Drag Illustrated Issue 175, March / April 2022 - Page 91


Mark Woodruff ’ s family-based crew helps him get it done

There are longtime , loyal crew members , then there ’ s Mark Woodruff ’ s team . A collection of family and friends , Woodruff ’ s crew is as tightknit as they come .

Anyone who ’ s been around radial racing knows Brent Sansoucie , Woodruff ’ s crew chief . He can usually be found on the starting line wearing a mustard-yellow sport coat and carrying a megaphone , bringing Woody into the beams .
“ We ’ ve been friends since the fourth grade ,” Woodruff says . “ We always had a common interest in competition . We played flag football and kickball and ran relay races in school . We both ran long distance and we were always competitive . He joined the Marines after graduation . After he got out of the Marine Corps I was knee-deep in drag racing already and drug him into it with me . That ’ s really where it all began . He ’ s a huge part of the program . I wouldn ’ t want to do it without him .”
Sansoucie is unmistakable , whether he ’ s in his usual yellow jacket or another loud , over-the-top starting line outfit . He ’ s outspoken on Facebook , always quick to take promoter Donald Long to task . But behind that eccentric personality is a genuine , passionate guy who wants the best for his friends and the sport .
“ The dude just has a tremendously huge heart and would help anybody ,” Woodruff says . “ Loyal to a fault . He ’ s just that person . Hard working . I ’ ve watched him do more stuff for other people than he ’ s ever done for himself . That ’ s kind of the whole team . It ’ s what we ’ re about and who we are .”
On the tuning side , Woodruff works with Jamie Miller and Joe Oplawski to get both cars set up and going in the right direction .
“ I ’ m self-sufficient to where I can go [ tune ] it myself , but it goes back to doing too much at once ,” Woodruff says . “ If you ’ re the tuner and the driver and the general manager of the crew and you ’ re telling everybody what to do , it gets pretty crazy . But I ’ ve got a good group of guys , and we try to put people in the position to excel and perform well .”
Woodruff ’ s team also include his parents , Mark Sr . and Janice , who started helping Woody at the track many years ago at the Street Machine Nationals at Ozark Raceway Park when he was still racing his nitrous-fed ’ 69 Nova .
“ They ’ d never really been to a drag race , but I needed a crew so I took them with me ,” Woodruff remembers . “ We qualified No . 1 , won the event , and set the track record in the final . That was a pretty darn good weekend for a young kid from Arnold , Missouri , who didn ’ t really know what he was doing other than hold on and try to go fast .”
The team is rounded out by Woodruff ’ s cousin , Damon Cole , who also works at M & M Transmission ; Chris Gherardini ; and nephew Connor Low . Woodruff ’ s wife , Denine , and son Mark Woodruff III are also a big part of the team .
Woodruff also credits the team ’ s various partners and manufacturers that have helped over the years , including M & M Transmission , FuelTech , Hart ’ s Turbo and Hart ’ s Charger , Nelson Competition , VP Racing Fuels , B & B Race Cars , Larry Jeffers and Jeffers Race Cars , Extreme Lubricants , TurboSmart , Wiseco Pistons , Paint by Jeff Hoskins , and Proline Racing .
was a mad thrash , as they buttoned on the front clip and backed out of the pit to make it to the staging lanes in time to run the final before the sharp 10 p . m . Sunday night curfew .
“ That was an iconic moment for me in the class and in the sport ,” says Woodruff , who ended up losing to fellow first-time finalist “ Nova Joe ” Albrecht . “ We had five different teams there trying to get me ready to go , to go attempt to win this race that ’ s harder than hell to win .”
That showing of support from fellow competitors speaks volumes about not only the good nature of so many people in the drag radial community , but it was also specifically a reflection of Woodruff ’ s standing in that community . He ’ s developed a reputation as one of the most generous people in the pits at these races . Known by many as “ Woodymart ,” he keeps his trailer fully stocked with all kinds of spare parts . He ’ s frequently the first stop someone makes when they need a part or help patching up fiberglass .
“ It ’ s about taking care of people , number one ,” explains Woodruff , who owns Midwest Collision Equipment , an auto collision repair equipment distributor . “ But for me , if and when I win a race , I want to win it on the merits that we outperformed everybody . I don ’ t want it to be because
March / April 2022 someone broke and didn ’ t have the parts they needed . If I ’ ve got something , the door ’ s open , and if for some reason I ran into that situation where I needed help , I would hope that would be extended my way if somebody had it .”
Going back to the challenge of winning these major races like Lights Out , it ’ s like an invisible barrier standing between the competitors and the winner ’ s circle . The heartbreaking moments like that runner-up finish at Lights Out 8 would send many people home dejected , but Woodruff just keeps coming back , knowing that win will mean so much more when it does happen .
“ Most people don ’ t understand how hard it is ,” Woodruff asserts . “ I ’ ve got buddies that I went to school with that know I ’ m a car guy and have been around it and have been racing with me . They ’ re like , ‘ Dude , why haven ’ t you won one of them ?’ I ’ m like , ‘ You have no f * cking clue what it takes to win one of these things .”
Woodruff hasn ’ t hoisted a giant Thor ’ s hammer or worn the crown or sat in the throne – or enjoyed any of the other over-the-top prizes and celebrations that come with winning one of the Duck X Production races . And that ’ s OK with Woodruff because he was still a part of the action at those infamous races , and he ’ s still in the game .
“ I would ’ ve liked to have won some of them ,” Woody admits , “ but even without winning , just being there was enough . Because you could be the baseball team that never won the World Series , but if you were in it 20 years , you still got to go to the World Series .”

Car counts and overall enthusiasm surrounding Radial vs . the World have been on the decline over the past few years , to the point some people have declared the class dead . Longtime participants have moved over to Pro 275 or big-tire Pro Mod racing , and Woodruff himself has also dabbled in those endeavors . His Corvette now races in Pro 275 , while he recently debuted a Pro Mod ’ 69 Camaro with Micke behind the wheel . But he ’ s not giving up on RvW . As he says , “ It ’ s not dead , it ’ s diluted .”

“ I look at it this way : In any professional sports – NFL , NBA , or MLB – the All-Star game ’ s not played every game ,” Woodruff says . “ The Home Run Derby ’ s not played every game .”
Woodruff believes he has a solution to stop the bleeding in RvW , and it primarily comes
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