Spokane, WA - Evan Goetz rolled into the Wenatchee Valley Super-Oval with a history of success at the high-speed ¼-mile oval, having won the season ending “Jerry Berschauer Memorial 100” last September for Pro Late Models, among other triumphs. The 14-year-old driver was not expected by most to be a favorite for the “Leonard Evans Memorial 150”, but at the end of the afternoon, Goetz had scored his first Northwest Super Late Model Series victory, in his first series start. Goetz was in a Crate Motor car prepared by Jefferson Racing.
“It’s really crazy that we are technically not old enough to race, but because we have a professional Crew Chief, we were able to race” Goetz explained about his ability to make his first series start. “We were lucky to have Jeff Jefferson with us, so we were able to race the Super Lates. Qualifying was pretty hard because we had a little motor, it’s a crate engine with 400 horsepower versus 650, so we qualified P11. But we were able to make it all the way to the front.”
Goetz continued, in response to coming home victorious among a strong field of veteran racers, “It feels awesome, and it kinda proves my point that it doesn’t matter about age, but you can have a good car and a good driver and still win.”
The day got off to a slow start for Goetz, qualifying 11th in the 23-car field. Randy Marshall Jr. turned the fastest lap in qualifying with a blistering lap of 12.639 seconds, earning the AFCO Racing / Longacre Racing Products Fast Time Award. 22 teams were less than a half-second off the pole winning time, with Alan Cress, Trenton Moriarity, Tayler Riddle and Haeden Plybon the top-five. With the top eight redrawing for position at the front of the field, Max Schroeder pulled the lucky #1 pill with Tayler Riddle lined up to his outside. Bob Presley was third followed by Alan Cress, Gracin Raz, Randy Marshall Jr, Haeden Plybon, and Trenton Moriarity.
Tayler Riddle got the jump at the initial Troy Blanton green flag, getting around Schroeder in the high groove. Raz got a great start from fifth and was up to third by lap 7, getting under Presley. It took Raz only six more laps to wrestle second from Schroeder as the three-time WVSO winner was on the move, before the action was slowed on lap 19 for a slowing Matt Doyle.
The restart saw Riddle to the lead, but Raz was able to muscle by on lap 21 in Turn #1. Another yellow flew on lap 22 when Riddle spun after contact with Plybon in tight racing action. Both top contenders were relegated to the rear of the field. Restarting, Raz re-established his lead with Schroeder, Marshall, Longton and Moriarity the top-five. Goetz was moving through the field quickly however, getting by Moriarity and then Longton for fourth on lap 38. Goetz then closed on Marshall, grabbing third on lap 51.
As the leaders battled nose to tail, Goetz closed to the back bumper of Schroeder by lap 55, with the trio now running under a blanket. Lap 61 saw Schroeder pull to the inside of Raz for the lead, but Raz held him off in a side-by-side battle. On lap 64, Goetz was able make an inside pass of Schroeder, just before the caution came out on lap 65, for a Jan Evans spin.
The ensuing restart was the turning point of the race, as Goetz was able to race pull a power move by Raz for the lead, clearing him on lap 67. As Goetz began to check out, Schroeder was also able to move under Raz on lap 77 and the field raced to a lap 97 yellow for a flat tire on the #12 machine of Moriarity. A quick restart found the field going to red for a four-car incident in Turn #1 involving Haeden Plybon, Christopher Kalsch, Jan Evans, and Corey Allard, who got the worst of it.
The second lap 97 restart saw Goetz and Schroeder battling side by side, with the 14-year-old clearing Schroeder on lap 100 as Riddle broke back into the top-five. On lap 103, Riddle moved by Longton for fourth as Goetz pulled away. Riddle advanced to third, by a fading Raz on lap 118 and to second on lap 123. Longton and Kaeden Anderson were able to get by Raz on laps 142 and 146, as Goetz cruised to his first series victory and a $3,000 paycheck.
Tayler Riddle looked to be a favorite to win, especially after starting on the front row. But the Naches, WA driver had an up and down day, after early race contact sent him into the spin cycle. He also had concerns about a weight disadvantage and the intensity of the racing early on.
“Everybody was racing too hard, too early”, Riddle explained about his early race spin. “We knew with the crate motors; they were going to be an issue with the weight break. With the big motors, everyone was just running to hard at the beginning. I feel like we should have saved more, but everyone didn’t have the patience early on. It caused us to go to the back and had to use our stuff up. I still don’t think we would have had anything for the 22, regardless.”
“It was hot, slick and greasy out there, so no one was great” Riddle explained about the condition of his car and the track. “The car was decent, but it was definitely greasy out there.”
Max Schroeder ran near the front of the field, for the entirety of the event. He didn’t get the victory, but after a 16th-place effort at the season opening event at Tri-City Raceway at RMEC, he was more than pleased with the outcome of Sunday’s race, and the strategy the team followed to achieve a top-three finish.
“We went into this race trying to play the strategy game, picking our battles early”, Schroeder described. “We rode around Gracin Raz for a while and kept pace with him because he was quick. We just didn’t want to burn up our stuff early. We fell back to third and were then able to get back to second after Goetz got by. We then had Tayler Riddle on our butt, so my Crew Chief and Spotter said to just let him go, to see if he could catch Goetz. Fortunately, he didn’t get him, but I’m super happy with third and I’m happy for Evan. I can’t complain.”
The next event for the Northwest Super Late Model Series will be in two weeks at Stateline Speedway. It will be Round #3 of 10. Last year’s edition found Garrett Evans in Victory Circle, as the veteran racer set the stage for his 2021 series championship.
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-Northwest Super Late Model Series Press Release
-Photo credit: Elevate Racing Media