Manteca’s Jacob Gomes led twice, including the final 22 laps, en route to his second career PCS victory to win the series’ 100-lap feature at Madera Speedway.
Gomes topped a field of 19 Pacific Challenge Series presented by PenneyLawyers.com Super Late Models in the seventh round Saturday night.
Gomes’ victory makes him the seventh different winner in a series that has had no repeat winners this year.
The Madera Speedway lived up to its billing as the “fastest one-third mile in the west” in Sunoco Fuels-sponsored time trials, when five drivers broke the track record set last August by Jason Romero. Despite sizzling temperatures, March PCS Madera winner Carlos Vieira clicked off a 13.999 second lap. The Livingston driver followed that by winning the American Tire Dash that paid a set of tires and the pole for the feature.
The initial attempt at a start proved difficult when the outside line stopped coming to the green flag. The ensuing melee saw the outside of rows seven, eight, and nine — Justin Westmoreland, Mike Hite, and Alexander Mead — all suffer significant damage. Both Westmoreland and Hite made attempts to continue on in the race, but the trio only completed 38 laps.
Once things got going, it was outside pole sitter Gomes taking advantage of the preferred line to take the lead from Vieira. Coming in third in points Cole Moore challenged Vieira inside on several occasions before Vieira drove away with second place.
The top three enjoyed a solid lead on the pack while third-generation driver Ross Strmiska led a second pack using primarily the outside line to anchor fourth. Fourth fastest qualifier Jack Wood overcame his fourth row starting position as he took over seventh from 2014 champion Mike Beeler on lap 21.
Lapped traffic entered the fray on lap 27 and Wood worked his way past 2016 Rookie of the Year Matt Wendt for sixth. Strmiska retired from the race on lap 40 with mechanical issues and his departure from the track sparked some wild three-wide maneuvering through the infield to avoid.
Gomes found the traffic challenging just past halfway when he attempted to get past Eric Nascimento, Jr., 16, who was making his series debut. Vieira climbed up to Gomes on lap 58 and they went three-wide in traffic, but Gomes managed to maintain the lead. They went side-by-side again on laps 61 and 62, but Gomes rolled the top to his advantage.
Vieira continued the pressure with Cole Moore entering the picture from third in a nose-to-tail affair. Vieira finally cleared Gomes for the lead position on lap 71.
The traffic did not relent and Vieira tagged the wall attempting to lap points leader John Moore just a few laps later. On lap 78, Vieira went up in smoke in turn three with his night over with damage from the impact. The lap 78 caution was the first caution since the initial attempt at a start making for a grueling green flag run.
Gomes picked the outside of Cole Moore for a restart that saw Gomes, Moore, and Tracy Bolin go three-wide briefly. The caution flew on the next lap when Wood and John Moore spun in turn two.
The top-three took off from fourth place Wendt at the next restart and Wendt spent several laps side-by-side with lapped car Michael Sandoval. Behind them, Nascimento was challenged by John Moore until Jack Wood jumped inside for an attempt at going three-wide into turn three. Wood and Moore collided, sending Moore for a spin and both cars to the rear.
The following restart saw Gomes, Cole Moore, and Bolin again go after it with Bolin and Cole Moore making contact coming out of turn two. Bolin slid down the backstretch sideways at near full throttle before backing hard into the turn three wall. Bolin was able to climb from his car uninjured despite sparking a significant fire.
After a lengthy clean up, Cole Moore found himself again in the eye of the storm on the next green flag. Moore and Wendt tangled in a three-wide battle in turn three that sent Wendt into Moore’s drivers-side door. Wendt’s evening was over on the hook while Moore had to make several stops for repairs before continuing.
The final caution of the evening came on lap 96 when Wood and John Dalerio collided, battling for a possible top-five finish.
Gomes lined up outside Travis Milburn for a four-lap shootout to the finish and quickly took off in his red No.16.
Both John Moore — who had been spun around just eight laps earlier — and Beeler managed to pass Milburn in the closing stages.
At the checkered flag, it was Gomes with his second career PCS victory ahead of John Moore, Beeler, Milburn, and Nascimento; Jr. Austin Gant scored his second consecutive sixth place finish while Austin Herzog, 15, overcame several mechanical issues to finish seventh in his series debut to go with Nascimento’s top-five in his series debut.
Toni Breidinger took the win in an exciting contest in the Western U.S. Midget main event after a big battle with Jesse Love and Adam Lemke.
Bert Stephens found the checkered flag first in the MST’s followed by young Zachery Cook and Dave Landers.
Howard Holden won the Super Hobby Stock race with Jon Schlundt and Steve Schermerhorn rounding out the top three and it was Donnie Large that won the CSS race, making a bold pre-race prediction come true.
The next race for the Madera Speedway is the MAVTV televised Round No. 6 race for the RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model Series and the 51FIFTY Energy Drink Jr Late Model Series on Aug. 26. Go to www.racemadera.com for information.