Following a year of strictly turning practice laps, Goede made his competitive late model debut in 2002 and he’s been at it since.

“I don’t think a race car is probably ever perfect,” said Goede. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so it’s a big mechanical puzzle.”

Goede spent several years racing away from home, but in 2014 he made the decision to shift his focus back to Elko Speedway. In that time, Goede has been the undisputed king of the three-eighths-mile asphalt oval, winning the weekly late model track championship and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Minnesota State championship every year since.

During the stretch, Goede has kept a watchful eye on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship, a competition that typically favored drivers based in the East. East Coast had won the last 11 consecutive NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championships, with Wisconsin’s Steve Carlson the last driver to buck that trend in 2007.

Last year, a small change to the points system opened the door for Goede to better compete with drivers on the East Coast, where car counts are generally higher for weekly racing.

“We’ve kind of been keeping tabs on it since I came back to racing at home at Elko,” Goede said. “I’ve finished fifth in 2017, sixth in 2015. So we’ve kind of been there. This year my track general manager was in Daytona for Speedweeks when NASCAR unveiled the points system.

“He texted me a picture of how they were doing the points, which included dropping the field down from 18 to 16 (for maximum points). Bonus points for starting further back and stuff like that. I kind of had in the back of my mind at that point already … we had been somewhat close but with the points system changes I thought that really gave us a lot better shot at it.”

Goede opened the season at La Crosse, which begins its season a few weeks earlier than Elko. The opportunity to race at La Crosse gave him the chance to shakedown his car, knock the cobwebs off and get ready to race at his familiar Elko stomping ground.

“As the year progressed, we were running good at Elko. We picked up a few wins and in mid-July I think we picked up a win down at La Crosse,” Goede said. “We were kind of creeping up there in points. We looked like we were in a better position than how I felt.

“I had more starts than some of the Southeast guys because we do double features at Elko every night,” Goede noted. “I was getting a lot of starts and I was getting a lot of top-fives, but I wasn’t winning as much as I really needed to.

Jacob Goede celebrates another track championship at Elko Speedway. (Martin DeFries/Redline Graphics Photo)
Jacob Goede celebrates another track championship at Elko Speedway. (Martin DeFries/Redline Graphics Photo)

“We were looking good, but at the same time I knew we weren’t in that good of a position.”

In order to contend for the national title, Goede needed to win races.

“That was kind of our goal by mid-August, try to win one a weekend to keep us kind of in the hunt,” Goede said. “We were barely scratching that, getting one or sometimes none. We were top-fiving everyone to death, but to win this national deal, it wasn’t enough.”

The week before the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship points cutoff, Goede saw an opportunity to gain ground during the second of two features at Elko.

He made what he called “an aggressive move,” a move that didn’t pay off and resulted in him being sent to the tail of the field.

“I thought my season was over at that point,” Goede admitted.

But it wasn’t. One week later he swept both features at Elko and within a few days he received a call from NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell informing him he’d won the championship.

It was a surreal moment, but also allowed Goede to breathe a sigh of relief.

“Finally getting the call was just a huge relief,” said Goede, who was sitting in his cubical at work when he was notified that he was the champion. “We thought everything was on the up-and-up and everything was right, but you never know if something got messed up earlier in the year or whatever.

“It was a weight off the shoulders. It felt good. Then we could officially celebrate.”

Goede still has a hard time wrapping his head around how everything played out. He’s a racer from Carver, Minn., who happens to be the latest NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion.

“It means the world to me,” Goede said. “There have been plenty of good racers from Minnesota in the past that have won or tried this NASCAR deal. I’ve looked up to them. It really feels good to bring it home for everybody in the past and present. This year was tight and what I’m most proud of is we kept to what we could control, and we performed the best this season when everything was on the line.

“For some stupid reason, we had to wait until the end,” he added. “If we could have won more races in the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t have been the underdog going into the end.”