IRWINDALE, California — Teammates Jonathon Gomez and Derek Thorn thrilled Toyota Speedway at Irwindale spectators Saturday in the Spears Stockcar Racing League (SRL) Southwest Tour 100-lap feature on the progressively-banked half-mile. They traded the lead on laps 99 and 100. Gomez came back to edge Thorn by a mere 0.012 in their hectic dash from turn four to the finish line. Their cars touched several times and had 1,000+ fans on their feet watching the closest TS@I finish of the year unfold. The race had four different leaders and five lead changes. Gomez earned $4,000 and climbed from third to second in SRL 2010 point standings after six of ten races at six different tracks. Thorn overcame a 20-point deficit and is the new SRL point leader by seven points over Gomez (941-934). Prior point leader Jim Pettit II finished 13th in a 24-car field and slipped to third in current points with 915.
"Winning made my flight from Portland well worth it"— Jonathon Gomez
Winner Gomez is a 27-year old rising star in two stock car series—SRL (the former NASCAR Elite Division Southwest Tour cars) and the NASCAR K & N Pro Series-West circuit. He is a 2010 championship contender in both series. With a K & N-West road race at Portland International Raceway on the same weekend as SRL's Irwindale event, Gomez flew between Oregon and Southern California to make both events. He flew on a commercial flight Friday morning from his home in Twin Falls, Idaho to So Cal to participate in SRL's TS@I Friday practice from 4:30 to 9:00 pm. He was the only driver in five sessions to lap the track in the 17 second bracket. He then flew north to Portland to practice his K & N-West car Saturday in his second ever road racing event. Gomez departed Portland at 3:00 pm Saturday on a six-passenger, twin-engine turbo prop airplane of a supporter for a three-hour flight to an airport in La Verne, east of Irwindale. He arrived at TS@I at 7:05 just as SRL qualifying started for the 24 car field. Gomez, the final qualifier, was the third fastest (0.279 slower than the fastest qualifying time) even without practicing during two SRL Saturday afternoon practice sessions on a blazing hot day (100+ degrees).
Following his victory, Gomez told the media he would fly north to Portland with his small entourage Saturday night so he could qualify his K & N-West car at 11:00 am Sunday and compete in the 3:00 pm K & N road race. His three-hour flight would provide time to sleep a bit before racing for his Heritage Cattle Co. sponsored team, also a No. 22—his SRL car number. His trips south, north, south and north left him enthused for more racing action. “Winning made my flight from Portland well worth it,” he told the crowd following his thrilling, fender-bumping triumph. Many stock car fans praised the competitive SRL event and said they will return to TS@I for SRL round seven on September 4.
Thorn set a new track record for SRL at 17.635 (102.070 mph) in one of three Bob Strandwohl Chevrolet entries. Eleven drivers (nine in the 17 second bracket) beat the former SRL one lap record of 18.095 (99.475 mph) set by Troy Ermish last July. Thorn, a 24-year old who just wants to win in any series he races, was one of six Bakersfield drivers (25% of the field) in the TS@I SRL field. This year Thorn has set NTR fastest qualifying times at four tracks—Roseville, San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Irwindale. He also races a late model periodically for a Bakersfield team as time permits.
Three TS@I support series qualified after 4:00 pm and ran three main events prior to the featured SRL 100. Rookie Dylan Lupton, 16, started second and led all 25 laps on the half-mile in an eight-car Langers Juice S2 race. It was his first S2 victory in round nine of the new series that debuted last July. Brent Scheidemantle, 17, started from pole position as third quickest qualifier and led all 50 laps on the third-mile in a 19-car field of Echo Equipment Legend Cars. It was the longest Legends race of the year. Ryan “Perfect” Partridge, 22, continued his domination in the King Taco Super Truck Series. With a 21-truck field--largest this season--set to dethrone him, Partridge for the eighth consecutive KTST event set the fastest qualifying time and won the 40-lap main. He drove Steve Latina's No. 48 Dodge.
SRL 100: SRL officials selected an inversion number between eight and 12 for qualifying times/starting positions and it came up nine. The 24-driver, 100-lap race started at 9:38 and reeled off 21 green flag laps of close competition before the first caution flag for debris in the second turn. Third starter Auggie Vidovich, in the No. 1 Strandwohl Chevy team car to the first two finishers, led the first ten laps. Fifth starter Ryan Foster made an outside pass next to the crash-wall as the two leaders exited turn four. Foster's No. 41 Chevy remained in front to lap 18 when seventh starter Gomez shot past Foster on the outside leaving the fourth turn. The lap 22 caution for debris had all 24 rapid cars on the lead lap. Under SRL rules cautions were limited to three laps. At the lap 25 green flag a two-car crash in turn three involved P. 9-10 cars of Brennan Newberry and Joe Farre. Greg Voigt spun low to avoid contact. Under caution SRL officials suspected an oil leak and black flagged race leader Gomez. His car passed inspection and he returned to the track as the leader.
FQ Thorn raced from ninth grid position to P. 3 by lap 22 and passed Foster for second at the lap 25 green flag. Gomez opened a 30-yard lead over Thorn by lap 40. Foster retook P. 2 on lap 45 as the 24th place car was lapped. The yellow flag flew from lap 51-53 for a one car incident. A two-car spin in turn four brought three more laps of caution through lap 56. At lap 60, Gomez led Foster by ten yards with eighth starter Kyle Cattanach, tenth starter Nick Joanides, Thorn, Vidovich, 16-year old first-time SRL driver Ryan Reed, from 18th spot, and pole starter Carlos Vieira comprising the top eight. Caution flew from lap 66-68 for a tire problem and spin in turn two by Thorn and a backstretch spin by Vieira. Thorn pitted when laps stopped counting and returned on the lead lap in 22nd position, last driver on the lead lap. On lap 74 Thorn slowed with a flat RR tire and the yellow flew again. Under the uncounted caution laps Thorn pitted again for a tire and returned for lap 77 in P. 23 with all 24 cars still on the track. At lap 8 Gomez led Foster by ten yards with second starter Voigt in P. 3, Cattanach fourth, and 17-year old Jacob Gomes fifth. Thorn was up to P. 15. A lap 85 two-car collision at turn two left Vieira and Rex Lockwood cars stalled by the outer wall and missing back bumpers. Thorn was tenth.
The lap 88 green flag had the biggest mishap as seven cars tangled and spun—all cars drove off and the yellow flew through lap 90 with Thorn now in P. 8. At the lap 91 green, Gomez, Foster and Voigt ran nose-to-tail until Gomez gradually opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 94. Foster, Voigt, Gomes, Justin Westmoreland and P. 6 Thorn engaged in a five-car fight for second place. Thorn took fifth on lap 95. On lap 96 Foster and Voigt made contact entering turn one with Foster looping. Caution laps did not count during the closing laps. Gomez led Voigt, Gomes, Thorn, Westmoreland, Cattanach, Keith Spangler, Joanides (with a deflating rear tire down from 33 to 15 pounds), Reed and Eric Richardson in the top ten, At lap 96 Thorn's No. 2 Chevy jumped from fourth to second and on the inside waged an intense duel with outside groove runner Gomez in Strandwohl's No. 22 Chevy. They completed lap 98 with Gomez in front by 0.017. Thorn edged into the lead from turn four to the starting line and led lap 99 by 0.007. Determined Gomez refused to lose and shot past Thorn on the outside leaving turn two as they banged fenders “about four times on the final lap” according to both drivers. Coming out of the fourth turn the outcome was in doubt as both drivers raced side-by-side towards the waving checkered flag. Outside runner Gomez edged ahead by less than a fender at the finish line, 0.012 officially according to electronic scoring.
Gomez, now a two-time SRL winner this year, told spectators, “My car was really good on long runs. I wanted it to go green all the way. I hated those yellows. It took five laps to get going after yellows. It was well worth the flight from Portland.” Thorn, also a two-time SRL 2010 feature winner, told the crowd, “I'm disappointed. The car was good. I had a left rear tire go flat from what I don't know. Thanks to everyone for coming out on such a hot day. He's my teammate so I couldn't get into him too hard.” Third finisher Voigt, 41, was 0.257 in back of the winner. He stated, “The longer the race the better. My car kept getting better. SRL puts on the best short track racing.” Voigt said he hoped the two leaders would get together so he could pass both on the inside leaving the fourth turn. The 58-minute race had eight cautions (24 laps). Twenty of 24 starters were racing at the finish with 19 cars on the lead lap. Gomes, Cattanach, Spangler, Joanides (in his 2004 SW Tour six-year old Jackson Race Cars ride borrowed from current owner Dexter Tuttle, an old engine and sponsorship from Loyd McGhee), Ross Strmiska, Reed and Clay Wattenbarger completed the top ten. Foster's car ended its strong run on lap 96 at turn four after making contact with the back of Voigt's Chevy. Foster climbed from his disabled car and rode to the infield in the tow truck. Early leader Vidovich ran the fastest lap of the race at 18.158 (99.130 mph).
LANGERS JUICE S2: The ninth S2 race of 2010 had a four-car inverted lineup for the 7:39 pm start with all four High Point Racing blue cars in the first two rows. Winner Lupton shot past pole starter and three-time feature winner Joe Anderson and led all 25 laps of the 8:48.324 all-green flag race. He won by 40-yards (2.472 seconds) over point leader and one-time main event winner Roman Lagudi, 15. Lupton cut two points from Lagudi's four-point lead and now trails 400-398 with five races remaining. Lupton's best finishes had been a second and a third. He became the seventh different S2 winner, including five first-time S2 winners, in nine races. Anderson, Dave Busby and Andrew Porter, 16, completed the top five. All eight drivers ran 25 laps and finished within 15.992 seconds.
ECHO EQUIPMENT LEGENDS: Event two Saturday was a 19-car Legends race. Fastest qualifier Darren Amidon had the inside row two starting slot and third quickest Scheidemantle had the pole. A three-car crash in turn three caused a complete restart. The race became a two-car battle for the victory during the final six laps after Amidon passed Chad Schug. They finished in that order after 20 minutes and two cautions. Runner-up Amidon trailed the winner by 0.156 and Schug was 0.664 back. Scheidemantle's third TS@I victory of the year extended his 12 point lead to 16 points and ended Amidon;s feature triumph consecutive streak at four. Second generation driver Cale Kanke, 19, was fourth and Mark Borchetta fifth as 15 of 19 drivers finished with nine on the lead lap. A So Cal Legends driver absent was Donny St. Ours, 16, of Upland. He raced in the inaugural Bruton Smith Charlotte Motor Speedway short track “Million Dollar Legends Race” with $250,000 to the final 50-lap winner. The event attracted more than 300 drivers from across the USA and from several foreign nations. St. Ours qualified for the 34-car final race and placed 28th as a non-finisher.
KING TACO SUPER TRUCK: The largest KTST field of the season, 21 strong, turned out to stop series kingpin Partridge in race three Saturday. They failed. Partridge started third and took the lead for good entering the first turn as the front row drivers drifted high and opened a clear inside path to the lead for him. Two-time KTST champion Pat Mintey, Jr ran second for the final 39 laps and trailed by 30-yards (1.942 seconds). Jeff Peterson made his first KTST start of the season and came from eighth starting spot to finish third. The 31-minute race had four cautions for accidents that claimed front bodywork of two drivers in the top three in 2010 series points. After pitting briefly,Todd Cameron and Matt Kimball both finished 38 laps in P. 17-18 respectively. Fourteen drivers completed all 40 laps.