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Local fans appreciate their dose of high-octane racing

By: Bill Poindexter
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NASCAR hasn’t exactly crashed into the wall, and it isn’t running on fumes. But the NASCAR machine is a little loose in the turns, if you will, as attendance at the major tracks around the country has declined and TV ratings with it. Meanwhile, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, small-town racing run with big-time passion at tracks like All American Speedway in Roseville, isn’t exactly running out front in clean air, but it isn’t a back-marker that’s being lapped either. To borrow even more motorhead speak, it’s in the pack, drafting, jockeying for position, giving and receiving help, giving the guy in front a tap and being nudged on either side. The racers know a good thing when they see it … and so do the fans. Another steady crowd of about 1,500 packed into the local racing facility Saturday night to watch two teenagers tap bumpers and scrape doors, all in the name of competition and entertainment. Matt Scott lives in Pine Grove, near Sonora, but he’s a regular at All American, the Late Model points leader, and the local fans love him. He’s 18 years old. Jacob Gomes is 17 and lives in Manteca. With Stockton 99 Speedway idle Saturday night, Gomes and team came to Roseville not for points but to win. There were 18 cars at the green flag for the first of two 44-lap Late Model main events, but most eyes were on the kids running up front. Their nose-to-tail, then side-by-side duel had fans on the edge of their seats, pushed back, twisting, turning, squirming and contorting with every turn on the track that measures one-third of a mile around. The finish was the stuff made in movies. Scott, the crowd favorite who has six feature victories this year, ran up underneath Gomes’ back bumper a handful of times before getting inside Gomes’ car and going side by side for about the last 10 laps. Scott came close to passing while going into the turns and even inched ahead, but Gomes pulled away coming out of the turns and in the straights. They scraped doors coming out of the final turn and into the straightaway with Gomes winning by maybe a bumper. The crowd rose and gave the kids a standing ovation. Scott, after adjustments were made to his car between the main events, went on to win the second feature comfortably with Gomes finishing second. “We’ve accumulated a lot of wins, and the fan base is starting to grow, and it’s really awesome,” Scott said, noting that Gomes edged him for the NASCAR National Rookie of the Year award last year. “We were both leaning on each other real hard. It’s not exactly a rivalry, but we race each other really hard whenever we get around each other, and I mean hard but clean, and it’s a lot of fun.” Tell us about it. Bill Poindexter can be reached at billp@goldcountrymedia.com.