Bakersfield, CA – Jacob Gomes was coming off the best season of his racing career in 2022, scoring the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series championship and earning three series victories. He started 2023 with the biggest win of his career, when he defeated a 29-car field in the “All-Star Showdown 200” at Irwindale Speedway. The victory earned the Manteca, CA racer $25,000 in the season opener for both the Spears SRL Southwest Tour and SRL National series’.
“This is the biggest one”, Gomes exclaimed after the race! “The championships are great and this one lines right up with it. Going to the (Snowball) Derby and running the way we ran, then coming here and to win this. This is the biggest one I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m just thankful for everyone involved; Mike Keen, Derek Thorn, my dad and the entire crew We have just put so much effort into this. It was a helluva year last year, and it’s starting off right, right now.”
The day began with Kole Raz earning his first PFC Brakes “Zero Drag Fast Time Award” with a lap of 17.448 on the 1/2-mile paved oval. He beat Blaine Rocha by 0.008 seconds to earn an extra $1,000 from the Apache Rental Group. It also earned him a front row starting spot with choice of lane, in the straight-up lineup.
Raz took advantage of the starting position by jumping to a quick lead over the field. Jacob Gomes jumped from fourth to second, moving by Blaine Rocha and Buddy Shepherd in the preferred outside groove. The caution came out in lap six when rookie Zach Morris got into the Turn 3 wall.
The restart saw Raz back to the lead as Gomes held onto second, as Shepherd used the outside restart to grab third. But Rocha grabbed the spot back, running down the leaders to form a three-car battle for the lead. The lap 46 Competition Caution saw Raz holding off the duo, after repeated challenges, with Dan Holtz up to fourth ahead of Bubba Pollard and Jeremy Doss.
The restart found Raz back to the front with Holtz using the upper groove to jump to third, with Doss around Pollard for fifth. Holtz began to pressure Gomes for second, as Raz was finally able to gain a little separation on that battle. The third caution fell on lap 70, as teammates Zach Telford and Brandon Farrington collided in Turn 1.
The restart saw Rocha back by Holtz in the upper groove as John Moore began to make his presence felt, getting by Bubba Pollard for fifth. The field raced clean and green to the lap 100 halfway break, with Raz picking up another $1,000 from Earnest Performance. Gomes was second followed by Rocha, Holtz, Moore, and Pollard.
Restarting the second 100, Gomes was able to wrestle the lead from Raz using the low line. Rocha used the same maneuver over the suddenly struggling Raz. Pollard was a man on the move, jumping to third using the extreme low groove. John Moore followed and supplanted Pollard from third by lap 120. On lap 128, the caution came out for Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Dylan Zampa, who experienced a flat tire. At that juncture, Dan Holtz had moved back by Pollard for fifth behind Gomes, Rocha, and Moore.
Another restart was followed up by a Red for Austin Herzog, who went up in smoke on lap 135, oiling down the track. The restart found Pollard moving to third, but he slowly began to fall back to the tail end of the top-five by the 3/4 mark. On lap 154, Rocha’s strong second-place run came to an end, losing power and stalling in Turn 1, bringing out the caution.
The restart saw Bubba Pollard spinning off of Turn 2, in four-wide racing. Pollard pitted to make adjustments as Gomes led Moore, Holtz, Doss, and Darren Robertson, who made his first appearance in the top-five.
When the field returned to green on lap 156, Doss grabbed third from Holtz, as the field raced to the final caution on lap 171, when Pollard made contact with Barrett Polhemus, sending the young Texas driver into the Turn 4 wall. Both Pollard and Polhemus retired for the night.
The final restart found Holtz jumping from fourth to second, around the inside row starters. Gomes was able to open up a small lead as Holtz and Moore battled for second, swapping the position back and forth. As the laps ran down, Gomes began to stretch his lead as Holtz and Moore battled hard. With just three laps to go, Holtz fell off the pace and coasted to a stop in Turn 1, running out of gas. On lap 200, Gomes crossed the finish line to pick up the $25,000 prize. John Moore followed, tying his best career finish. Jeremy Doss ran a solid race, finishing third. Chris Davidson ran a steady race to come home fourth. Darren Robertson came from deep in the field to finish fifth, winning the FLUIDYNE High Performance “Cool Move of the Race”.
After the race, Gomes recalled his struggle to maintain pace with early race dominator Kole Raz, and the plan to make adjustment to get him to the front.
“We didn’t fire off were we needed to be, and Kole was just lights out”, Gomes began. “I just talked to Mike (Keen) those first 100 laps and we got a good game plan together. Mike’s been doing this a long time. He’s the smartest man in the country right now. He knew all the right pieces and he got it just right.”
“I was worried the whole time”, Gomes admitted about his battle with Raz. “That was my biggest fear. He had phenomenal drive off the corner, and he looked great. I had times I could get to him, but he just got away at the end (of the first half). But I knew what we needed to be better than him, and I knew that restart was the only shot I had, because you have got to get out front and get clean air. The longer it goes, the harder it is going to be to get around somebody. It was good to get around him early.”
John Moore tied his best career finish with his runner-up effort. He has switched over to racing with Derek Thorn Racing (DTR) for the last portion of 2022 and the 2023 season. Moore was stoked with his finish, and the chemistry taking shape with the new partnership.
“I’m just happy to be here (at DTR)”, Moore beamed. “I’ve been searching for the last seven years for a team that could give me the racecar to let me exercise the skills that I still have. Tonight I got to use all of them and it was a good time. The car stayed under me, and we were racing the best in the business for the most part. This is a tough game. It is so much fun when you are competitive like we were tonight. I would have loved to have won it, but I am grateful to be parked next to the 16 (Gomes, his DTR teammate) and get some of that magic on the 27.”
Moore was battling inside of top-five for a majority of the race and found himself battling another series regular in particular. As the laps wound down, Moore found himself locked in a back and forth tussle with veteran racer Dan Holtz for the runner-up position.
“There at the end, that 23 car was right inside of me and I was like; “were did he come from” Moore recalled at grabbing the spot from Holtz. “Derek was spotting for me, but we just figured we would drive away from him again, but he made a charge. He raced me really clean and hard all night. It was a pleasure racing him. He showed what he’s got tonight. He is a good olé’ boy that can still race a racecar, big time!”
Jeremy Doss spent most of the race outside the top-five, but the November Irwindale winner battled back to a third-place finish at the end of the night. Doss was visibly disappointed after qualifying seventh and finishing two positions shy of victory.
“First off we wanted to get in the top-five and the car just came in with way to much stagger, more than we wanted”, Doss stated. “I was just playing defense at that point and I couldn’t really attack the corner and get drive off. The second half it was really tight in rolling the center and way to much drive off. I’m happy to salvage a third place finish. It just bums me out that we were so good here last time and we just didn’t have the car we needed.”
Doss continued. “This place is tough to get a handle on, but when you have racers like Jacob and John, I’m happy to finish third. I just gotta thank Bob Lyon, Hamke Racecars, Earnest Performance, Shell Roofing, Alliance Metal Solutions, Horsepower Project, and everyone who is on board. We will take a third-place finish.”
The next event on the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series schedule is the “Winter Showdown” at Kern County Raceway Park on March 25th. The SRL National will head to South Alabama Speedway for the $25,000-to-win “47th Annual Rattler 250” on March 19th.
1. Jacob Gomes
2. John Moore
3. Jeremy Doss
4. Chris Davidson
5. Darren Robertson
6. Chris Eggleston
7. Andy Allen
8. Sean Hingorani
9. Jace Hansen
10. Cale Kanke
11. Jeff Bischofberger
12. Jake Finch
13. Jonathan Gomes
14. Nick Cooper
15. Dylan Zampa
16. Kole Raz
17. Dan Holtz
18. Ethan Nascimento
19. Scott Sanchez
20. Bubba Pollard
21. Barrett Polhemus
22. Zach Telford
23. Blaine Rocha
24. Zach Morris
25. Austin Herzog
26. Buddy Shepherd
27. Brandon Farrington
28. Dennis Rock
29. Andre Prescott