Speaking to Frontstretch before Saturday’s Messina Wildlife Stopper 200 at Pocono, Craig Goess remarked that he thought “he had a great chance” of breaking through and scoring his first career win.
His gut was right.
Despite a dominant performance by polesitter Mikey Kile that saw the Venturini Motorsports driver lead 67 of the 80 laps run, at times lapping 34 of the 36 cars in the field, Goess and his No. 81 team found themselves leading the race after a lap 70 caution for Chad Hackenbracht‘s blown engine, having pitted just before the yellow flag flew. Kile’s pit crew managed to get the No. 25 car out of the pits first among the cars that stopped, and on the ensuing restart on lap 75 Kile managed to get a run on Goess heading into turn 1.
However, Kile proved unable to get his car to stick through turn 1 while racing side-by-side with Goess, allowing the second-year ARCA regular to pull away. Capitalizing on having a car that was the fastest in the field through the tunnel turn, Goess drove away to his first career ARCA victory. Kile finished second, with Chad Finley and Patrick Sheltra finishing third and fourth as the only two other cars still on the lead lap come race’s end. Frank Kimmel rounded out the top five as the first car one lap down.
“This is a very special place to get your first win,” said the the North Carolina driver. “There’s no other track out there on the circuit quite like it.”
Goess’s victory moved him to fifth in the point standings in what is shaping up to be a wide open ARCA title hunt; after Saturday’s 200-miler, the top-eight drivers are all within 200 points of leader Patrick Sheltra, who maintained the points lead after a fourth-place finish. Sheltra’s result makes him the only driver in the ARCA Racing Series to have scored a top 10 in every 2010 race. Still, despite scoring the win and his fourth top five in the last five races, Goess was hesitant to make any statements regarding his shot at the championship.
“At this point, it’s really too early to speculate on that,” said Goess. “We’re going to go out and run every lap as hard as we can, just like we did today, and hope for the best.”
It was a disappointing day for a number of drivers hoping to capitalize on the “tricky triangle.” Steve Arpin proved to have one of the fastest cars in the field, having moved from 14th into the top five less than five laps into the race, but ended up finishing mired two laps down in 11th after running out of gas under green-flag conditions near the race’s midway point. Joey Coulter, a darkhorse favorite in the garage this weekend after a near-victory at Toledo two weeks ago, was forced down pit road for an issue early and often throughout the race en route to finishing a distant 26th. And Tom Hessert also had to make an early pit stop that was further complicated by his team’s failure to properly secure the hood pins prior to the drop of the green flag; he never recovered and finished 19th.
Sheltra’s point lead is now 25 markers over second-place Justin Marks, who finished seventh.