Calumet City native Chris Woodall is enjoying the best season in about 15 years of stock car racing, winning five of eight feature races he has entered and leading the current Turbo Stox division point standings at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville.
The 33-year-old Woodall, who now lives in Blue Island and is a service technician for a mechanical septic system company, began racing in the old Mid American Sportsman class at Illiana in 1999. Racing on Illiana’s half mile, he was sixth in the final point standings and was named the division’s rookie of the year.
“My uncle actually bought the Mid American car for me,” said Woodall. “My dad raced a little bit in the 1970s and my grandfather owned a Late Model for short time in the 60s. We always seemed to be going to the race track to watch. We were kind of in over our heads starting in the Mid American division. We didn’t know that much.”
Woodall’s initial racing career lasted less than two and a half years.
“It was a money thing,” said Woodall about his brief retirement. “We ran out of money pretty much.”
Woodall returned to racing in 2004, racing in the Turbo Stox division on Illiana’s quarter-mile track. He scored his first feature win in 2007 and finished third in the final points. Woodall had a breakout year in 2011 at Illiana, winning two feature races and finishing second in the standings.
Woodall’s ride again this year is his familiar black 1988 Monte Carlo No. 20.
“Everything is falling into place this year,” said Woodall. “We’ve raced eight times and won five (features). I think I could have won a couple of more, but I can’t complain. I have some financial backing this year to race full-time. The last few years, I’ve raced part-time because I didn’t have the money to race.”
Woodall’s race car was built several years ago by Dotter Race Cars, using an older Chevrolet Chevelle chassis.
“Dave Dotter has been my main help over the years,” said Woodall. “He can make anything work with as little money as you have. Every year the costs have been going up. It’s getting more competitive, but the payout has remained the same. It’s getting harder to put more money in the car. Even when you win on a night, you lose money. I know racing is a hobby, but you should be able to break even some nights.”
Woodall won last Friday night’s Towing Express Street Stock Challenge 30-lap feature race at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., which pitted Illiana drivers against Grundy competitors.
“I won $435 that night,” said Woodall. “That’s like a million dollars to a street stock guy.”
Woodall hopes the Turbo Stox (street tock) division will get stronger next year when rules for both Illiana and Grundy become more in line.
“If the two tracks get a lot closer on the rules, it will be easier to run your car at both tracks,” said Woodall. “I think racing on the half-mile next year at Illiana might help. The Grundy guys always say that they would come to Illiana if it (the racing) was on the half-mile.”
Woodall’s plans for 2014 are to run for points and win the Illiana Tube Stox title.
“Next year, my sponsor would like to travel some, said Woodall. “If I could ever do it, I would like to get a ride (in a Late Model) and move up, but those (rides) are hard to come by. For now, we’ll just play it by ear.”