27-year-old Jonathan Gomez from Twin Falls, Idaho has become a NASCAR championship contender, moving himself into a solid fourth position in the drivers standings with five events complete of a 12-race schedule.
By Kevin Green, NASCAR
Competing in his first full season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Jonathon Gomez (No. 22 Heritage Cattle/Century Boatland Chevrolet) was overlooked by many when the year started.
The 27-year-old driver from Twin Falls, Idaho quickly changed that, however. He has become a contender, moving himself into a solid fourth position in the championship standings with five events complete of a 12-race schedule.
Gomez is aiming to continue his success as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West heads to the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) for the King Taco 200 on Saturday, July 3. The event, which will be televised to a national audience on SPEED at 3 p.m. PT on July 15, has become a big Fourth of July holiday attraction for Southern California race fans.
Gomez hopes he gets better results in this trip to Irwindale, however, than he did in two previous visits to the state-of-the-art facility to compete in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Both ended with him sidelined.
“Hopefully, things will go better, because I’ve been there twice and haven’t finished a race yet,” he said. “So, I’m ready to get there and have a good run and get that under my belt. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m very excited to get back to such a nice facility.”
With finishes of 31st and 35th in the all-star events, Gomez knows the importance of avoiding trouble.
“If we can start up toward the front, keep our nose clean and stay out of the wrecks, I think we’ll have a real good car,” he said.
Gomez has been in the spotlight since the start of the season.
“After Roseville, we got a lot of attention,” he recalled of the season opener in which he finished second, but was penalized to last place because of a shock absorber that did not pass post-race inspection. “Because of our penalty, maybe some people thought it was still a fluke. After we backed it up with another top five at Phoenix and a good run at Iowa – I think that has definitely been noticed. I think now that when we show up to a race, they consider us.”
Despite having plenty of confidence in his family-owned, first-year team, Gomez admits to being a bit surprised at how quickly they have become contenders.
“I had a lot of faith in my team and the equipment and doing everything ourselves this year,” he said. “I knew we would be real good. But I didn’t think right off the bat we would be contending for wins, like we did at Roseville. So, I was a little shocked right out of the gate that we were as competitive as we were. I figured it would take us a few races.”
Although Gomez is in his first full season in the series, he is not contending for the rookie title because he opted to give up his rookie eligibility by competing in six series races last season. His resume also includes two series starts in 2008, with both resulting in a top-10 finish.
While he does not seem to be at all intimidated in running door-to-door with the veterans of the series, Gomez admits that it does take time to get used to it.
“It may not seem like it, but it definitely is nerve-racking when you’re running with those guys,” he said. “They have so much experience and they’ve been in every situation possible, where I haven’t. I’m being put in a lot of situations for the first time. So, it’s very intimidating getting around them, racing side-by-side with them.”
Gomez did express an appreciation, meanwhile, for the respect some of the veterans have demonstrated.
“It’s also very nice because most of them give you so much respect and race you real clean,” he said. “They’ll rub on you and what-not, but they won’t take you out or do something uncalled for to get around you. They have enough experience that they’ll race you real clean, which is good for me. It’s a blast being able to run with those veterans.”
The race … The King Taco 200 is the sixth event on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule in 2010.
The procedure … The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 200 laps (100 miles).
The track … Toyota Speedway at Irwindale is a half-mile paved oval with blended banking of six, nine and 12 degrees in the corners and banking of six degrees in the straights. This will be the 20th visit by the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, dating back to June of 1999.
The records … Qualifying: Butch Gilliland, June 19, 1999, 100.722 mph, 17.871 seconds; Race: Jason Bowles, Aug. 16, 2008, 76.255 mph, 1 hour 18 minutes 41 seconds.
Back in action … The entry list includes two drivers who made their regular season series debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa in May. Open-wheel racer Chad Boat (No. 30 Curb Records Chevrolet) of Phoenix, Ariz., finished 12th overall in that event — while Brennan Newberry (No. 39 Dale Jr. Sharpie Chevrolet) of Bakersfield, Calif., finished 22nd.
Returning to the series … The entry list also includes Robbie Brand (No. 37 Lagunitas Brewing Co./WorldCom Financial Ford) of Barstow, Calif. Brand, a former motorcycle racer, competed in six series races in 2005 and 2006.
Hall of Fame festivities … The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction and dinner at the Azusa Greens Country Club on Friday, July 2, beginning with a no-host cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
Going the distance … The 19 events have varied in distance. Seven were 250-lap races (two in 1999, two in 2000 and three in 2001); eight were 200 laps (one each in 2002 and 2003, two in 2006, one in 2007, two in 2008 and one in 2009); three were 150 laps (both in 2004 and one in 2005) and one was 300 laps (the season finale in 2000).
Special Hauler Parade
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West team haulers will parade from Arcadia to Irwindale on Friday evening, leading to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
The parade is set to roll out at 6:15 p.m. and pass through Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Azusa and Irwindale en route to the track.
“A parade like this has become a real tradition at a number of major NASCAR races around the country, and we felt that we should celebrate one of our biggest NASCAR races of the year with our own hauler parade,” said track GM Bob DeFazio.
Last year’s event …
Jason Bowles scored his third consecutive win on his home track of Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Bowles, who won two series races at the half-mile track in 2008, led 132 of 200 laps en route to the victory before a Fourth of July capacity crowd. The win propelled him into the lead in the championship standings.
Bowles crossed the finish line with a margin of victory of .450 seconds over Jeff Barkshire, the only other driver to lead a lap.
Barkshire, running in only his second event of the season, was out front for 68 laps in the first half of the race. Once Bowles – who had started first on the grid after winning the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying – regained the lead, he was not going to give it up again and Barkshire had to settle for the runner-up spot.
Paulie Harraka finished in third. He was followed by Patrick Long and Greg Pursley. Completing the top 10 were Eric Holmes, David Mayhew, Blake Koch, Moses Smith and Chris Johnson.
Final Notes from Infineon
Ranger wins … Andrew Ranger (No. 35 Waste Management Chevrolet), a two-time champion in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, made his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with a win in the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 at Infineon Raceway on June 19. Ranger, who is driving in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this season, was the first Canadian to win a West event since Gary Smith in 1998.
Bowles sets pace … Jason Bowles (No. 31 Thunder Valley Casino Resort Chevrolet) won the Coors Light Pole Award at Infineon Raceway with a lap of 91.697 mph and led the first 16 circuits. The 2009 series champion, who won the event the past two years, appeared headed for a runner-up finish — but ran out of gas and coasted to a stop just 100 feet short of the finish.
Banner day for BMR … Bill McAnally Racing went four-for-four at Infineon Raceway, with all four teams finishing in the top 10. Paulie Harraka (No. 12 NAPA Gold Filters Toyota) led the way in second, followed by Brandon Davis (No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions Chevrolet) in third and Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Toyota) in fourth. Moses Smith (No. 16 HASA Pools/White Flyer Toyota) came away with a ninth-place finish.
Up Next: Return To Portland
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West heads to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for a visit to Portland International Raceway for the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 on Sunday, July 18. The event marks the second of three road course races on the series schedule for 2010. Jim Inglebright snatched the victory away with a late-race charge in last year’s event.