Travis Milburn fended off a late race assault by Manteca’s Jacob Gomes to take a hard earned victory in the Pacific Challenge Series 100-lap late model feature during Saturday’s final leg of the annual Tri-Holiday Classic at Stockton’s 99 Speedway.
Jeff Bischofberger, of Long Beach, led the17-car field from the pole to start the race, but was quickly overhauled on the opening lap by Valley Springs’ Tracy Bolin and Manteca’s Ross Strmiska.
Strmiska easily grabbed the lead from Bischofberger following a lap five restart only to be immediately challenged by Cameron Park’s Justin “Rowdy” Romero. Their battle came to an abrupt conclusion on lap 22 when Romero was clipped trying to make a pass for the lead, lost control and was tagged by Bolin.
Romero was irate after he exited his crippled car and attempted to get at Strmiska’s car as it circled the track under yellow only to be held back by track officials.
With Romero and Bolin both parked for the night and Strmiska at the back of the field by order of track officials, series points leader Jeremy Doss, of Upper Lake, assumed the lead after outdueling Modesto’s Mike Beeler on the restart.
Doss controlled the pace until the race was red flagged on lap 71 after Strmiska was rear ended by Modesto’s Kyle Gottula, possibly in retaliation for their dust up back in the July 4 race. Strmiska’s car was too heavily damaged to continue and Gottula was ordered off the track for the night by officials.
“The 8 car (Romero) dive bombed me from the outside coming out of the corner and I just clipped him. I’m not sure why he is mad at me,” explained Strmiska. “We still had a decent car and were moving our way back up when Kyle decided to hit me from behind as payback. I guess I owe him twice now.”
Manteca’s Gomes, who had steadily worked his way up from the sixth row to open the race, took full advantage of the restart to snare the lead from Doss. Gomes began to pull away only to have the race slowed again on lap 81 by the seventh and final yellow-caution of the night which ultimately determined the winner.
This time Gomes was the restart victim as Milburn became the sixth different leader of the race when he charged ahead on the outside lane following a side-by-side for a couple of laps.
Gomes stayed right on Milburn’s bumper probing for a way to get by him throughout the final laps of the race. He tapped Milburn coming out of turn 4 of the final lap and was able to get inside of him, but Milburn was able to out drag him down the straight to just nose him out at the checkered flag.
“He (Milburn) did a heck of a job tonight. I gave him a little shot at the end, but didn’t want to win by wrecking him,” said Gomes. ”I liked the inside so I went with my gut and picked low side on that final restart, but I couldn’t make it work that time.”
It was the first win of the season and second of his career for Milburn.
“I was in conservation mode during the first half of the race just trying to avoid trouble,” said Milburn of Eagle, Idaho. “My car was strongest on the outside and luckily that is what Gomes gave me on the final restart. I guessed right and got on the throttle at just the right time to beat him out of the corner.”
Pine Grove’s Matt Scott finished in third while Cole Moore edged out his father John Moore, both of Granite Bay, to round out the top five. Jeremy Doss fell to seventh place, but it was just good enough to give him the Tri-Holiday Series championship by two points over Gomes.
Chad Holman, of Salida, started the 14-car Stockton Late Model 50-lap main from the second row, but it soon became apparent he had the fastest car on the track.
Holman methodically worked his way to the front before easily slipping by Lodi’s Aaron Shankel on lap 21 for the lead. Holman never looked back as he cruised to the victory well ahead of Shankel and Modesto’s Adam Coonfield while Gridley’s Larry Tankersley came home fourth to increase his season points lead over his teammate Dennis Byers who finished in sixth.
“I was patient at the beginning,” said Holman, the 2006 American Limited Stock track champion. “Once I get into the lead I seem to go into a different mode. I feel like I am going slow even while I am pulling away.”
Holman will turn over the car to his son Seth for the final two races of the season in preparation for Seth running full time next year.
Manteca’s Brad Mast and Galt’s John Medina renewed their season long rivalry in the Bomber division.
Medina held the early lead, but Mast flew by him on lap six and made it stand up through several caution restarts to take his second consecutive victory.
A full invert in the 13-car Legends of the Pacific feature didn’t deter fast qualifier Robby Czub as the Rocklin driver worked his way to the front by mid race and take the victory over Sevastopol’s Cody Winchell and Stockton’s Keith Clement.
The 99 Speedway will be back in action on Saturday, with the Stockton Late Models, Grand Americans, Bomber and B-4’s before concluding the season on Sept. 17, with its Night of Champions season finale.