MARNE, Mich. (August 2) – No matter what else happens during the 2012 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour season, Thomas Woodin will be able to savor one moment.
Woodin, who leads a large contingent of Michigan drivers in this weekend's Berlin 100 presented by JEGS and Boyne Machine Company at Berlin Raceway, will always remember leading the field during a race earlier this season.
Woodin led the first 10 laps at Shadybowl Speedway before finishing third that night. For a team that consists of Woodin and his dad and a couple volunteers on race weekends, that's a solid accomplishment.
"Leading laps in a series like this is pretty gratifying," Woodin said. "There's one thing that I can definitely look back on this year, no matter where we finish, and that's leading laps. We came a long way, and to lead laps against people like Daniel Hemric and (Brent) Downey and (Cody) Coughlin, that speaks volumes for what we try to do and what we're accomplishing. And that was a lot of fun."
The finish was the best of the season for the 23-year-old Woodin, but there have been other highlights. He finished fifth at Dixie, eighth at Columbus, ninth at Illiana and 10th at Anderson.
His two top-five and five top-10 finishes have Woodin seventh in the JEGS/CRA points standings and have come after a rough start.
Woodin needed the last-chance to make the opener at Plymouth, where he finished 17th. Then at Winchester, Woodin smacked the wall just past the halfway point, severely damaging his only race car.
"We had a right-rear tire go down, and I backed into the wall," Woodin said. "That's not the best start of the year for us."
But Woodin and his dad know a thing or two about race cars, as Jim Woodin raced for 25 years and runs a business working on race cars and selling parts. So the father and son rebuilt Woodin's car in time for the Illiana race, where he rallied from another last-chance race to finish ninth.
"We kind of started hitting on the setup for these flat tracks, and we ended up driving from 23rd to ninth in that race," Woodin said. "The start of the year couldn't have started any worse for us. But we persevered, and we came through."
Racing and working on race cars is about all Woodin has known his entire life. Since his dad was a racer, Thomas has been going to race tracks literally since he was born.
"When I was a baby, I was at Galesburg, Kalamazoo, Angola – wherever my dad was racing, I was there," Woodin said. "I've grown up around it. When I started getting older, I saw the passion my dad had for it. I've always wanted to get in a car and have some fun. I grew up wanting to do it."
Woodin started in a Go-Kart at age 8, racing those for several years before trying stock cars when he was 15. After racing a Street Stock, Woodin moved to Mini Stock in 2007, winning the track championship at Galesburg, Mich., that season.
Woodin then wanted to run Late Models, and he and his dad built a car for ASA, where they ran sporadically in 2009-10. After ASA folded, Woodin decided to race in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour.
"By no means are we a big-funded team; we're a complete family team," Woodin said. "We knew the crate motors weren't going to cost us a lot of money. We thought we could branch out, get some notoriety and have some fun with touring, and still be competitive."
They've done that, without a large team or big money behind them. But instead of focusing on what they don't have or can't do, Woodin and his dad work on what they can control.
"It pretty much takes a lot of hard work and dedication – and a little bit of knowledge, since my dad's been around so long," Woodin said. "When we go to tracks we've been to, we have a general idea of how a car needs to be setup. And we work extremely hard during the week to make sure we're going to the track with the best possible piece we can show up with."
Woodin is one of 15 drivers from Michigan entered in the 100-lap race out of 25 total entries. Headlining the other entries are points leader Daniel Hemric, who has won six of the nine races this season. Others entered are Brent Downey, second in the points; Anderson Bowen, third in the points and atop the Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year Award standings; Chad Finley, fourth in points; and Josh Nelms, fifth in points.
The Berlin Raceway pit area opens at 11 a.m. EDT on Saturday, with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour drivers meeting at 12:30 p.m. The series has two practices scheduled, 1:45 and 3:05 p.m., with qualifying at 5. The race program starts at 7 p.m. and includes local classes.