Some of NASCAR’s best finishes not only occur in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or the Camping World Truck Series, but they also take place at the many local tracks, which are usually run on a Saturday night.
Short track racing is where most of the big name drivers such as the Earnhardt’s, Petty’s, Waltrip’s, Allison’s, and a host of others got their first taste of what it’s like to bang and bump their way around these asphalt-covered gladiator rings.
While most of NASCAR’s upper-tier series' closest finishes are watched over and over again, a lot of times that’s not the case at the local level, since the majority of the races are not televised.
Instead, the finishes are talked about amongst the fans that were in attendance, and they have been known to be the center of conversation for weeks after the race was run.
Last Saturday night, once again the fans were treated to a very exciting finish when Jonathon Gomez of Twin Falls, Idaho, flew in from Portland, Ore., to compete in the Spears SRL Southwest tour series at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale.
Gomez who was practicing for Sundays K&N Pro series race at Portland International Speedway on Saturday morning, barely made it in time to qualify his No. 22 Century Boatland Chevrolet Impala SS in the No. 7 spot for Saturday night's 100-lap main event.
Gomez, who led 81 of the 100 laps that were run for the night's main event, left nothing on the table when he and fellow driver Derek Thorn, who took the lead with two laps remaining, drag raced down the front stretch on the final lap, with Gomez taking the win by a mere 0.012 seconds.
“One way or another, I was gonna win, and those were the toughest two laps I ran the whole race,” said Gomez who had an airplane waiting for him to fly back to Portland after his win at the speedway.
Gomez also added that, “I wasn’t gonna lead 81 laps and not win. Derek Thorn is a great competitor, and to race other drivers that hard for that long and to win it means so much to be able to compete in this series.”
“These are top-notch teams and top-notch drivers, and half of these drivers are just as good as the Cup drivers but never got the chance to move into Cup,” said Gomez when asked about the competition level in the series.
The race itself was run on a very warm and humid night, which could have been a factor in all the cautions that transpired throughout the night.
It almost seemed as if Gomez led more laps under caution, then the actual race itself, and the reasoning behind the cautions could have been the drivers qualified with the sun still shining down on the speedway.
“The first five laps after restart it took a while to get going, but once it got going, the car ran great,” said Gomez when talking about the slew of restarts he had to endure throughout the night.
Gomez also added, “We had to be defensive for the first five laps until the car got going. We used up a lot of the car trying to stay ahead of everybody after the restarts.”
Restarts were not the only obstacles Gomez faced on his way to his second victory in the series so far this season. During one of the cautions, NASCAR black-flagged Gomez while he was leading the race.
Gomez explained, “The officials thought I was leaking oil, and brought me in as a safety precaution. They saw I wasn’t leaking any oil and they let me go back out and keep my position.”
Along with the victory, came the feeling of redemption since this was not the first time Gomez has visited the speedway.
Bad luck seemed to plague the 27-year-old driver whenever he raced here at Irwindale, and back in January while participating in the All-Star showdown, he was involved in an accident for the second straight year.
Even though in both instances, his night ended early, not once did Gomez ever complain about his on-track misfortunes.
After Saturday night's race, I had the chance to talk with his team owner, which also happens to be his father.
Jon Gomez talked about how proud he was of his son, along with how much he has seen him improve in the last couple of years.
He not only talked about his attitude behind the wheel, but also once he finishes a race and the positive attitude that shines while he is around the rest of the team.
With this comment after Gomez' latest victory, its easy to see why his father spoke so highly of him.
“The team did a great job, and it was a lot fun, and I’m glad to have two wins in the series. My team worked so hard on the car out in the heat; the win means just as much to them as it means to me.”