Craig Goess finished 23rd in his first trip to Phoenix International Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event Friday night.
The rookie, piloting the No. 46 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Tundra, started his second event of the 2011 season and his first NCWTS event at a track shorter than 1.5 miles.
The green flag waved on the Lucas Oil 150, and Goess drove the one-mile Arizona oval with the help of veteran crew chief Trip Bruce and spotter David Green.
Taking time to gain experience on the track and a feel for the surface, Goess raced in the 32nd position on lap 17. "Keep working on it," said Bruce. "Get a feel for the track, and keep working with it. Your lap times look good, so just race smart."
Race leader Clint Bowyer caught the No. 46 on lap 19, putting the Tundra one lap down. Without cautions to slow the field in the early portion of the race, the leaders caught Goess again on lap 31 and put him two laps down.
The first caution of the night flew on lap 43 for debris on the track, and the No. 46 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Tundra came down pit road for his first pit stop. The Eddie Sharp Racing crew put on four tires and fuel, and made an air pressure and track bar adjustment. The quick pit stop put the No. 46 in the 29th position to restart the race on lap 48.
The yellow fell again on lap 57 for a spin in turn two with the No. 5 truck of Travis Kvapil. Goess brought the No. 46 down pit road to top the truck off with fuel. The team experienced miscommunication with the officials and pitted a lap too soon, resulting in a penalty from NASCAR. When the green flag waved on lap 62, the No. 46 had to restart from the back of the pack.
With 50 laps to go, Goess worked his way into the 25th position. A caution involving Kvapil in turn three slowed the field again, allowing Goess to come down pit road on lap 103 to make adjustments to help the tight front-end of the truck. The crew put on four Goodyear tires and added Sunoco fuel to the Tundra, and the quick pit stop by the ESR crew put the No. 46 in the 27th position to restart the race on lap 106.
"That was the perfect time to have a great pit stop boys," applauded Bruce. "Great job getting in and out of there, Craig. You are in a great position now to go out there and compete for the last 40+ laps."
A string of cautions flew on laps 108, 112, 122, 127 and 132 but Goess was calm and patient to avoid the wrecks.
For the final 20 laps, Goess was able to remain steady in the the top-25. Kyle Busch took the checkered flag for his first victory of the 2011 season. Goess finished in the 23rd position, two laps down.
"I really had to take the time throughout practice and the race to get a feel of the track," said Goess. "I'm disappointed in the 23rd-place finish, but the handling of the truck just wasn't there. I'm excited to get more tracks under my belt and continue to improve throughout the season. We are going to go to Darlington in two weeks to continue the learning process of the series and compete for the win."
"We have good equipment and the right people, and we all know that the driver can get it done," said team owner Eddie Sharp. "This weekend we received experience at a short track, so we are going to go back to the shop and evaluate our progress. In two weeks, we will head to Darlington ready to compete for a top spot. Thanks to Craig for his patience and willingness to learn this first season in the NCWTS, to all of the help from Toyota in getting our program off the ground and to Greenville Toyota for all of their support."
The No. 46 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Tundra will be back on the track for the Too Tough to Tame 200 at Darlington Raceway on Sat. March 12, 2011 at 5 p.m. ET.