On Saturday night, Jacob Goede swept a pair of features at Elko Speedway (MN) to close out the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) season. As a result, Goede unofficially vaulted from third to first in the NWAAS National Championship standings.
While an official declaration from NASCAR is not expected until Tuesday, Goede joined Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” Monday to discuss the big weekend and his season-long triumph.
“I hope you’re right,” Goede said, regarding the unofficial declaration. “The calculations you’re coming up with are the calculations I’m coming up with. I’m kind of a numbers guy, too, mechanical engineer by trade. I was keeping tallies on it. I’m excited to hopefully get the official word in the next day or two.”
If Goede is indeed declared National Champion, it will be a landmark occasion for the 34-year-old racer. The National Championship is typically dominated by Late Model Stock Car racers from Virginia and the Carolinas, with Connecticut’s Keith Rocco standing as the most recent champion outside of that realm for his 2010 title.
Goede would be bringing the National Championship back to the Midwest for the first time since Steve Carlson’s 2007 title, and would be the first-ever National Champion from Minnesota.
“I’m really proud to bring this back to the Midwest,” Goede stated. “Steve Carlson did it in 2007. No one has done it from Minnesota, so to be the first is something I’m really proud of.
“I can’t even say it would be a dream come true because I never dreamed we would be in this position. We have gone down to the National Banquet the last two years as the Elko champion and the Minnesota state champion. You hear the speeches and think it would be so cool to be in that position. This year, we might have done it. It’s unreal.”
Goede entered the final weekend of the season third in the NWAAS National points, boasting the same number of points as fellow Midwest racer Nick Panitzke but lower in the standings due to a tiebreaker. Goede’s sweep of the Elko twin-bill placed him ahead of Panitzke, while also allowing him to erase the 10-point deficit to Mike Looney.
It was a tough obstacle to overcome, but for Goede, that has been the theme of the last month of the season.
“Our backs have been against the wall, I feel like, for the past month,” he stated. “We’ve been in a must-win situation. The final night, we had to win both to have a shot and needed bonus points as well. The stars aligned, I guess. We brought a fast race car and we got it done.”
The final race of the season presented its own challenges, but it also brought some good fortune. Due to Elko Speedway rules, Goede was originally slated to start 14thin the race. However, several drivers were forced to back-up cars after incidents in the first feature, which allowed him to start ninth.
“You hate to see things like this happen,” Goede said. “The first race, we had a few guys knocked out by an accident. Fortunately, we had teams that brought back-up cars to get these guys back on track. With them going to back-up cars, I was supposed to start 14th, but we were able to improve our starting spot to ninth. We were just inside the cutoff for the max points, which we needed. The car was just about perfect. Traffic worked out, our lane went. The lanes are so equal at Elko. This time, my lane went. I followed Nick Panitzke, our lane went and then I was able to get by him.”
While many of Goede’s closest rivals in the National Championship competed elsewhere in the country, the Minnesotan competed frequently with Panitzke at Elko, LaCrosse Speedway (WI) and Madison Int’l Speedway (WI).
Goede and Panitzke have developed an off-track friendship, and Goede was especially thankful for the respect shown by his championship rival when their paths crossed.
“We’re buddies off the track, and our wives grew up together. We became friends. It was a good, clean battle right down to the end. We respected each other on the track. The coolest part, or maybe even the most challenging thing, I knew we needed to beat him and he knew he needed to beat me. We couldn’t control what Mike Looney and the Late Model Stock guys were doing, but we had a say in what each other were doing. I knew I needed to beat him, so that was pretty intense over the past month.
“We were chasing each other across the Midwest, going to Madison on Friday nights and then LaCrosse or Elko on Saturdays. That’s a five-hour trip for either of us from Madison to home, and then to turn around and race on Saturday in the same car on a few short hours. It was nice to know who you were racing with. If you could beat him, you knew it was a good night and we were gaining points.”
Fans who missed Goede’s interview can watch an on-demand replay of Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring” by clicking here. The weekly short track racing talk show will next air on Tuesday, September 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Speed51.com and Speed51’s Facebook page.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Elko Speedway photo