WS: Stockton: Round four preview

* Former motorcycle champion ready for short track action at Stockton 99 Speedway * First portion of Leader Bonus Program money up for grabs * Local competitors to challenge West Series veterans DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May...

* Former motorcycle champion ready for short track action at Stockton 99 Speedway
* First portion of Leader Bonus Program money up for grabs
* Local competitors to challenge West Series veterans

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 24, 2004) - Racing a 3,300-pound stock car around a tight short track sometimes involves a little pushing and shoving. That is nothing new to Gene Woods (No. 7 Circle K/Monster Energy Drinks Dodge). In the past, he did it on two wheels. Woods raced speedway motorcycles for 14 years, winning three U.S. Open National Championships along the way. He says there is a definite comparison between that form of competition and racing stock cars on a short track. "The competition level is every bit as intense on a speedway bike as it is in a stock car," Woods said. "There's a lot of bumping and shoving and pushing, but usually when you bump somebody on a speedway bike you end up on the ground. That's the main difference."

Woods and his competition in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series will be in action on the quarter-mile oval at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway on Saturday, May 29, for the Havoline/NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Stockton 99 Speedway Dodge Country.

The event is the first of six consecutive short track races on this year's schedule. Woods, who notched his first career top-10 finish at Stockton in 2002 and scored his only top-five finishes last year on short tracks, considers that teams on a tight budget such as his have their best opportunity to do well on a short track.

"You don't need as much horsepower on the little short tracks," he said. "You're probably at an advantage if you don't have as much because you don't spin the tires. You work more on getting the car set up and driving it."

Motor sports has been a lifelong passion for Woods, who followed his older brother into racing. "My brother is 10 years older than I am and he started racing mini bikes when I was about 4 or 5 years old," Woods recalled. "By the time I was 8 or 9 years old I was Honda's test rider for a majority of the mini bikes. Jeff Ward and I were actually Honda's first factory riders. They sponsored a mini bike program.

"It kind of evolved from there," he continued. "I rode a little bit of motocross and then raced snowmobiles and just about anything. We even raced ATVs. Anything we could race, we raced. I even got a chance to drive the King Cobra Monster Truck in a series a few years back. I'm not really stuck in one thing."

"I raced speedway motorcycles the most," Woods said. "That was probably the most lucrative form of racing for me. It was definitely the most exciting, because we raced on an international level. It was really a neat part of my growing up. I got to see most of the world racing motorcycles. It was really an experience for me - on top of being able to make a pretty good living at it."

Woods also raced sprint cars. Now at the age of 46, however, he opts to focus on stock car racing. "I really like NASCAR, especially for where I am at in my career," he said. "I think racing stock cars fits real well for someone with the background I have and the age I am. I figure I've got at least another 10 years of racing in me. I'm too old to race motorcycles. The recovery time is a little longer now. That's one reason I chose stock cars." Now in his second full season in the West Series, Woods admits the transition to the 3,300-pound stock cars took some adjustment. "Most of my race car experience was in sprint cars and on dirt," the Ontario, Calif., driver said. "Other than a stock car having a steering wheel and four tires, there's not a lot that relates to a sprint car - because the sprint car makes so much horsepower and they're so light. The stock car really takes patience. You really have to be patient with the car. You can't hustle them, like you can a sprint car or motorcycle. It's more of a thinking man's game."

NEWS & NOTES

* The race . This event is the fourth of 13 races on the series schedule for 2004. It marks a change of pace for the drivers and teams, going from the longest track on the schedule (the 2-mile California Speedway) to the shortest.

* The track . Stockton 99 Speedway is a quarter-mile paved oval with blended banking of up to 14 degrees in turns one and two and up to 17 degrees in turns three and four. The track has hosted 15 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series races.

* Bonus money . The championship standings will have added emphasis at Stockton. A combined $50,000 in prize money will be paid out through the first portion of the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Leader Bonus Program to the top 15 drivers in the championship standings following this event.

* Back from Busch . Defending series champion Scott Lynch (No. 08 Yerf-Dog/Orleans Racing Dodge) returns to series competition after taking advantage of an off-weekend earlier this month to race in the NASCAR Busch Series.

* Local talent . West Series events at Stockton often attract entries from local competitors. Area drivers who have indicated they plan to compete in this event include John Moore (No. 20 JM Environmental Chevrolet) of Granite Bay, Troy Shirk (No. 86 JME Motorsports Chevrolet) of Oakley and Buzz DeVore (No. 45 Reynoso Concrete Ford) of Stockton.

* Last year's event . A spring race was not held at Stockton in 2003. In fact, this is the first year since 1966 that the West Series will visit the historic quarter-mile oval twice in one season.

* Top names . The list of winners in series competition at Stockton 99 Speedway includes some very well known drivers. Jack McCoy tops the list with four victories, while Dick Bown and Jim Bown each had two wins. Well-known drivers from the past with one series victory on the historic track include Ivan Baldwin, Jim Insolo, Marvin Porter, Johnny Steele and Tim Williamson.

* Most poles . McCoy was dominant in terms of qualifying, winning five Bud Pole Awards at Stockton. Jim Bown follows on that list with two.

* Most money . The 2002 race winner, Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford), leads the list of money winners in series competition at Stockton, with $15,726.

* Out front . McCoy led the most laps of competition at Stockton in the modern era of the series (1971-present). He led in three different races, for a total of 261 laps.

* How they compare . Among drivers who have competed in four or more series races at Stockton, the late Jim Robinson had the best average finish of 3.5 in four races. Ray Elder is second on the list with an average finish of 4.5 in four races, with Hershel McGriff close behind with an average of 4.6 in five races.

* Top fives . Two drivers scored top-five finishes in the past two West Series races at Stockton. In addition to his victory in 2002, Borneman finished fifth last year. Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) finished third in both races, meanwhile.

* Dodge dominance . With five wins, a Dodge has been in victory lane at Stockton more than any other manufacturer.

* Overtime . Late-race cautions forced the last two series races at Stockton to be extended beyond the scheduled distance for a green-white-checkered finish.

* Stat of the race . Eight of the last nine winners at Stockton started the race from the front row.

* Leading the pack . Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil Chevrolet) has led the most laps of competition so far this year in the West Series. He has led in all three races, accumulating 123 laps on the point.

* Going the distance . Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) is the only driver to complete all 401 laps of competition in the first three races this season.

* Best average finish . Gaylord has the best average finish among drivers who have run all three races. His average finish in the three races is 5.00 - compared to David and David Gilliland (No. 88 Honda Cars of Corona Chevrolet), who each have an average of 6.00.

* Leading rookie . Gilliland has taken an early lead in this year's competition for the Auto Meter Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. He was the top finishing rookie in the three races completed so far.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the upcoming month of June include Jason Small, who turns 25 on the 7th; Kevin Richards, who turns 42 on the 13th; Brett Thompson, who turns 27 on the 17th; Tim Smith, who turns 36 on the 19th; Alfredo Tame, who turns 30 on the 28th; and Johnny Borneman, who turns 27 on the 30th

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On May 15, 1971, Jack McCoy charged from seventh on the grid to edge Ray Elder and win a 150-lap NASCAR (Western Grand National) race at Stockton 99 Speedway.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Ward , Jason Small , Scott Gaylord , Brett Thompson , Scott Lynch , Mike David , Kevin Richards , Gene Woods , John Moore , David Gilliland , Hershel McGriff , Jim Robinson
Teams Williams