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Paving new lanes
Gomes, 18, on track with backing of new sponsor
Mantecas Jacob Gomes will try and find the winners circle for the second consecutive race when he takes to the Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday for a SRL Spears Southwest Tour event. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

If dreaming to become a championship NASCAR driver seemed too far-fetched or unrealistic, the reality of Jacob Gomes’ first SRL Spears Southwest Tour win recently has provided the dreams with some foundation.

Gomes sped his way to the victory at The Bullring in Las Vegas, turning in a top-speed of nearly 90 miles-per-hour on his way to the winner’s circle.

The victory not only substantiated the recent East Union High graduate’s pursuit to become a top-level professional driver, it has helped the 18-year-old land the support of a haughty sponsor that has whole-heartedly embraced Gomes.

“Getting them as a sponsor is really cool,” Gomes said of his union with Manteca’s Sunnyvale Smoked Meats, INC. “My entire life I have always wanted the big sponsor, where you have their logo on your car and their logo on your trailer and the racing suite and everything.

“Now, we’ve got the big sponsor and he’s a local guy from Manteca that seems to have a lot of belief that we can do something.”

Gomes’ No. 16 ride now will give of the blurred orange-and-black coloring of a freshly painted Sunnyvale logo. Sponsorships are the second most telling sign of success, falling in just under victories, giving Gomes a new found aura of confidence that should pay dividends when he heads back to the familiar confines of the Stockton 99 Speedway.

“Now when we come into this race we know that we are capable and we know we have a winning car,” Gomes said. “Now you have the confidence that this car can win, but you’re not too overconfident about it.

“You want to try and take every race the same, now I know that we actually have a chance at winning.”

The victories on the SRL Spears Southwest Circuit simply do not come easy. Earning a spot to compete in the marquee event of the evening comes only after qualifying to be one of the 24 cars with one of the top-24 times in a two-lap qualifier.

The top speeds move on to the final stage, which Saturday will be 150-laps over the paved ¼-mile track Gomes can practically call home. Several of the area’s successful drivers will be making a return trip to Stockton, laying the groundwork for an entertaining pursuit towards back-to-back wins.

“There are so many good drivers out there,” Gomes said. “There are a bunch of NASCAR legends out there. The greatest short-track racer in the United States is racing there, and that’s Jim Pettit. It’s crazy, he was in second and you look in your mirror and you think ‘Is that guy following me right now’. I’m about to win this race and this legend is following me right now.

“It is all just really, really intense.”