A change of venue has done Hayden Woods a world of good.
Woods, usually a regular at Kingsport Speedway, won his first-ever Late Model Stock victory on June 8 at Lonesome Pine (Va.) Speedway. Woods, a 17-year-old who attends Providence Academy, thought his family-owned race team had been spinning its wheels at Kingsport after good qualifying efforts and not getting desired results in the races.
He had gotten embroiled in feuds with other drivers and his No. 87 Chevrolet was involved in a number of accidents.
“We were getting frustrated,” Woods said. “It seemed like every week we were fixing stuff on the car. When you’re fixing stuff, you don’t have time to make it better. It seemed like every week we were wasting our time, going over there with about the same car every week because we never had time to work on anything to make it quicker.”
The racing isn’t quite as frantic at Lonesome Pine, and the track’s design with a wider racing groove, along with the surface being asphalt instead of concrete, better suited Woods’ driving style.
“It’s a little bit smoother,” he said. “We figured we would race there and let everything get cooled down. We got the car back to where we want it. We now plan on showing back up at Kingsport soon to show what we can do.”
He can hope to do as well at Kingsport as Lonesome Pine. In four races at the Coeburn track, Woods has one win, two runner-ups and the one third-place finish.
His victory was one to remember.
Woods had nearly a straightaway lead when the caution came out with five laps to go. He took the outside lane and pinched down Ryan Stiltner on the restart. On the final lap, Stiltner nudged the back of Woods’ car and sent him up the track. They came to the finish line side-by-side, with Woods just inches ahead.
“I didn’t know if I won, but I was celebrating like I won,” he said. “When I got through celebrating, they came up to me and said, ‘You just won by .006 of a second.’ I knew it was close, just didn’t know it was that close.”
Woods followed up that win by winning the pole for the track’s 60-lap feature last Saturday night.
After the first five positions were inverted, Woods quickly worked his way up to the runner-up spot. Midway through the race, Woods was giving chase to the leader Stiltner when a flat right rear tire caused him to spin.
It put him at the back of the lead lap, but Woods quickly charged toward the front, making his way up to third-place. He finished there behind Stiltner, a six-time winner at Lonesome Pine this season, and Adam Gray.
Success is, however, nothing new for Woods. He dominated the Legends division at Kingsport Speedway in 2011 on his way to the season championship.
The Late Model victory proved to be more challenging, not only with the way it happened, but how it was such a long time coming.
“It’s something to win a Legends race, a go-kart race, but it’s something else to win in Late Models,” he said. “It had been building for so long. I won my first Legends race at the end of my first year racing. It’s taken me about two seasons to get this one.
“It’s a lot more competitive and you’ve got to be right on, a nearly perfect car to win anywhere you go.”
Chris Madden rolled to victory in the Southern All Star Racing Series “Scott Sexton Memorial 52” last Friday night at Volunteer Speedway.
Madden, who held the lead when the race was stopped at lap 17 due to rain back on June 1, maintained his advantage over the final 35 laps. Runner-up Dale McDowell made a challenge in lapped traffic, but Madden had the dominant car in open spaces.
Indiana driver Steve Casebolt, Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville and five-time track champion Vic Hill of Morristown rounded out the top five.
A large turnout of 37 cars showed up for a $2,000-to-win Limited Steel-Head/Crate Late Model feature.
Cory Hedgecock of Loudon won the pole and followed it up with a victory in the 30-lap race.
Allen Champ, the 2005 Volunteer Speedway Limited Late Model champion, grabbed the early lead over Hedgecock, but the 20-year-old Hedgecock powered around him on lap 5 and never looked back.
Warren McMahan of Dandridge, a five-time Volunteer Speedway champion, emerged from a fierce battle with three-time track champion Jamie Whitt to win the Modified Hobby feature.
The two battled side-by-side in the opening laps before Whitt grabbed the lead on lap 5. McMahan kept the pressure up and made a winning pass with two laps to go.
Volunteer Speedway is scheduled to host a $3,000-to-win Super Late Model feature for the Southern Regional Racing Series plus racing for support classes this Saturday night.
Chad Finchum of Knoxville extended his points lead at Kingsport Speedway last week with his second victory of the season.
Daniel Pope II of Smyrna was runner-up, followed by Lee Tissot of Asheville.
Johnson City’s Zeke Shell posted a seventh-place finish. Former track champion Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough finished 10th and Daniel Boone High School student Tyler Goodwin was one spot behind in 11th.
John Harrell of Surgionsville won for the sixth time this season in the Street Stock division. Jason Ketron of Kingsport outran his father John Ketron to win the Pure 4 race, while Billy Byington of Kingsport was tops in Rookie Pure 4.
Another night of NASCAR Whelen All-Americn Series Weekly Racing is scheduled for this Friday at Kingsport Speedway.
Supercross Racing returns to the Appalachian Fairgrounds on Saturday with the Pizza Plus Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series.
There are 34 different clases from beginner to expert of motorcycles and ATVs to race for awards and championship points. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. with practice to start at 5 p.m.