Two of the mainstay drivers of the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series call the New Stockton 99 Speedway their home track, and both drivers will be looking to collect the $5,000 winner’s check this Saturday when the tour rolls into Stockton, California for race number six of the 2018 season.
Saturday’s SPEARS Southwest Tour 125 presented by 51 FIFTY Energy Drink will be the first time SRL has visited Stockton since the 2015 season. For Carlos Viera and Jacob Gomes, the opportunity to return to their home track comes at a perfect time.
Each driver has had polar opposite seasons thus far, with Vieira looking to continue his strong season and Gomes looking to turn around a season of frustration. Both will have that opportunity on August 18.
Gomes entered the 2018 SRL season as one of the favorites for the series championship. Despite exhibiting speed at each event on the 2018 schedule, he only one top-10 finish to show for his efforts. His sixth-place finish at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV) being the highlight.
The 2015 SPEARS Southwest Tour Series Champion has had the best qualifying average, for those who have competed in every event, but has a disappointing 17.6 average finish to place him 13th in the standings. It is a position he is not used to being in.
“We have had great cars all year long, just bad luck with mechanical failures have plagued our season,” Gomes told Speed51.com. “We are just hoping to get it behind us and move forward to the next one at our home track, and get the ball rolling in the right direction again.”
This weekend would be the opportune time for the 2009 SRL Rookie of the Year to get his momentum turned around, as he has had a great deal of success at his home track. He was the 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year, racing primarily at Stockton 99 Speedway. In the last event in which the SRL visited the New Stockton 99 Speedway, the Manteca, CA driver was the victor. In all, Gomes has scored three of his six series victories at Stockton, and he has seven top-five finishes in just 12 attempts.
“I just grew up at Stockton and have probably watched a million laps there,” Gomes recalled. “It is one of my favorite short tracks in our area, and I enjoy racing there. To win at my home track would be big, knowing I could get this bad luck off our back. I’d be excited more than anything because I know that we have got some of the best race cars this year. We just need to keep them together and finish it out.”
Over the past several years, Gomes has been able to finish races but hasn’t had the speed that the Sunny Valley Smoked Meats, Dennis Arbini sponsored team has had in the past. This year the team has found that speed and Gomes attributes it to good changes with the car and a familiarity with their 2018 Senneker straight-rail chassis.
“We have just been making good calls (with adjustments to the car) at the track, learning more from experience with this car,” he explained. “We have also been better each week in the shop, tuning them up.”
This weekend will be Gomes 87th consecutive start with the series, a consecutive starts record. He has raced against nearly 200 competitors in the series, but there are several competitors that he especially enjoys racing with. And he will have that opportunity on the 18th of August.
“I really enjoy racing against Derek Thorn and Jeremy Doss,” Gomes stated. “I really like racing against those two every week. They are both fast and clean drivers, and I can race side-by-side with those guys every lap, at any track. I really enjoy racing with anyone in the SRL. They are all a great group of drivers, and they all put on a good race.”
Vieira, on the other hand, has had one of the best seasons of his racing career. In eight Super Late Model Touring Series starts in 2018, Vieira has two victories, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. His only finish outside of the top 10 was an 11th at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the third SRL event of the season. He currently sits in a tie for fourth in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series championship standings. If maintained, it would be a career best for the Livingston, California racer.
In his 12th season of racing, Vieira now serves as a teammate to Derek Thorn with the Campbell Motorsports Team. The relationship began in 2016 and has blossomed into an association that has been highly beneficial to the Rio De Janeiro, Brazil born driver. Five of his 12 career top-five and 15 of his 37 top-10 finishes have come with the Campbell Motorsports Team in his last 23 starts. Vieira has been a fixture in the series with 83 career starts, but he has never had as much self-assurance as he has had this season. He attributes that to his relationship with Byron Campbell and the Campbell Motorsports Team.
“They (Campbell Motorsports) bring a lot of confidence to my racing program and that is really important to me,” Vieira told Speed51.com. “They really believe in me as a driver. I wish we had an SRL win by now, but I know it is right around the corner. They are great people and we really have lot of fun at the track. Having a teammate like Derek, as much as he wins, really gives me a lot of confidence in what he tells me when I’m behind the wheel of the race car. I am just looking for my first SRL win!”
Vieira has found success and victory lane in other series, such as the Pacific Challenge Series. In his six career starts, he has three victories and only one finish outside the top five. One of those victories was just last weekend. Despite his success outside the SPEARS Southwest Tour, Vieira is committed to remain loyal to the SRL, even if it takes a little longer to pick up that first win.
“I just love the SRL because of what Brian (Olsen) and Larry (Collins) have built,” Vieira described. “They do a top-notch job in everything that they do, including being a great organization and growing a series with a great reputation. There is always a great field of competitors to compete against, and it is the series to race in out here. They have the best drivers that come together to compete and that is what I want to be doing. I want to win in every series in which I compete, and this is a series I haven’t been fortunate enough to win in yet. But I’m going to keep trying until I do.”
A win at one of Vieira’s home tracks would be huge for the successful business man, but he would like to win one for more than just himself.
“I would be extremely excited to get a win at Stockton,” Vieira began. “Stockton and Madera (Speedway, CA) are two of the tracks that I got started on. To get a win close to home would be awesome. But not just for me, but for the team as well. Byron (Campbell) saw something in me and believed that I had the talent to win. Bringing home a win for him is really something I look forward to doing.”
Vieira continued, “I really want to bring home a win for my wife Aysia. She has been with me since the beginning. She has seen me come close to winning an SRL race and to finally get it done would be a big win for both of us.”
Stockton 99 Speedway is known to produce some of the most intense and tight racing on all of the West Coast. It is a track that many drivers have hesitations about, but Vieira isn’t one of them.
“I’m not one of those guys that complain about Stockton,” Vieira stated. “I know it has the reputation of being a place where drivers will wreck or get into fights. Those things don’t concern me when I go to Stockton. I go to Stockton to race hard and whatever happens, happens. I like the close door-to-door racing there. It’s exciting to have cars all around me on a tight track. I look forward to it, and I’ve done well in the past. I believe I can race hard there and have a good chance at a win. With these cars, with the horsepower and the way they perform, it just provides for some awesome racing. With a stacked, full field of cars, the action is pretty intense.”
Vieira is not just a supporter of the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series behind the wheel, but also a supporter through his businesses. 51 FIFTY Energy Drink is the presenting sponsor for this weekend’s event. The growing company is also the presenting sponsor for two additional events this season. In addition, he also uses the series to bring attention to some of his charitable causes, through the Carlos Vieira Foundation which supports Race for Autism, Race 2B Drug Free, Race to End the Stigma, Gloves Not Drugs and Amazon Smile.
“The series promotes well and they are very professional in everything they do,” Vieira explained. “Brian Olsen (the Series Co-Owner & Promoter) goes above and beyond what he needs to do to make sure that we get the exposure that we need. I like sponsoring a business or series that goes above and beyond. I don’t have to go chasing them down to try to get that exposure. They approach me to make sure that I am happy.”
Discovering the sport of auto racing back in 2007 was a life changing experience for Vieira. It allowed the entrepreneur to find an escape from the business world, while at the same time keeping him busy. The sport allows Vieira to focus on something outside of business, which gives him the ability to concentrate on those endeavors when he needs to.
“Racing has definitely changed my life,” Vieira began. “I tend to get bored easily, and I try to stay as busy as I can. One of the reasons I have been successful in life is because I was always working. But at the same time, you also need to do things for yourself. You need to take the time to do things that you enjoy. Racing satisfies that need for me away from work. I love the excitement, the competition and it provides the energy release I need to be happy, to be able to do my job, be a good husband, and a good father.
“When I am in the car, I am thinking of nothing but the track, the competition and what I need to do to make the car faster. Everything else goes out of my mind and that doesn’t happen too often. It is the one time when I don’t think of anything but what is in front of me. It keeps me focused to where I can tackle everything else in life.”
For Vieira, racing has become a big part of his life and its ties together several of his passions. He is excited for the future of his racing program and for all the doors and possibilities it opens for his success in the future.
“I just love everything that is going on right now with my racing,” Vieira exclaimem. “I’m going to be doing this for many years to come. Racing does great things for my brand, 51 FIFTY Energy Drink and the Carlos Vieira Foundation. Racing started it all back in 2007 when I started in the Late Models at Madera Speedway and Altamont Raceway Park (CA). All three disciplines work hand in hand to accomplish different goals. I’m just happy everything is coming together, and I believe it is going to continue coming together, resulting in bigger and better things down the road.”
Both Jacob Gomes and Carlos Vieira will be looking for brighter things down the road.
For Gomes, the former champion will be looking to end his bad luck streak and score his seventh career victory in the SRL and fourth at the New Stockton 99 Speedway. He would love to give himself and the team some momentum going into 2019.
For Vieira, a career first SRL victory would continue his momentum and thrust him into the thick of the championship chase. To win at an event sponsored by his company, would make it even sweeter.
-Story by Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Southwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com