11. Andy Allen, 12. Blaine Rocha, 13. R.J. Johnson, 14. Keith Spangler, 15. Zach Telford*, 16. Andre Prescott, 17. Scott Sanchez, 18. Trevor Huddleston, 19. John Moore, 20. Dan Holtz, 21. Eric Schmidt, DQ. Jace Hansen, DNS. Cody Dempster
Celebrating its twenty-second season in 2022, the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series is a regional stock car series competing on paved ovals in the southwestern portion of the U.S. “The SPEARS Southwest Tour Series…Where the Champions Race”.