Rockingham: Craig Goess race report

Craig Goess Snags a Sixth-Place Finish at The Rock; ARCA Rookie is Finding a Fast Home in the Series ROCKINGHAM, NC (April 20, 2009) -- Craig Goess Jr. left Rockingham Speedway (NC) with reason to celebrate. It may not have been in ...

Craig Goess Snags a Sixth-Place Finish at The Rock; ARCA Rookie is Finding a Fast Home in the Series

ROCKINGHAM, NC (April 20, 2009) -- Craig Goess Jr. left Rockingham Speedway (NC) with reason to celebrate. It may not have been in victory lane, but it was a bit of a celebration nonetheless. Goess completed all 200 laps of the Carolina 200 on Sunday to grab his career-best ARCA RE/MAX Series finish. Goess' stellar day started with the No. 81 Greenville Toyota Camry rolling off from the 12th position and it ended with a sixth-place finish without a scratch on the Eddie Sharp Racing-prepared vehicle.

"Overall, it was a good day for the No. 81 Greenville Toyota team," said Goess after the race. "It's definitely a step in the right direction for us. We've had our share of ups and downs, and we definitely needed a finish like this to keep our momentum up and continue to have top finishes."

Goess tested at the one-mile facility a few weeks earlier and knew the Patrick Donahue-led team would have an amazing Camry prepared for this event. Goess didn't let his team down, after posting the third quickest time of 24.922 seconds in the one and only practice session on Saturday. Goess gave up a little bit in qualifying but clocked in with a lap of 25.173 seconds, placing him 12th on the grid.

"It definitely didn't help that we were one of the first few cars out on the track for qualifying," explained Goess prior to the start of the race. "The track was pretty slick and the car was loose. I gave up a little bit, but we should be okay once the green flag waves."

Goess strapped into his No. 81 Greenville Toyota Camry and set out to give the team their first top-10 finish of the season. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick waved the green flag for the 40-car field, and Goess began his march to the front. By lap two, Goess had already moved up to the eighth spot before the first caution waved the very next lap.

"I'm a little tight late," said Goess under caution. "I'm trying to be as easy on the tires as I can."

Located in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, the Rockingham Speedway is known for severe tire wear. Goess knew that taking care of his tires would be beneficial in the long run, which would definitely play out later in the race.

Another caution came out on lap 21 and Goess radioed in saying the car was pretty good. Following the restart, however, it all went away. Goess began dropping back, and the handling had gone askew. A caution did finally wave on lap 54 because of oil on the track, but Goess had lost several positions and was sitting in 17th place.

"I am really, really loose," exclaimed Goess. "I might have a tire possibly going down or something."

Thankfully for the caution, Goess brought his No. 81 Toyota down pit road to the attention of his crew. They changed four tires, made a tire pressure adjustment and put wedge into the vehicle. After taking the tires off the car, the team analyzed them and couldn't find anything wrong with them, unsure of how the car could make such a drastic change in handling.

"The car did a 180 after the restart," said Goess. "I just don't understand why."

The team was puzzled, too, but focused on the mission at hand. Goess restarted in the 14th position with raindrops starting to come down. Luckily, the rain never played a role in the finish of the race, as it was never hard enough to heed a caution.

Goess had the No. 81 in 13th place when the fourth caution was brought out. When caution number five came, Goess brought his machine down pit road for what would be their final pit stop, as the race ran caution-free for the remainder of the event. The ESR team put on four fresh Hoosier tires and filled it with fuel. However, two lug nuts fell off and it took the crew some additional time to replace those, costing Goess a couple spots.

The No. 81 lined up in the 12th position for the restart on lap 111 and was ticking off spots one by one. By lap 127, Goess was up to seventh place and was running laps faster than the leaders. One would not have imagined an ARCA race going almost 90 laps without a caution, and Goess sure could've used one around lap 150 to help him catch up to the leaders. They were running in sixth place but quickly losing time. Goess went down one lap to leader Ken Schrader on lap 183, but remained in prime position for the "Lucky Dog" award should the caution come out. It never did, but Goess did get his lap back when Schrader ran out of fuel with two laps remaining and finished in the sixth position, completing all 200 laps and accomplishing quite a feat for the rookie driver.

"The handling just went away after that second caution," said Goess. "Patrick made it better during that middle run and I went to work passing cars. We lost two spots on pit road, but we were still able to come back from it and have a great finish. I'm really proud of how the team worked this weekend and look forward to getting back at it next weekend in Talladega."

Goess moved up to fifth in the series' standings following their third event of the season. They have a quick turnaround as they head to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the ARCA 250 on Friday afternoon.

-credit: CraigGoess.com

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Series ARCA
Drivers Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Craig Goess