Jacob Gomes is at an age when most boys are getting ready to obtain a learner’s permit.
The East Union High junior instead has his sights on cracking the lineup of the NASCAR Sprint Cup after spending more than half of his 16 years behind the wheel of a race car.
It was just last year that Gomes won his first NASCAR Late Model title as a novice in the division. He also became the first to win the newly created NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year.
“It was really an honor to be given that award,” the soft-spoken Gomes said. “I have a lot to thank my team for in getting those cars ready – racing truly is a team sport.”
Whether it’s at the Stockton 99 Speedway, All-American Speedway in Roseville, or down in Inrwindale, Gomes routinely hits the road to try his luck against drivers from all over the western United States, testing both his luck and the limits of the car that he’s driving.
“There’s really a certain technique for certain cars because none of them really run the same,” Gomes said. “We have one car with an LS3 motor out of a Corvette that takes some getting used to. I didn’t do quite so well when we first ran that car.”
And despite his skills behind the wheel, the car simply wouldn’t run it weren’t for his pit crew: Bill Shaul, Ryan Creature, and Crew Chief Ty Joiner.
“They’re really my lifeline out there. If anything goes wrong, they’re right there to fix it,” Gomes said.
But like any wide-eyed teenager, it’s the combination of winning and speed that keeps him happy when he’s behind the wheel, noting that racing is more than just fun for him.
Gomes dreams of racing alongside some of his NASCAR Sprint Series heroes in California including drivers Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
“This is absolutely what I want to do for a career,” Gomes said. “It’s going to be a long road, but it’s something that I’m dedicated to.”
But when it comes to race day – and more importantly how to stay in front and take the checkered flag – Gomes says that it’s all about reacting and knowing where the other drivers are at all times so you don’t end up either trading paint or being pushed into the wall.
“Most of the time I’m racing against guys that have been doing this for years and it becomes second nature to them,” he said. “You don’t want to get in their way, but you do want to get past them, so you definitely want to be on you game.”
For more information about Gomes’ career, visit his personal website at www.jacobgomes.com.