The Spears Southwest Tour thundered into Stockton 99 speedway this past weekend for race No. 7 of the 10-race series season schedule. The Jackson Rancheria 135 event looked to be a very competitive race, with 21 cars qualifying on the short quarter-mile oval and the crowd was not disappointed. Coming into the event, Jacob Gomes, the phenomenal young driver from Manteca (and crowd favorite), held onto a slight lead in the series season points.
Eric Holmes of Escalon, in the #18 Chevy, qualified 2nd with a 13.409 second lap at an average speed of 67.119 miles per hour. Ross Strmiska of Manteca in the #90 qualified 3rd, Joe Farr of Henderson, NV in the #54 was 4th and rounding out the top 5 qualifiers was rookie sensation Michael Sandoval in the #7 car from Ripon. Jacob Gomes of Manteca struggled to a #8 qualifying position. Upcoming rookie driver, Colby Potts of Manteca qualified 13th in the tough 21 car field with a 13.699 second lap time. After the completion of qualifying, the SRL series (Spears Racing League) utilizes a random equalizer. Based on a random draw, two qualified cars are swapped with one another. The result of this random draw saw the #1 qualified car of Derek Thorn (car #26) swapped with the #29 car driven by Brennan Newberry of Bakersfield, who had qualified 7th. At the drop of the green flag, Newberry took the lead, closely followed by Holmes. They battled each other for position, as Holmes attempted passes out of turns two and four. That forced Brennan to put extra wear on his tires, causing them to lose grip in the corners. Holmes was able to make his move, taking the lead about a third of the way through the race, as they came out of turn 2. As Brennan fell back, the #90 car, driven by Strmiska took over 2nd place and started to make a run on Holmes. The two battled for several laps, extending the distance between them and the rest of the field until Strmiska came into turn 3 a little hot and pushed Holmes out of the way to assume the lead. Just as the pass was made the yellow caution flag came out for an on track incident. That closed up the pack, with Strmiska in the lead. With 41 laps remaining, Holmes adjusted his mark coming into turn #1 such that he would be able to exit turn #2 on the inside of Strmiska. Unfortunately, Strmiska was utilizing an exit that partially blocked Holmes, resulting in Holmes tapping the right rear corner of the #90 car, causing it to spin. The “bump” resulted in spinning Strmiska, so Holmes’ pass was negated by the SRL officials as being excess roughness, which meant Holmes had to go to the back of the field. With the bump, Strmiska went to 10th and the #03 car of Jim Pettit from Prunedale took the lead.
As the race neared its completion several caution flags came out for various on track incidents, keeping the field close. Strmiska in the #90 car worked his way back toward the front, reaching the 3rd position. Holmes managed to work his way back up into an 8th place, but could not move any further up, as his tires simply became too worn and would no longer grip the track well enough to run quick in and out of the corners. Pettit went to victory lane, celebrating in the winner’s circle.