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Racer takes his turn in family tradition
By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000
Three years ago, J.D. Goff gleefully hopped into a race car and headed onto Citrus County Speedway for the first time. Though he never had wheeled around the quarter-mile oval, he had driven it in his mind a thousand times.
Indeed, all those years as a young boy when he watched his father, grandfather, uncle and cousins whirl around the fabled short track, young J.D. was certain one day he would get his chance as well.
Today, at age 25, the Brooksville driver is one the speedway's most heralded young stars, one whose enthusiasm and even temperament has earned him respect and admiration from competitors and fans.
His third season in Hobby Stocks finds Goff in the hunt for his first division crown. Though he trails division leader Chris Hooker by 67 points, he says things are closer than they may appear.
"We both have five wins, and if I hadn't gotten disqualified a few weeks ago, I think I would be right up there behind him," says Goff. "I think as the season goes along we're going to have a lot more to show."
That optimism is boltered by the fact that Goff's No. 14 machine has performed consistently well all season. Despite the disqualification, which Goff says was because of clarification error on engine rules, he has stayed competitive with Hooker most Saturday nights.
Goff is quick to credit his crew for his success. Although he does much of the maintenance himself, he turns to his grandfather George Goff and uncle, Forrest Goff -- both longtime fixtures at the speedway -- for tips and a few secrets on how to get the most out his racer.
"They know a heck of a lot more than I'll probably ever know," says Goff. "They've been very encouraging to me."
Goff needed that encouragement when he decided to get behind the wheel in 1998. Before his rookie season, he mainly was a behind-the-scenes man, helping crews for his uncle and his cousins. He took over the reins of his grandfather's racer when its original driver was unable to make a season-long commitment.
Despite some disappointments, Goff managed a fifth place in points that year. Still on a learning curve, he finished fourth in the division in 1999.
"I figure if I'm making progress, I'm happy," he says.
That can be a tough thing, especially in an entry level division that herds about 25 cars together at once. Competition is so unforgiving, just getting back to the pits most nights with your car intact is reason to celebrate.
Goff says the key to winning in Hobby Stocks is patience. And it doesn't hurt to know who are your friends on the track and those who are not.
"You get to how certain guys drive, who's going to bing and bang on your back bumper all night, who's going to race you clean," says Goff. "I don't mind telling someone that if they're going to do that to me, I'll do it right back."
One thing that rankles Goff is "mirror driving," something he says he has seen more of this season. The tendency for some drivers to defensively block competitors attempting to pass makes him wish he hadn't supported the ruling two years ago that allowed rearview mirrors back in race cars.
"You've got guys so distracted by what's behind them, they aren't looking at what's going on in front of them," says Goff. "I think it's been the cause of a lot of wrecks this year."
Still, Goff feels that the current crop of racers in Hobby Stocks is proof that the speedway will have plenty of talent for years to come. Not surprisingly, his favorite competitors are drivers who make up the top five division spots.
"I like racing with those guys," he says. "They make it fun to get out there on Saturday night."
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.