Entering the final weekend of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship season, Minnesota’s Jacob Goede had an outside shot at winning the title.
He was one of five drivers — including Mike Looney, Keith Rocco, Philip Morris and Nick Panitzke — who were mathematically eligible to claim the crown heading into the season finale.
Goede, who started the weekend tied for second with Panitzke and 10 points behind championship leader Looney, knew he was going to need some help from the racing Gods if he was going to get the job done.
“If Mike Looney or Nick Panitzke, who I was racing with, got another top-three, I was pretty much mathematically eliminated at that point,” Goede recalled. “I thought it was pretty unlikely going into the last night.”
Looney, who enjoyed the best season of his career, was racing at Virginia’s Langley Speedway. He only needed to add 12 points to his season-long total to clinch the title.
That meant Goede, who was racing at Minnesota’s Elko Speedway, had to sweep twin late model features if he had any hope of being champion.
NASCAR uses a driver’s best 18 finishes from any sanctioned track within a given state to determine the state champion and the best 18 finishes from any sanctioned track in North America to determine the national champion.
Drivers receive two points for every competitor they finish ahead of, up to 16 cars. They can also receive two bonus points for winning from starting positions five through eight, and four points for winning from ninth or further back.
Goede, who has been the man to beat at Elko Speedway for the better part of six seasons, won both features on the final night of racing.
Meanwhile, Looney finished 10th and 12th at Langley, giving the title to Goede by eight points.
“We did everything we could do, and it ended up working out for us,” Goede said.
Goede ended his season with 10 NASCAR-sanctioned wins, most of which came at Elko Speedway. He earned 30 top-five finishes and 37 top-10 results, with some of those finishes registered at Wisconsin’s La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway and Madison Int’l Speedway.
But it all came down to that final night at Elko.
“I didn’t quite know how to play that last night,” Goede explained. “We were watching Mike on our RaceMonitor apps and we were like, crap, he set fast time in qualifying and he’s starting on the pole. Now what?
“We set fast time and right before I went out for my first feature, we knew Mike didn’t run that good (in his first race). The traffic worked out. I won the first one,” Goede continued. “Then the pressure set in for the second feature because we knew we had a really good shot at that point.”
He had to start deep in the field for the second feature, a rule at Elko that dictates the feature winner of the first race start in the back of the second feature. No one had won both features in a single night all season at Elko, but Goede was determined.
“I had to win, and I could win the whole thing. It came down to one race,” Goede said.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship was a culmination of years of hard work for Goede, who is a mechanical engineer by trade.
Much like his father, who spent time racing stock cars on dirt, Goede caught the racing bug when he was 7 years old. He began racing quarter midgets along with his brothers, Matt and Alex.