Drivers to Watch 2017: Luke Goedert

Guttenberg driver came close to an IMCA Late Model national title last season, takes pride in building on a budget

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Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series highlighting Eastern Iowa drivers to pay attention to for the 2017 season. The first was on Kyle Olson. The second was on Dalton Simonsen.

GUTTENBERG — The racing community has always been tight-knit. But like any community, there are small factions, for lack of a better word, of racers who can relate to each other for one reason or another.

Guttenberg Late Model driver Luke Goedert belongs to the group of racers who don’t have the seemingly endless budgets of others. It’s just him, his dad Mark and brother Matt in the pits. He has one racecar, his dad does his engine work, his brother does the bodywork and he does his shocks.

So when a guy like Goedert wins races while going up against those who have more resources, there’s an extra little kick to the victory. Any racer in that position will tell you it’s the ultimate compliment to have someone remark at success despite a perceived disadvantage. Goedert won races in 2016 while figuring things out with basically just his dad and brother to help him.

There’s a tremendous level of pride in that, and an eye toward more of it coming.

“Everything we do on this car — not to say we haven’t had help, because we’ve had awesome help along the way — but for the most part, changes we’re making through the night and what we’re bringing to the track, it’s 100 percent on us,” Goedert said. “As far as what we go out for the feature with, it’s only me, my dad and my brother that know. That’s what I take the most pride in. I take a lot of pride in running on a budget, too.

“From the way we ran in 2015, which was my worst season ever, to the way we ran in 2016, it was a huge improvement. To go out and do that and have a chance at the national championship at the end, I was definitely proud.”

 

Goedert finished 2016 with 12 wins — eight as track champion at Maquoketa Speedway, one each at Marshalltown Speedway and Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill. and a pair of wins at Dubuque Speedway.

That level of success hasn’t been a consistent theme throughout his career, by Goedert’s own admission. Entering his 12th season in a Late Model, Goedert said, “we’ve had success before — hit and miss; pretty spotty,” and that after upgrades from 2015 to 2016, “we made some changes and we really had a lot of theories that seemed to pan out.”

“We won at Dubuque last year and I called by brother and said, ‘It worked.’ He said, ‘Really? Think you can win again?’ and I said, ‘We’re going to go on a tear.’ And we won five in a row after that,” Goedert said. “Right then, I felt like what we were doing was on the right track.

“I hope we can build on that this year. We’re trying some new stuff right out of the gate, but you’ve got to do that. If you’re not trying to get faster, they’ll catch you.”

His chance at a national championship — he finished three points shy of the title to national champion Rob Toland — was something of a surprise. Goedert said that was something he never thought he’d have a chance at, but now that he’s seen it come within grasp, there’s obvious motivation there to seek that last little bit.

Being able to measure himself against the best of the best while doing things in a more efficient way than some might is certainly a challenge.

He has one career IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models victory — at Dubuque in 2012 — and came close last season, finishing second to Denny Eckrich at Maquoketa. Getting more wins in that series, and most importantly a championship in that series, would be even more prestigious in his eyes than the national title — especially given the guys who run the Summer Series regularly.

Goedert said he’s the kind of racer who feels like what he does behind the wheel comes naturally, but does his best to never stop learning. He said, “every lap you turn, you learn — whether it’s about the car or the track,” and wants to improve reading track conditions.

He wants to go Open racing someday to prove there, like he feels he has in IMCA racing, that “a guy on a budget can do it.”

Whatever he does, and whatever success he has, Goedert said there will be pride in it because he’ll know how he got there.

“At the end of the night, if we got to victory lane, I’m always proud of the way we run; even if it’s just overcoming problems and finishing fifth where we should’ve been 15th, that’s something to be proud of,” Goedert said. “Always getting behind the wheel, it’s not that I’m not confident — I’m confident in what I can do — I just feel like I’ve always got to be on my game. If you think you’re the best and don’t have any more to learn, I think you’re going to go out and get beat.

“We just have to keep building. We never stop building.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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