Last year, Eric Goodale broke a 35-race winless streak in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition at Stafford Motor Speedway when he captured the checkered flag in the NAPA Fall Final 150.
And now, as Goodale looks to rebound from a 27th place finish in the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson, the Riverhead, New York, driver is looking to capture a second straight victory at the Connecticut half-mile.
“Going back a number of years, when I first joined the Whelen Modified Tour, Stafford was by far my worst track, I hated going there, I hated racing there, because we didn’t run well,” Goodale said. “We made it a point of going there to test until I got my car comfortable. Over the last couple of years, we have been improving. There have probably been four or five races lately I could have won there, and they got away from us.”
For Goodale, the opportunity to test at Stafford provided him the chance to drastically improve his setup. In October, he became the 33rd different driver to win a Whelen Modified Tour race at Stafford. And since the track is on the schedule for three events this season, it will be important to continue to keep a good notebook going forward.
“It’s just a tribute to my team that we were able to keep plugging away and take what was one of my worst tracks, and make it one of my best tracks,” Goodale said.
With the NAPA Spring Sizzler scheduled for 200 laps, pit strategy is always a factor in deciding who ends up in Victory Lane. Goodale believes his pit crew is one of the best on pit road, and his crew chief, Jason Shephard, will need to make the right calls when deciding to put new tires on the No. 58 GAF Roofing Chevrolet.
“There is a fine line at Stafford, because track position is so important, and the Sizzler is going to be one of the busiest pit road all year,” Goodale said. “You could be in the pits four, five, maybe six times in the same race because you need to fuel and put your allotted tires on.”
In the last four years of NAPA Spring Sizzler competition, four different drivers have visited the winner’s circle. In 2017, Ryan Preece scored his first win of the year en route to a total of five wins. Doug Coby, Bobby Santos and Woody Pitkat have also captured the checkered flag in the last four years of Sizzler action.
Goodale is just hoping to add his name to the list of Spring Sizzler 200 winners — a list that already includes some of the best modified drivers New England has seen.
“It would be a tremendous honor to win the Sizzler and go down in history as a two-time winner at Stafford, when you look at wins in general on the Whelen Modified Tour, you can’t take anything for granted,” Goodale said.
“The competition is so stong as apposed to what it was 20 years ago. When we show up at the Sizzler, there is going to be 15 cars that can go out there and win the race. One small mistake, or one right call, it can change your finish in the snap of a finger.”