WOODSIDE STILL ON TRACK; EX-SAUGUS SPEEDWAY STAR RACES TODAY AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY.
Growing up in Saugus, Sean Woodside could stand in his front yard and almost hear the engines revving at nearby Saugus Speedway, where his father Larry raced late models and his mother Pam ran street stocks.
You might say Sean Woodside has 30-weight oil for blood. It was only natural that he would follow in his parents' burned-rubber tracks.
``I've always loved racing,'' Woodside said. ``I raced go-carts at Indian Dunes and made the progression all the way to Saugus.''
That ended in 1995, when track owners closed the speedway. While several drivers' careers ended when the track stopped running, Woodside - who was selected the track's rookie of the year in 1992 and won season championships in '94 and '95 - saw his career take off.
Woodside, 26, now races in the NASCAR Winston West Series and will drive for the prestigious Golden West Motor Sports team today in the Auto Club 200 at the California Speedway in Fontana. He qualified fifth with his top lap of 174.991 mph on Friday.
Woodside currently ranks third in points entering the seventh race of the 14-race series.
He replaced long-time friend Lance Hooper - another Saugus Speedway alum - who moved to North Carolina to further his driving career after becoming the first rookie in 43 years to claim the Winston West Series points title in '96.
While Woodside has yet to win a Winston West race, he has done well in each of his starts.
``We've led the most laps, but we just haven't gotten the win,'' said Woodside, who has moved up from driving a 450-horsepower late model at Saugus to the 700-horsepower Winston car. ``We just need a little racing luck.''
Luck played a small role in Woodside winning a four-driver tryout for the opportunity to join the Van Nuys-based Golden West's team.
Woodside began his post-Saugus career racing at Mesa Marin in Bakersfield during the 1996 season and finished second in points.
Golden West Motor Sports team owner Ray Claridge elected to hold the tryouts earlier this year at the Bakersfield site, giving Woodside a sort of home-track advantage.
During the week, Woodside serves as a camera utility man and counts the MTV Music Awards, the Academy Awards and several sitcoms among his credits.
Those experiences still don't compare to being a member of the defending Winston West championship team.
``This is the best ride you can get,'' he said. ``This crew is the best at what they do. All I have to do is show up and drive. It's an incredible experience.''
Still, Woodside's toughest drive is along Soledad Canyon Road, past the Saugus Speedway, past the marquee that once promoted Saturday night racing but now only hypes Sunday swap meets and Christmas tree sales.
``It tears me up,'' Woodside said. ``That was my old stomping grounds. It just depresses me because I had so many great times there.''
Perhaps Woodside's best times are still ahead. Perhaps he will continue on to greatness like former Saugus drivers Ron Hornaday Jr., Bill Sedgwick and Hooper.