Gomes Takes Third Win of 2011 at Rocky Mountain
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Manteca’s Jacob Gomes reclaimed the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series championship lead with his win Saturday night in the “Century Boatland 115” in front of a capacity crowd at Rocky Mountain Raceways just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Gomes, started outside of the front row, after fast qualifier Derek Thorn drew a seven-car invert, but that did not mean it was an easy drive to victory for last year’s SRL Rookie-of-the-Year.

After the 2010 SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series champion Jonathon Gomez gave the command of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” and John Gomez dropped the green flag to start the 115 lap race, Brennan Newberry jumped to the early lead from the pole position, followed closely by Gomes, Joe Farre’, David Ross and Ross Strmiska.

By the time the field began to sort itself out on lap 10 on the high banked 3/8 mile, Newberry still led with Farre’ up to second, Strmiska third, with Gomes and Justin Westmoreland rounding out the top five.

The first caution of the night fell on lap 15, as Strmiska moved passed Farre’ for second the two made contact resulting in both cars coming to a stop high in the middle of turns 1 and 2.  When the smoke cleared and the field was set for the restart, the top 10 running order was Newberry, Thorn up from his seventh starting position, Gomes, Westmoreland, Jared Vorse, Carlos Vieira, Ross, Dave Byrd, Jim Pettit II, and Keith Spangler.

On the restart, an incident in turn 2 collected the cars of Bakersfield’s Tim Smith in the Miller Environmental #99 and Arizona’s Scott Rueschenberg.  Smith continued, but Rueschenberg was finished for the night.

M.K. Kanke, who did not make qualifying due to his team having to replace the rear-end of the RPM Motorsports #33 after the final practice session was on the move, up to 13th from his 22nd starting position by lap 25.

As the race moved toward the half-way point, Thorn was looking for a way by Newberry for the lead, Vorse had moved up to fourth, and Kanke continued his march into the top 10.

On lap 43 the complexion of the race changed in a big way, as Thorn made an inside move on Newberry for the lead in the middle of turns 1 and 2, resulting in the Drager/NTS Motorsports Chevrolet of Newberry spinning and Thorn being relegated to the rear for the ensuing restart.

The lap 47 restart saw Gomes’ Sunnyvalley Smoke Meats Chevrolet on the point, followed by Olympia, Washington’s Vorse up to second, Westmoreland third, Pettit fourth and Vieira in fifth.

At the half-way point of the 115 lap race, Kanke had moved into the top five, with Vieira, Dave Byrd, Spangler, Jonathan Mawhinney, and Maryland’s Jeff Oleen rounding out the top 10.

Lap 65, Kanke moved past Pettit for fourth, and Thorn was up to tenth after restarting 18th on lap 47.

After 32 laps of green flag racing, the caution flew on lap 78, for a spinning Bryan Herzog on the front straightaway.  As the field slowed for the fourth caution of the night, the stage was set for a classic SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series battle to the finish.

The top five included the 18 year-old Gomes in the lead, 23 year-old Vorse in second, followed by two of the top veterans of the sport - Kanke and Pettit in third and fourth, with the fastest car of the weekend, the SP Crankshaft #26 of Derek Thorn in fifth.

Back to green on lap 82, Kanke began to work on Vorse for second, and made the pass two laps later.  Three laps later, Thorn muscled by Pettit for fourth, then passed Vorse for third on lap 90.

The top five remained Gomes, Kanke, Thorn, Vorse and Pettit, until lap 106 when Vorse slowed with electrical problems that would end the race for him and his Knight Fire Protection team.  Westmoreland once again joined the top five in his 3M Automotive Aftermarket Ford.

As the laps wound down, Kanke was patiently looking for his opportunity to take the lead from Gomes, while he had a rear view mirror full of Thorn, as the three had distance themselves from the field.

With five to go, Gomes was showing the way, Kanke was on his rear bumper cover and the Rocky Mountain Raceways spectators were on their feet.

On lap 112, Kanke made the move everyone had waited for, as he squeezed his famous red #33 Chevrolet under Gomes entering turn 3, with Thorn in tow.  At the center of turns 3 and 4, Kanke was in the lead by a nose on the inside of Gomes, at the same moment Thorn was attempting to displace Kanke who was now the leader.  Slight contact between Thorn and Kanke was all Gomes needed to drive off turn 4 back into the lead and go on to his third SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series victory of the year.

“Once Kanke got up to second I was nervous.  I knew he had to be fast to come all the way from the back, not to mention he is one of the winningest drivers in our sport,” Gomes said after the race.  “I tried to stay focused and not worry about what was going on behind us.  I was trying to not give up the bottom, but he (Kanke) drove under me before we got to the turn.   I’m not sure what happened between he and Derek (Thorn) but when we came off turn 4 we were clear.”

“This is one of my favorite wins, we were at a new track and I beat M.K.” Gomes added.  “I have to thank all the guys on the team, Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats, Inc. and Annette Dell’Osso for all her work.”

The SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series next event will be August 20th at Stockton 99 Speedway.  

Jacob Gomes takes another win.  (Speed51.com Photo)