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– TULARE, Calif. (May 15) – There was no containing his excitement and certainly nothing was going to erase his smile.
Tommy Tarlton won the Pombo/Sargent Classic featuring the King of the West Sprint Car Series on Saturday at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif. And for the Easton, Calif., resident, it was a surreal moment that didn’t take long to sink in.
“We’re going to Disneyland,” he exclaimed. “We actually planned it before, but it sounds better coming after a win.
“When I win, I live it the whole week. For a week, you’re a hero.”
While Tarlton will be celebrating with his family on a short vacation later this week at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” the victory is more significant than just another win.
“Al Pombo and Marshall Sargent were legendary,” he said. “So the Pombo/Sargent Classic is prestigious; it’s one of the premier events that drivers want to win.”
It is Tarlton’s third career Pombo/Sargent Classic victory and his third victory of this season. However, he found an unusual way to Victory Lane – a place he hadn’t been to at Thunderbowl Raceway in a 410 in more than a decade.
After winning his heat race and finishing third in the dash, Tarlton rode around in third place early in the feature. However, the action in front kept him on the edge. Tim Kaeding and Jonathan Allard, who started on the front row, wrecked on the third lap as they entered turn one.
“It’s lap three,” said Tarlton, who inherited the lead after narrowly avoiding the crash. “I was cruising; just kinda biding my time.”
Tarlton restarted in the lead, but was passed by Willie Croft for the top spot on the fifth lap. That was enough to spark a fire and after searching high and low for a good line – and trading a couple of sliders – Tarlton rocketed into the lead off turn four on lap 16.
He then held off the competition on a late restart to win by nearly a straightaway amidst lapped traffic.
That moved him into a three-way tie for 11th in career King of the West Sprint Car Series victories with eight.
However, Tarlton might not have secured the victory if he hadn’t made a decision the night before. An ill-handling car the past few weeks peaked during hot laps on Friday at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, Calif.
After nearly wrecking during his hot-lap session with the Ocean Sprints, Tarlton and crew decided to change the steering box following their qualifying laps.
“The last four weeks I had this steering box going bad on me,” he said. “When the track was slick it didn’t matter, but when it was heavy, the car wouldn’t turn.”
Tarlton finished in the top five of his heat race to advance to the feature, which he then worked his way from 14th to finish fourth to earn the Hard Charger Award.
“I about crashed 12 times doing it,” Tarlton said. “I’d hit a rut, bike it, gas it up, wheelie and just go.”
The result maintained his hold on second place in the Ocean Sprints’ standings – 12 points behind Ronnie Day.
Tarlton will compete Saturday at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., with the Ocean Sprints.
QUICK RESULTS –
May 13 – Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, Calif. – Qualifying: 15; Heat race: 5 (5); Feature: 4 (15).
May 14 – Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif. – Qualifying: 11; Heat race: 1 (2); Dash: 3 (2); Feature: 1 (3).
SEASON STATS –
12 races, 12 features, 3 wins, 9 top fives, 9 top 10s, 9 top 15s, 11 top 20s
UP NEXT –
Saturday at Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., with the Ocean Sprints
FAVORITE NUMBER –
3: Amount of Pombo/Sargent Classic career victories and number of wins this season.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS –
Tarlton has black t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, and white women’s shirts available for purchase at every race he attends. For information on where you can get them, visit http://www.tarltonandson.com/tarlton-racing-schedule.
ON THE AIR –
Tarlton was a guest on the Lucas Oil ASCS Show by Racinboys on May 3. Click on the link below to listen. Tarlton’s interview begins around the 32-minute mark.
SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT – Corporate America Lending
Located in Fresno, Calif., Corporate America Lending is a mortgage broker. This is the third year owner Ron Cook has been a major sponsor for the team.
“He’s one of the best in the business in California,” Tarlton said. “It’s awesome to be sponsored by someone who runs such a high-profile business. I’m excited to have his banner as a primary sponsor for our race team.”
Tarlton would like to thank his sponsors, including Tarlton and Son, Inc., Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, Bandy & Associates, Sharp Insurance & Bonding and BG Products for their continued support.