Todd Woodruff credits his parents for his love of dirt track racing.
“When I was little, they were into racing and took me along,” he said. “I really got the bug as a kid, and it stayed with me. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.”
Woodruff got a glimpse of glory Saturday night at 81 Speedway, north of Park City. He took first place in the feature event of the evening for a class of cars and drivers called Rookie Modifieds.
“Yeah, it was exciting,” he said. “Obviously the term rookie refers to the skill level and means I’m not a seasoned driver. This is the first year I have raced often. As I spend more hours racing, my skill level goes up, and as I win more races, the competition level will change.”
“What keeps drivers going back is the challenge of doing it better and better,” he said.
“There is a numerical point system that keeps track of wins and the points from each,” he said. “Like any competition, the better your skill level, the tougher your competitors become.”
While he would love to be on the track every week, his work schedule and a young family mean it is not feasible to race that often.
Vehicles are created out of panels of thin sheet metal attached to a chassis made of tubular metal. While the panels do not seem to provide much protection, Woodruff said strict regulations about the chassis and equipment protect drivers.
“We don’t worry too much about getting hit in a race,” he said. “If a driver makes a blatant hit at someone, he can be disqualified. That is rare. But it is a dirt track, and sometimes things just happen.
“The cars have special seats and we are strapped in pretty good with special seat belts, and we all wear helmets.”
Woodruff said there was no penalty for having dented panels.
“Sometimes you can take a good hit and come away with a dent. But I just take a rubber hammer to it, and usually I’m good to go.”
Peabody Farm Service owner Chuck Mead is one of Woodruff’s sponsors and the mechanic who keeps the car running both on the track and off.
“Chuck knows what needs to be done and he does it,” Woodruff said. “If we are at the track, I can leave him with the car and go check out the competition, watch them race. He takes good care of it.”
Mead appeared in the Saturday night photo of Woodruff receiving his winnings — a $300 cash prize.
Both were proud of taking first in the featured race of the evening.
“That means it’s the big race,” Woodruff said. “Drivers participate in qualifying heats, and those who place in the heats race in the feature event. It is the one that caps off the night. It was a fun one to win.”
Woodruff and his wife, Traci, have a 3-year old son, Knox, who is just as wild about dirt track racing as his dad was many years ago.
“Yeah, he loves it,” Woodruff said. “He likes puttering around in the shop, the races, the noise, and the excitement. We are probably going to be in the market for at least a go-cart here in a few years.”