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Gomes off to strong start in Western Late Models rookie season

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POSTED May 21, 2009 2:28 a.m.
After dominating the WSRA Baby Grand division during the past couple of seasons, a series designed for young racers to hone their driving skills in 2/3 scale replica stock cars, Manteca’s Jacob Gomes made the move straight to the Western Late Models upon reaching the minimum age of 16 this season. Racing full time at Madera Speedway, Gomes has picked up a couple of podium finishes and sits second in the season point standings behind Modesto’s Kyle Gottula.

With a bye week in the Madera schedule Gomes headed north to race at the Stockton 99 Speedway last Saturday and it proved to be well worth the trip as he bested a field on 17 cars to earn his first career main event victory in a late model.

Gomes survived several early race incidents on the freshly paved quarter mile oval and steadily worked his way through the field until he found himself trailing only Stockton veteran Greg Potts for the lead. On lap 46 of the 50 lap feature Gomes gave Potts a bump coming out of the final turn which caused him to get loose. Gomes was able to get by, along with Tracy’s Justin Philpott, and charge to the checkered flag for the exciting win.

 “This is amazing. My crew did a great job setting up the car for me,” exclaimed Gomes afterward.

Escalon’s Eric Holmes was not so fortunate last weekend as the NASCAR Camping World Series West headed back to the Midwest to Iowa Speedway for the Long John Silver’s 200, in which the Eastern version of the same series competes against the West in the only combined race of the season.

After qualifying in the sixth row of the huge 37 car field that included NASCAR Sprint Cup bad boy Kyle Busch, Holmes was progressing towards the front when he was caught up in a multi-car accident that sent him to the garage on lap 73. Although he limped back to the track after making repairs on lap 145 the team elected to park it and call it a night a few laps later leaving Holmes with a very disappointing 36th place finish.

 “When the car spun in front of me, I maneuvered thru it, but unfortunately a car behind me got into me pushing me into the wall,” said Holmes. “We have a lot of racing ahead of us so we’ll focus on getting ready to go Douglas County Speedway (Roseburg, Oregon).”

Luckily for Holmes, only the West regulars are counted in the West standings allowing Holmes to be credited with a 16th place finish behind West winner David Meyhew who actually finished in third behind Kyle Busch and Brian Ickler of the East. Confused? Never mind. As a result, Holmes retains his lead in the West standings by 16-point margin (835 to 819) over Jason Bowles while Meyhew jumps to third (796) and Modesto’s Mike David continues to hold down fourth, but now just 53 points off the lead.

The upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend promises plenty of great racing both at the local tracks and on the tube for your racing pleasure.

On Saturday California Welding Supply Co. presents the 2009 Tri-Holiday Classic Race Series No. 1 at the Stockton 99 Speedway.

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Western Late Models, in a 150 lap feature, will head the card along with the Grand American Modifieds, Street Stocks and Bombers.

The Madera Speedway will also be hosting round 1 of its version of the Holiday Classic Series on Saturday as the  SRL Southwest Tour returns to the one third mile oval  for the first time since 2007.

Also racing will be the Western Late Models in twin 50-lap features, the American Limited Stocks and Modified Super Toyotas.

A season-high 24 teams are expected to be on hand to compete  for the $4,000 purse that goes to the winner of the “Performance Electric 110” which will be the largest in the history of the SRL Southwest Tour and veteran M.K. Kanke, age 46 of Frazier Park, looks like the driver to beat!

After missing the 2008 season due to an accident, Kanke has returned to the SRL Southwest Tour with a vengeance, posting wins the first two races of the 2009 season held at All American Speedway in Roseville and the Bullring in Las Vegas. Overall in his career, Kanke has posted 24 victories in 219 career starts on the NASCAR Southwest Tour, which ended following the 2006 season, and the SRL Southwest Tour.

Prunedale’s Jim Pettit II, the 2008 defending series champion, is expected to be back in action following a very scary incident at the Bullring in Las Vegas three weeks ago in which he suffered smoke inhalation after his car caught fire.

One driver who unfortunately will not be racing is local legend Dave Byrd of Seaside. Despite sitting second in the standings behind Kanke, the 2007 series champion and former two time Stockton 99 track champion lost his ride at Bob Strandwold Racing Racing this week to 2003 NASCAR Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich, of Lakeside, due to economic considerations.

Also on Saturday night, Merced Speedway will host the Ron Smith Memorial Twin-50’s featuring the IMCA Modifieds and Street Stocks.

On Sunday kick back on the couch and enjoy the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco beginning at 4:30 AM (and replayed at 2:30 PM) on SPEED, the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Charlotte beginning at 2:00 PM and of course, the Indianapolis 500 beginning at 9:00 AM on ABC.

We’ll go with a bit of a dark horse in 20-year old Graham Rahal to win “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and guzzle the bottle of milk in victory lane just as his father Bobby Rahal did in 1986.

To contact Dale Bosowski, e-mail dalebosowski@yahoo.com.
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