South Boston: Jon Wood - NASCAR spotlight

Jon Wood figures it's time to eat a little of his own 'home cooking' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2003) -- Jon Wood (No. 50 Bob Graham For President Ford) watched enviously while Carl Edwards (No. 99 Superchips Ford) and Brendan Gaughan (No....

Jon Wood figures it's time to eat a little of his own 'home cooking'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2003) -- Jon Wood (No. 50 Bob Graham For President Ford) watched enviously while Carl Edwards (No. 99 Superchips Ford) and Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge) sat down at the table for sumptuous feasts.

Now it's Wood's turn to enjoy a little home cooking.

Wood will be busy in his home state -- the Commonwealth of Virginia -- when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series heads to South Boston Speedway for Saturday's John Boy & Billy 250.

A victory would be mighty pleasing to Wood, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday in late October, and to his Virginia fans.

"Coming from the west coast with all of the Brendan Gaughan fans and the Midwest this summer with the Carl Edwards fans, it will be great to get back home," said Wood, the third generation member of the legendary Wood clan of Stuart, Va., roughly 100 miles west of South Boston. "It makes a big difference to have a good portion of the crowd cheering for you.

"We have quite a few races (four) in Virginia and I can't think of a better place to race."

This week's event and an Oct. 18 stop at Martinsville Speedway could help Wood cement his place among the top-five positions of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship battle. Wood currently is fifth, sandwiched between veterans Dennis Setzer (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet and Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge).

Hamilton is just 10 points back in sixth, literally fogging the Roush Racing competitor's rear-view mirror.

Some might be nonplused by the late season resurgence of Hamilton, who led the championship table after seven straight races before hitting some midyear bumps.

Not Wood.

"I'm not intimidated by having the veterans ahead of me and behind me," says Wood, a winner at Kansas Speedway in early July. "My only limiting factor is my ability."

"I know I have a great team, crew chief and equipment so it rests on my shoulders."

Wood, in his third full season on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, has made major strides forward in 2003. A year ago, he failed to post a top-five finish and ranked 12th in the final points standings. This year Wood has eight top fives and, with $329,310 in winnings, already has topped last season's total money won.

He credits much of the improvement to the arrival of teammate Edwards, the leading Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender and a three-time race winner.

"I think the biggest advantage I've had throughout the 2003 season is having a teammate," said Wood, who finished sixth in last year's John Boy & Billy 250 as a single Roush entry. "It has been a huge benefit to have someone to communicate with on my level. What I mean by that is someone who doesn't have a lot of experience and is learning the way like I am.

"I think that has helped me a lot."

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Dennis Setzer , Jon Wood , Brendan Gaughan , Carl Edwards