Rockingham: Craig Goess preview

Craig Goess: A Season of Perseverance Goess looks to contend for ARCA Racing Series Championship this weekend Entering his second season in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards, Craig Goess looked to utilize his experience...

Craig Goess: A Season of Perseverance
Goess looks to contend for ARCA Racing Series Championship this weekend

Entering his second season in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards, Craig Goess looked to utilize his experience from his rookie season to contend for the series championship.

Last season, Goess had the opportunity to watch first-hand how to win a championship. His Eddie Sharp Racing teammate Justin Lofton topped the points at the end of the 2009 ARCA Racing Series season to win the championship. Goess also was able to learn in his first season in the series. The Greenville, N.C., driver finished his rookie season fifth in the point standings, posting 12 top-10 finishes in 21 races.

This season, however, Goess had one goal in mind--to win. As the 2010 season comes to a close, Goess and the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. team hope to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning the ARCA Racing Series championship.

The 2010 Season

When asked to sum up the season in one word, Goess replied without haste: Perseverance.

"There is no other word to describe the mentality of our team," explained Goess. "This team pulled together this season, and we have continually improved together. We experienced the ups and the downs, but we have one goal in mind and that is to push toward the championship. It has been really great to see everyone at Eddie Sharp Racing create such a great team atmosphere."

The season began with a rocky start on the high-banks of Daytona International Speedway. Battling problems during qualifying and the event, Goess found bad luck early and finished in the 34th position at the superspeedway. "To start the season like we did at Daytona was tough," said Goess. "I think, however, it was a big boost to what we were going to have to overcome in order to get better. At tracks like Daytona or Talladega, you never know what is going to happen. We seemed to learn that early."

Goess and the No. 81 team then headed to Palm Beach International Raceway, the first of two road courses on the schedule. "Road courses are in no way my specialty," explained Goess. An early incident relegated the No. 81 to a 13th place finish.

From there, Goess and the No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. team hit an early stride and collected three top-five finishes in three races. The team finished second at the short track of Salem Speedway, second at the 1.5-mile track at Texas Motor Speedway and fourth at Talladega Superspeedway after replacing an engine early in the weekend.

The team hit a snag at Toledo Speedway with an incident at the halfway point and ended the weekend with a 14th-place finish. "It was an unfortunate finish at Toledo, but I think the weekend allowed the team to regroup and light a fire under us."

First Win

As the ESR team headed to the "Tricky Triangle" of Pocono Raceway, Goess was hungry for a win. Excitement built throughout the weekend as the No. 81 showed speed, and the No. 81 crew knew the Toyota could contend for the victory. Lining up third, Goess did not waste any time moving to the front of the pack. Behind leader Mikey Kile for much of the race, Goess' determination to bring home the win outweighed anything else. Strategic calls from crew chief Johnny Allen and clean pit stops from the No. 81 team helped Goess gain the lead on lap 68. He held the lead until the checkered flag on lap 80.

Goess collected his first win of his ARCA Racing Series career. "My favorite memory of the year has to be the win at Pocono," said Goess. "It was a great feeling to work so hard and get my first career win in the ARCA Racing Series."

First Pole Award

A week after winning his first ARCA Racing Series race at Pocono Raceway, Goess continued to make a statement as he claimed his first career pole at Michigan International Speedway. He came out on top of practice early in the day and then claimed the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell with a lap of 38.490 seconds (187.062 mph). When the green flag dropped on the Racing for Wildlife 200, Goess showed speed and led 74 of the 100 laps. In a stroke of bad luck, the caution flag came out when the No. 81 was on pit road, putting Goess a lap down and ending the team's good day. Goess, a lap down but among the leaders, finished sixth.

"It was great to earn my first pole award right after our first win," said Goess. "It was, however, probably my most disappointing moment of the season. We had a really, really fast car, and when the green flag waved at MIS, we were set to win that race. The thing about racing is that you never really know what is going to happen."

Halfway Point: Consistency

Including his win at Pocono and sixth-place finish at Michigan, Goess continued to rack up 10 top-10 finishes in 11 races. He finished eighth at Iowa Speedway, second at Mansfield Speedway and third at the second race of the season at Pocono Raceway. "Throughout the middle of the season, we really hit a stride. I think that we gained our footing and really took everything on a race-by-race basis."

The team traveled to the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the first of two dirt track races, where he remained without incident and finished 11th in his third-career dirt track event.  "We have been making progress in all aspects of our program," said Goess. "I think that you can see that with our improvements in the finishes on the dirt tracks."

Goess collected his second pole of the season at Chicagoland Speedway, where he finished fifth. At the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, Goess earned his highest finish of seventh at a dirt track. Goess grabbed another top-five finish at Toledo Speedway before earning his third pole award at the high-banked short track at Salem Speedway. He finished 13th after Goess was forced to pit so the team could fix a broken throttle cable.

In the 19th race of the season at Kansas Speedway, Goess knew that every point and every lap would count in the chase for the championship.  Quick pit stops from the No. 81 crew and smart strategy from crew chief Allen aided in Goess' trek to the front of the pack late in the race. He crossed the finish line third, which puts him 10 points out of the championship with one race to go.

"Overall, this season has been a great experience for everyone on the team," stated Goess. "There were ups and downs, but I think that our team has shown perseverance and the hunger to win. We keep each other in check and know that it takes hard work and will power to get there. I know at the end of the season, we will be proud of everything we have accomplished."

Rockingham Speedway

Goess competed twice at Rockingham Speedway in the ARCA Racing Series. In 2009, Goess entered "The Rock" as a rookie, looking to take on the historic track for the first time. He finished sixth in the race and was thrilled for his first top-10 finish in the series. The team returned for the last race of the season and collected a 17th-place finish after battling handling problems. The finish was good enough for Goess to earn a top-five finish in the ARCA Racing Series points standings for his first season.

This season, Goess hopes to improve on his previous finishes at Rockingham and earn his spot amongst the ARCA Racing Series champions. "Ending the season at Rockingham is something special for the entire series," said Goess. "There is so much history at the track, and it's a great feeling to have the fans at the Rock cheering on the end of the championship chase. We're looking to win at the track, and we are going to do everything we can in the final race of the season to get to our goal of winning the championship. That would be the ideal end of this great season."

The race at Rockingham Speedway is also the only event of the 2010 ARCA Racing Series season in the state of North Carolina-home of Eddie Sharp Racing and Goess. "It's special to have the final race of the season in our home state, especially with such anticipation for an exciting points finish," said Goess. "It's always nice to have the opportunity to have family and friends at the event, and I think that's the best way to end the season."

End of the season

As the season comes to a close, the competition is fierce for the chase to championship. The top-three of Patrick Sheltra, Tom Hessert and Craig Goess continue to exchange positions in the standings as they battle to the finale at Rockingham. Going into the event at Rockingham, Sheltra leads Goess by 10 points and leads Hessert by 20 points.

"It is going to be an exciting race no matter what," said Goess. "We are just going to continue doing what we have done all season long. I know that there is going to be a pressure surrounding the entire race, but the No. 81 team has a lot of confidence in me, and I have a lot of confidence in them. All season long we have continued to improve, and at the end of the race Saturday, I hope that our hard work pays off."

When the checkered flag waves on the 2010 season, Goess hopes to add another word to sum up the season: Champion.

-source: esr

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Series ARCA
Drivers Tom Hessert , Justin Lofton , Patrick Sheltra , Mikey Kile , Craig Goess