The coronavirus pandemic put a bit of a damper on the start of the race season, but changes in plans have helped John Goin and given him a chance to race against some of the best late model drivers in the country.
Goin had planned to run a full season at Dominion Raceway – an .400-mile asphalt oval track in Thornburg, Virginia – this season, with a few trips to South Boston and Motor Mile Speedways as well.
Motor Mile canceled its season in April, and South Boston has yet to race this year, but Goin has made the best of 2020, racing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks Dominion, Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway – a 0.396-mile slightly banked asphalt oval in Hampton, Virginia,- and Southern National Motorsports Park – a 0.4-mile asphalt oval track in Lucama, North Carolina.
Traveling between the three tracks has been a chance for Goin to face the best of the best in his rookie season.
"One thing good that’s come out of it, it’s allowed me to run against people like Peyton Sellers and Josh Berry and all of your national contenders week after week," Goin said. "It makes you better to run against good competition.
"That’s the one thing that’s been really fun too is going to different tracks and learning what makes you fast at this track and how to get around there."
In 17 NASCAR races between the three tracks, Goin has one win at Southern National and 10 top-five finishes. He’s currently 11th in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Division I points standings.
Goin’s transition up to a late model was an easy one, and he found success early. In his first time racing a late model, running an exhibition at Dominion last year, he finished second in the first race, and won the second. That ease in the bigger car was a big part of what made Goin and his team want to move up and run late models for a full season this year.
"That kind of got our feet wet last year," he said. "It was actually a really easy transfer. It really suits my driving style better."
Goin began racing 11 years ago when he was 13. His father loved racing himself and was a dirt car driver.
"At that time we started going to dirt races together then we went and checked out a go-kart race one time and we just fell in love with it," he said.
He raced go-karts for about five years before moving to dirt himself.
Goin’s father passed away in 2012, but his love of racing is something Goin has always carried with him, and "I’ve been blessed to have good people behind me," he said.
The 23-year-old ran a full season in the late model sportsman division at Southside Speedway in Virginia last year, and while his team had a great time racing there, they never really had the results they wanted.
"But we learned a whole lot about the cars and got a lot of seat time racing against guys that had raced for a long time," he said.
Everybody on his team came together and decided to try something different for 2020. Goin’s stepdad, Bo Collins, became the owner for his late model this year.
"My stepdad and myself, we went to a lot of late model races and watched some of your bigger names run and always admired how clean and how hard the racing was," Goin said.
"It was always something, before my stepdad became involved with me, I just really hadn’t had the funds to do but now that I’ve got the funds behind me because of him to do it, it makes a big difference because that was something we really wanted to do big time. That’s been fun."
The team also has help from Craig Oliver building the chassis and providing coaching and Sammy Houston doing setups and spending time in the shop. Goin’s biggest struggle this year has been finding consistency, which Oliver has helped him improve.
Having grown up in a dirt car, Goin said a late model is better for the way he likes to drive.
"I was used to a wider tire so when I went for a couple years on the small tires it took me a long time to get adjusted running that," he said. "Then when I kind of went back to a bigger tire, something that’s more durable and you can drive the car harder, it’s really worked better for me because I can do more stuff that I’m capable of doing. I usually overdrive instead of underdrive so it makes up for that."
Goin’s goal coming into the season was to get the Virginia Rookie of the Year award, which he currently leads in the points. Now that he’s seen success on the track, his new goal is to win at least one more race and finish in the top 10 in the national points.
No matter where he finishes, Goin has proven to himself and others that he can race with the best of them.
"It’s definitely been a good rookie year. I’ve got good people that work behind me," he said.
"I love competition. I love racing and having the challenge of beating other drivers who have won a lot before… And just seeing how I stack up against other guys knowing that they’re trying their hardest and I’m trying my hardest. It’s fun. It’s fun also when you’ve got great guys behind you that make it fun for you and make you a better driver."
Goin will race at Dominion Raceway this Saturday, a night that will feature twin-60s late models, modifieds, Virginia Racers, U Cars, INEX Legends, and INEX Bandos.