DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- Tim Woods (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford) is off to his best start since becoming a regular competitor in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series in 2001. He is second in the championship standings, with three top-10 finishes in the first three races this season.
As teams prepare to hit the road this week for two back-to-back NASCAR Grand National Division combination races in the Midwest between the West Series and the Busch East Series, Woods knows the importance of doing well.
First up is the Minnesota 150 at Elko (Minn.) Speedway on Friday, May 18. The $133,817 event will be televised to a national audience in high definition by HDNet. In addition, SPEED is scheduled to provide an enhanced replay. The 3/8-mile paved oval at Elko has been compared to Woods’ home track of Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, where he registered a career-best series finish of second in 2004.
Although he has not seen the tracks that will host the two combination events, Woods is positive about the challenge. “I’ve been racing since I was 13, from go-karts all the way up,” said the 32-year-old driver from Chino Hills, Calif. “You see a new track and to me, it’s exciting and a new challenge. You want to approach it by trying to unload and be ready, so you have a lot of practice time.”
His strategy for the combination races will not differ from his regular approach to a race, meanwhile. “I’ll try to qualify good and run in the top five,” he said. “The name of the game is to try to stay up front and try to keep the fenders on (the car) and give yourself a chance to win.”
Woods knows he and his fellow West Series competitors face a tough challenge from the Busch East Series drivers. “I give a lot of credit to the Busch East teams,” he said. “Mike Olsen and Matt Kobyluck and all those guys are all really, really competitive drivers. I expect that we’ll have our hands full and we’ll have to go out there and try to represent the West well.”
Woods experienced his career-best season in the West Series last year, with three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 11 starts. He credits experience and a little luck for his successful start this year.
“I think we’ve been fortunate to miss some of the wrecks,” he said. “I also think we’ve grown a little bit and gelled a little more as a team. All those things have combined to help me have a better start to this season.”
He also attributes his strong start to one other thing. “We’ve been at this for a while,” he said. “Sometimes you just feel like it’s your time. And I feel like it’s my time.”
Woods continues to rely on a simple approach to his racing. “I’m just trying to take care of my car and finish on the lead lap or just finish races, because I know that’s going to give us an opportunity to compete for the championship,” he said.
“I’m just trying to get the most out of what we have and that’s always been my focus,” he said. “It’s now or never. That’s kind of how we’re kind of approaching this year. Hopefully, we’ll show up at each of these races with a car that’s ready to race and we’ll complete them.”
Although racing has been a family tradition in Woods’ family, his competition took a turn from previous generations. His father and his grandfather were part of the Hall of Fame drag racing team known as “Stone, Woods and Cook,” which competed in the A/Gas Supercharged ranks in the 1960s and early ‘70s.