The 2015 Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series Champion, Jacob Gomes, will return in 2016 to defend his first touring series title and attempt to become the only back-to-back champion in the history of the series. It would not be the only first for Gomes, as he has a history of not only being first on the race track but also in the record books.
Gomes became the first driver to win the rookie of the year award (in 2010) and a series championship. Gomes is also the first driver to garner more than 60 consecutive series starts and he currently holds the record at 63. The 2009 NASCAR Whelen All American Racing Series National Rookie of the Year hopes to extend that streak to 72 after the 9 race championship schedule in 2016.
Gomes’ 2015 campaign in the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series did not start out like a championship caliber season. He and the team struggled in the first half of the year, scoring three top-10 finishes, but none of them in the top five.
“I think we struggled in the beginning of the year for different reasons,” Gomes told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We planned on debuting a new car at the beginning of the year, but we couldn’t get it done in time because of work. I just feel like we were a little behind the last few years, and we were trying some new things and just couldn’t get them to work out.”
The second half of the season began at Eureka California’s, Redwood Acres Raceway, where Gomes is the current track record holder. Despite qualifying second and running as high as second, a broken wheel resulted in another finish just outside the top 10. It was the next event on the schedule, however, that turned his season around.
Gomes would lead 124 out of 125 laps at his home track, Stockton 99 Speedway (CA), to take the victory. He would follow that up with a win at Rocky Mountain Raceway, in Salt Lake City, Utah, which catapulted him to second in the standings, and back into title contention. With third and fourth-place finishes to complete the year, Gomes would end up securing the championship at Las Vegas.
“I think this definitely ranks as my number one accomplishment. Winning the Spears Southwest Tour Series Championship for both me and my team has to be our best season,” he concluded.
Heading into the new season, Gomes is full of confidence in his new Hamke Chassis straight rail car after two 2015 SRL wins and a 2016 Pacific Challenge Series victory under his belt.
“The new car has definitely helped a little and hopefully we will be even better this year,” he said. “This last year we really hit on something good with the car, and we figured out what worked best. I learned what I needed as a driver and my dad (Paul Gomes) learned some new things as well. We started off this year really well at the Winter Showdown and had a top-five car until we broke a rear end. I think we will be really strong at the Spears Southwest Tour Series season opener in Las Vegas.”
As the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series heads into its season opener at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 9th, Gomes heads into the event knowing he has had mixed results at the three-eighth mile paved oval.
In 2010, Jacob scored his first series top-five finish and followed it up with his first series win in 2011. Last season he finished fourth in the season finale, to clinch the championship, but those are the only top-five finishes he has had in 14 career starts, with an average finish of only 13th.
“Vegas and I definitely have a love-hate relationship,” Gomes recalled. “Every time we go in there we seem to run top five, but either get crashed out or have mechanical failure. I don’t know what it is with me and that track, but we have had just horrible luck at Vegas, and I just want to go in there and win this one. We have had engine failures, been wrecked while leading and wrecked on restarts but I feel like we can go in there and win this race.”
Looking forward to the upcoming campaign, Gomes feels like he can repeat as champion, but it won’t be easy.
“I think (Derek) Thorn will be tough, especially at the short tracks where he is so good. He has gotten really good at the bigger tracks now, as he is good everywhere. I also think Parker Stephens will be pretty good this year as well.”
When asked about returning as the defending champion, he said, “I feel like there is a little more pressure because you definitely want to do it again, but you can’t necessarily expect that. All I do, going into each race, is try to win and if I can’t win, do the best that I can.”
The Gomes Racing Team will have an ambitious schedule this year with around 20 weekends of racing on the docket.
“We plan to run the full Southwest Tour Series schedule as well as the Pacific Challenge Series events at our home tracks in Madera and Stockton. We may also go to the Summer Showdown (at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe Washington). We also plan on going to a couple of Blizzard Series races (at Five Flags Speedway) in Florida and then follow those up with the Snowball Derby in December,” Gomes said.
“Running the Blizzard races this year will kind of help me adapt more, because last time I went there for the Derby, I had never been to or even seen the track,” he surmised.
Gomes hopes that additional experience will see him make his first Snowball Derby after missing the big show by 0.036 seconds in 2014 in his only attempt.
“I would really like to thank my dad, Paul, Ron Dellosso and Bill Andreeta for the opportunity to go back east and compete this year.”
Gomes will begin defense of his Spears Southwest Tour Series championship, starting with his next event at the series season opener at the Bullring at LVMS on April 9. The front gates for the event open at 5:00 PM with qualifying for the Bandoleros, Thunder Cars, Legends, Bombers, Super Stocks and Spears Southwest Tour Series beginning at 5:30 PM. Opening Ceremonies are scheduled for 7:00 PM with the Spears Southwest Tour Series Main Event concluding the evenings activities. An autographed driver profile of Jacob will be handed out to the first 100 families entering the speedway.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Roger Seymour Photography