Sweet Music at Music City Motorplex for Goess; Earns First Top 10 Nashville, Tenn. (July 19, 2008) -- Despite the sweltering July temperatures, Craig Goess and his Eddie Sharp Racing teammates were all smiles all day at Nashville's Music City...
Sweet Music at Music City Motorplex for Goess; Earns First Top 10
Nashville, Tenn. (July 19, 2008) -- Despite the sweltering July temperatures, Craig Goess and his Eddie Sharp Racing teammates were all smiles all day at Nashville's Music City Motorplex. Goess drove a hard race under the lights of the famed short track in Saturday's Strutmasters.com 150 presented by Dollar General, and earned his career-best finish of ninth.
"We had a great car today and a good clean race," said Goess. "We are continuing each week to learn and gain experience and it is greatly paying off. I want to thank all my guys for all their hard work."
In the intense Nashville heat and humidity, the Greenville Toyota team struggled slightly during first practice but managed to iron out the bugs, nearly topping the speed chart in second practice. Goess recorded the second fastest practice lap of the session in 19.881 seconds. Later that afternoon, the team confidently lined up for qualifying.
Goess had to wait and watch 25 cars qualify before climbing into his No. 2 Greenville-Toyota Toyota. Wheeling the Camry around the track, Goess nailed his fast lap on the first try. Goess logged a 19.692-second lap that put him in the tenth starting position. This tied his previous best qualifying effort of tenth that Goess made in the May event at South Boston Speedway.
"After final practice I knew we had a strong car that was capable of qualifying up front," said Goess. "I had hoped to put the Greenville-Toyota Camry a little closer than tenth, but am very happy with this position. The guys did a fantastic job during both practice sessions to get the car dialed in. It is incredibly hot out here today and these guys are giving 110% as always. I really appreciate it and plan to give them the same back tonight!"
Following the driver autograph session at the front of the grandstands, drivers were introduced to the crowd by walking across the main stage. Proceeding to their cars, drivers climbed in and readied themselves for 150 laps of beating and banging on the fairground short track.
Goess tightened the belts and took the green flag at 7:50 p.m. CST. Team Owner Eddie Sharp was Goess's eye in the sky up in the spotter stand. Goess remained quiet on the radio as Sharp coached him through the turns.
"Don't give up so much on your entry," coached Sharp on lap 9. "Turn on in there. Perfect!"
As pile-up on lap 21 occurred between turns 3 and 4, Goess reacted quickly and avoided contact with the spinning cars.
"Great job!" shouted Sharp. "We're good guys, not a scratch on 'er."
Goess continued to search the different lines, finding what worked best for him. ARCA RE/MAX Series Crew Chief Patrick Donahue, who with Sharp made the trip following Friday's Kentucky ARS race to also help coach, called off lap times to keep Goess up on the wheel.
"You're doing really good," reported Donahue. "You're only a tenth off the leader. Everyone is slipping and sliding out there, too."
While under caution on lap 95, Crew Chief Johnny Allen had his driver come to pit road. Goess had reported that he had no rear grip. To adjust the handling, Allen instructed his team to add wedge as they were fueling the car. NASCAR Camping World Series rules do not allow tires to be changed during the race at certain tracks unless the tires are flattened in a spin or accident. MCM is one of those tracks.
Goess restarted the race on lap 99 in the tenth position. On lap 113, a car spun sideways on the front stretch right in front of Goess and collected the No. 2 Greenville-Toyota Toyota. The No. 15 of Brian Ickler had nowhere to go and drove into the back of Goess, sandwiching him between the two cars. Goess was able to restart the Toyota and bring it to pit road for evaluation.
The crew scrambled over the wall and worked to pull the fenders away from the tires. The team added fuel and additional wedge to attempt to tighten the car's handling up a little more. Goess got off pit road in time to stay on the lead lap of the race.
"I'm sorry guys," radioed Goess. "That guy turned sideways right in front of me. There was nowhere for me to go."
"You did absolutely nothing wrong there," said Sharp from the spotter's stand. "Things like that just happen. You have done a great job of avoiding things all night."
Throughout the race, Goess had reported to the team that he was fairly comfortable in his car, with one exception, and that was his feet were really hot while resting on the pedals. During the caution at lap 132, the comedic conversation between Goess and Donahue entertained the crew.
"Hey Pat," radioed Goess. "Do you see that smoke coming out from under my car?"
"Yup," replied Donahue. "Are those your Barney Rubble feet burning up down there?"
"Yes they are!" piped Goess.
"I thought I smelled something burning," laughed Donahue.
Goess returned to green flag racing on lap 137 in the tenth position. He patiently battled his way up to ninth with ten laps to go until the finish. In the final laps, Goess and Ickler went back and forth for the eighth position. On lap 149, Goess passed Ickler. However, in the final turns, Ickler edged past the No. 2.
Goess climbed from the car grinning and absolutely drenched following his career-best finish of ninth place.
"I think we learned a ton today, from first practice to the checkered flag," said Goess. "We had a great weekend and are definitely getting this No. 2 Greenville-Toyota Toyota pointed in the right direction. I'm looking forward to taking this momentum to Adirondack next weekend."
"We had a really good day here," commented Crew Chief Johnny Allen. "We practiced and qualified well and, with the exception of the one incident that we were collected into, it was a really good race. We had a good bit of damage from the contact, but not night-ending damage. This was a great building weekend for everyone and overall I am very pleased. It is a little disappointing about the bad luck. If we hadn't had that, I definitely think we would have had a legitimate shot at a top 5. The car was better on the long runs and we just couldn't get enough of them with the cautions. But that's just short track racing."
Next Stop: Craig Goess and the Greenville Toyota team travel to Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, New York for the Edge Hotel 150. Qualifying takes place at 4:15 p.m., followed by the green flag at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26th.