Another Racing Legend....A Story about the Racing
Career of JAY WOODSIDE
By Rich Boteler
Jay drove this 1940 Ford in the “Heavy Stock Car” class for Ernie McCoy in 1957.
Mike McCoy collection
Jay with his second jalopy
at ‘81’ Speedway, Wichita, KS
in 1958 - Jay Woodside collection
Jay in Merle Heath’s sprint car at
Sedalia, MO in 1961. Jay won
his first sprint car feature in this
car at Algona, IA that same year
Jay Woodside collection
Jay in the John Slack Offy
midget that he was to have driven
in the Hut Hundred in 1961
Jay Woodside collection
Jay in Jerry Gilbert’s roadster at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, KS in 1964 - Bob Mays collection
Jay with Don Buckmaster’s super modified at Topeka in 1965
Bob Mays collection
Jay in Les Butler’s Chevy sprint car at Topeka in 1965 – Leroy Byers photo
Jay with the Pop Goodrich Chevy sprint car at Belleville, KS in on Memorial Day of 1966 – Leroy Byers photo
Jay with Ted Hall’s Chevy sprint car at Hutchinson, KS in 1966. This is the car in which Jay won both the BCRA points title and the Knoxville Nationals
Leroy Byers photo
Jay in Ted Hall’s Chevy sprint car
at Tampa, FL in 1967
Jay Woodside collection
Jay in Ted Hall’s Chevy sprint car leads Dale Reed in Pius Selenke’s #43 in an IMCA race at Topeka in 1967
Armin Krueger photo
Jay finished second to Tom York
at Nashville, TN after leading all but
the last lap in this Keith Barker
owned sprint car in 1968
Jay Woodside collection
Jay in the #99 Besecker sprint
car at an USAC race at
Winchester, IN in 1968
Jay Woodside collection
Russ Hibbard (Sparky Carver’s #87) has the pole for the 1968 Missouri State Championship race at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Dale Moore (Don Furr’s #96) is on the outside of the front row, while Gene Gennetten (Bill Rhinne’s #300) and Jay in Pappy Weld’s #94 make up the second row - Speedy Lewis photo
Jay with the Keith Barker Chevy sprint car at the Devil’s Bowl in Mesquite, TX in 1969 - Bob Mays collection
Jay in Hank Smith’s sprint car at Oklahoma City in 1970
Ken Simon photo
Jay was a very good pavement driver. On this day in 1970, Jay won the feature at the high-banked macadam of the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, MO.
Bob Mays collection
Jay (Parsons #68) leads Jim Harkness (Steinert #11) at the Nationals in Hutchinson, KS in 1974 - 1975 Hutchinson Nationals program
Jay in the R & H Farms sprint car at Topeka in 1971 - Bob Mays collection
Jay with Leon Boomershine’s super modified at Tulsa Speedway in 1974
Tim Malone photo
Jay in ‘Jelly’ Wilhelm’s sprint car
at Wichita Falls, TX in 1977
1977 NCRA yearbook
Jay in Jerry Wilson’s NCRA super
modified after winning the first
Chet Wilson Memorial race at
‘81’ Speedway, Wichita, KS
Warren Vincent collection
Jay in ‘Jelly’ Wilhelm’s #99x
passing Jiggs Found on the low
side at Hutchinson, KS in 1979
Mike Ehrlich collection
Jay was born on January 6, 1939 in Dodge City, Kansas and was adopted at birth by Claude and Harriet Woodside. He was raised in the small town of Haysville before the family moved to Wichita in 1953. Both of Jay's parents are now deceased and he has no brothers or sisters. His marriages produced two children, Randy and Ronda, and three step-sons, Rocky, Jason and Eric. These children have given Jay six grandchildren with another one on the way in May and one great-grandson. Jay and his wife Pat were married in 1996, they still reside in Wichita today and they are both retired.
In 1952, Jay was asked by a teacher if he would like to go with the school band to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. Although Jay did not play an instrument he accepted the invitation and carried a tuba while marching with the band. Being a large lad of about 300 pounds at the time, Jay figures they gave him the biggest horn they could find for him. By accompanying the band on this trip, this became a very important decision regarding his future ambitions. While at the fair, Jay witnessed his first sprint car race and he knew then that he wanted to become a racecar driver. The winning driver that day was a large man, so Jay figured he could do it also. Later a friend, Chet Wilson, encouraged Jay to lose weight, telling him he was too fat to be a racecar driver. With the help of his mother and his desires as an incentive, he did lose a lot of weight and pursued his racing career.
While in the 7th grade, he and a friend, Doran Raine, whose dad owned the local salvage yard, spent many days tinkering with some old cars. They would put different engines in jalopies and drive them around the yard. All this mechanical experience helped Jay in later racing endeavors. One day Doran picked Jay up to go to school and later in the day these lads took their car and raced it around the track that circled the football field. This didn’t get the approval of the school administration and soon they were sent to different schools in the area. Years later, Doran would own the last National Championship Racing Association (NCRA) 100-inch sprint car that Jay would drive.
In 1955 Jay started driving jalopies at the local race track for any of the car owners who would give him the chance to race. While he didn’t have a lot of success doing this, he was getting some experience and learning to drive a racecar. He did this for a couple of years and he also helped some of his friends with the mechanical part of their racing. With the experience he gained over these two years, Jay decided he wanted his own car. He bought a Jalopy that had been driven once and wrecked. Roy Bryant, who was one of Jay’s racer friends, got his dad to straighten the car out for Jay. To start the year, he had Harold Leep drive the car for six weeks and Harold won all six features they were in. Following this Jay started driving the car himself and he had more success with his race finishes than he’d had driving for other car owners. Towards the end of the year he totaled the car out and Jay started making plans for the next racing season.
Over the next few years Jay continued to compete in the Jalopies at his local track in a car he had built for himself. Any chance he got to drive a modified or sprint car, he’d quickly jump at the opportunity. He had become good friends with Harold Leep, Bill Nelson, Dale Reed and a car owner; Red Forshee and he would accompany them to many races. In 1958 he was in the running for three jalopy championships but never won any of them because he decided it was best to travel with his friends in pursuit of a sprint car ride. When this group took Red’s car to ‘81’ Speedway for a practice session, his driver friends talked Red into letting Jay practice the car also. Another night Jay had talked an owner into letting him drive his car for the night. While he was being pushed off to qualify, Bill said “Oh my God, he is only 17” and this was overheard by Frank Winkley, one of the race officials. When Jay came around the track expecting a green flag, instead he saw the black flag and after stopping in the pits he was removed from the car. During this time Jay briefly drove a Chrysler powered sprint car for car owner Bob Smith and also had a few midget rides. A couple of highlights from this period were winning the Hutchinson State Fair Championship Race in 1958 and finishing 2nd in points in the Five State Fair Jalopy Championship in Liberal, Kansas.
Finally, in 1960 some things started to break for Jay. He had a ride lined up for a race at Sedalia, Missouri but the engine blew and again he was looking for a car to drive. The race track was very rough and Bill Nelson, who was pretty small in stature, was driving for Pete Forshee (Red’s brother) and was having trouble hanging onto the car. Bill talked Pete into letting Jay drive the car. With some respectable racing, this led to Jay getting rides with Art Peacock and Merle Heath in 1961. Splitting time in these cars and running mainly with the IMCA group, Jay earned the title of IMCA Sprint Car ‘Rookie of the Year’. He got his first sprint car feature win at Algona, Iowa while driving for Merle. He also won his first midget feature this year driving the Bill Hoback Offy at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
A story Jay tells about 1961 was going to Terre Haute, Indiana for the Hut Hundred USAC Midget show. Due to so much rain in the morning it was decided there would be no preliminary races run in order to save the track for the 100-lapper. In qualifying, Jay missed the show by one car, but due to one car scratching from the event he was getting ready to go out for the race. An USAC official came and told Jay that he would not get to start the race because he was racing on a temporary permit and the spot in the field would be given to the next qualifier behind him. That driver happened to be A. J. Foyt who of course had won the Indy ‘500’ earlier in the year. In finishing the story, Jay says A. J. started last and won the race as darkness was setting in.
Entering 1962 things were looking bright for Jay’s career. But as often happened in early day racing, Jay was involved in a horrendous crash during the Jayhawk Nationals in Topeka, Kansas. While racing for second spot on the last lap, he got together with another car, flipped violently and made contact with numerous cars. This put him in the hospital with life threatening injuries and many broken bones. These injuries kept him in the hospital for a full year so he didn’t return to full time racing until July 1963. The leg and hip injuries he sustained still bother him today. If there was a bright spot to this crash, it had to be that it happened while he was in the U.S. Army. He was court-martialed, but since he had disclosed that he was a professional race driver when going into the service, he was given a medical discharge.
During the years from 1963 through 1972, Jay raced IMCA sprints full time and also ran weekly as well as some special super modified events throughout the country. Some of his career highlights from this period were a 2nd place finish in the Jayhawk Nationals in 1965. He won the Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) Championship, the Missouri State Championship and the Knoxville Midseason Championship Race in 1967 while driving for Ted Hall. He won the first ever sprint car race held at I-70 Speedway, a high-banked paved track in Odessa, Missouri in 1969 and finished 2nd in the IMCA points for this year, driving the Keith Barker Chevy powered sprinter. In 1970 he finished 3rd in the IMCA points while racing for Hank Smith. In 1972 he drove for Gary Moulins and they won the Missouri State Championship Race at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. They also won the Topeka State Fairgrounds Season Championship and finished 4th in the Knoxville Nationals.
Going back to 1966, Jay recorded the biggest win of his career. Driving the Ted Hall Chevy powered sprinter, he set a new world record (21.64) for the ½ mile, semi-banked dirt track in qualifying for the Knoxville Nationals. In doing so, they blew the engine but luckily the scheduled Saturday night race was rained out and not run till Sunday afternoon. This gave them enough time to get another motor from their Kansas City race shop. Jay tells that “if the race were run on Saturday night, we never would have had time to get this done.” Jay was a well respected dry slick driver and this played into his hands with the race being run on a Sunday afternoon as well. Jay relates that at the beginning of the race he fell back to about the eighth place after starting on the pole but due to a couple of red flags he was able to maintain contact with the lead cars. Since the teams were allowed to work on their cars during the red flag periods, Ted kept adjusting the chassis and the car kept getting better for Jay to drive. With just a few laps remaining in the race, he was able to pass Lloyd Beckman on the outside and went on to win the best known sprint car race in the country. He tells that passing Lloyd “was probably his biggest thrill in racing” and Lloyd always reminded me “that I took his Nationals win away from him.”
In 1974, he recorded his last sprint car feature win at Beatrice, Nebraska. Two years later while driving for Warren ‘Jelly’ Wilhelm in the NCRA super modified series, Jay was diagnosed with the disease multiple sclerosis. At the time he was running second in points but this served a great blow to Jay’s racing career. He dropped out of racing entirely because of some double vision problems this disease caused. When his sight problem was corrected the next year he started driving for Jerry Wilson. Jerry is Chet’s son, so when they won the first Chet Wilson Memorial Race at ‘81’ Speedway in Wichita this was a very memorable moment. Jay ended his career there with a 2nd place finish in the season point battle. He also raced his last 100-inch dirt champ race at the Race of Champions in Oklahoma City, driving for his school years buddy, Doran Raine. Jay and his son, Randy, entered a stock car in what would be Jay’s final race, the Winter Nationals in Enid, Oklahoma. He retired from racing in 1984 after racing in 26 states and Canada. An interesting side note about Randy Woodside is the fact that he won the IMCA sprint car ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 1989 and finished 2nd in points, just like Jay did during his racing days. To the best of our knowledge, this would make them the only father and son combination to record this accomplishment.
During Jay’s career he raced dirt and pavement, including the infamous banks of Salem and Winchester. He had the desire to make it to Indy but fate kept him from this dream. He drove for many car owners and had many great mechanics that worked on his racecars and built his engines. Aside from the ones already mentioned in this story, we should add that he was the first driver of Al Hamilton’s famed #77 at Williams Grove. Other owners were ‘Speedy’ Bill Smith, Hank Smith, Gene Besecker, John Leverenz, Jim McMillian, Taylor ‘Pappy’ Weld as well as his son, Greg Weld. He held his own while competing against the best of the drivers from this non-winged era including Jan Opperman, Harold Leep, Pete Folse and Johnny Rutherford as well as many of the top 100 drivers listed in the Sprint Car Hall of Fame all time poll. During his career he had many top five finishes and track records throughout the United States. He was one of the most respected professionals in racing and he’s given credit for helping many new drivers get started in the business.
When Jay talks about his racing career, he tells that he had many ups and downs but he wouldn’t trade it for anything. “We were all competitors and we’d stand our ground with one another” he relates, “oh we may knock each other on their butt after a race, but then we’d have a beer, get into our truck and ride home together.” One such incident that brings a hearty laugh from Jay involved a ‘squaring off’ between himself and Dick Sutcliffe. “I was about 6’3” and Dick about 6’6” and we were both burly guys. We got into it a little and here comes Joe Saldana, all 5’5” of him, getting between us, trying to play peacemaker! The sight of that cracked all of us up!!” He adds, “I raced all over the country, against the best drivers of the time, sometimes beating them. I think I would have had a good shot at Indy, which was my dream before I got hurt. Those Roadsters were beautiful cars, but by the time I could get there, it was time for the ‘funny’ cars to take over. Maybe, I should have spent more time racing for championships instead of racing from place to place, but I had so many great experiences wherever I went, and I think traveling made me a better driver, although I didn’t have the championships to back it up. I was fortunate to race with three generations of drivers….Foyt, what a competitor, and that group! Then, the late 60’s and into the 70’s, so many great drivers, Opperman was the best I ever raced with in sprints, and what a guy! And I raced against Steve Kinser when he started, so I’ve had a full, happy career. I’ve made so many friends, and had so many great relationships with folks I’ve known through racing.”
Today, Jay and Pat stay close to the racing by working with the souvenir trailer at ‘81’ Speedway. They make some trips with this when ‘81’ promotes races away from the home track also. Jay’s son, Randy, races a modified at ‘81’ so he enjoys watching his racing endeavors. Jay is still an overall race fan. He loves all open wheel racing and says he prefers non-winged events but they still go and watch the winged cars too. He enjoys watching NASCAR every week and likes the truck series a lot. When it comes to favorite drivers, Jay says he likes all of them but names Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Cory Kruseman as being on top of his list. He respects all the drivers for their driving abilities. He also watches pro football as much as he can and Pat adds that she gets him out to craft shows and estate sales on occasion.
During Jay’s career, every division he raced in, he had victories (jalopies, super modifieds, 100-inchers, sprints, midgets and stock cars). Although he didn’t accomplish everything that he wanted to, due to the injuries sustained in the 1962 severe crash that left him with a bad leg and hip and the MS disease in 1976 that shortened his career, he feels that he’s had a wonderful career and life. Jay has been inducted into many halls of fame, in recognition of his racing accomplishments. Among them are the Knoxville Raceway, Belleville Highbanks and ‘81’ Speedway in Wichita. On May 31, 2003, Jay will receive the ultimate recognition for a sprint car driver when he will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa. For this induction Jay has stated:
“The honor of going into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame is the career going full circle. As a young boy, I would lie in bed and read ‘Speed-age Magazine’. I would read about Tommy Hinnershitz, Johnny Thomson, Eddie Sachs, Bob Sweikert, and other great drivers and all the great mechanics. I would dream about meeting and racing with the likes of these men. I did have the honor of meeting most of these men and during my career, I raced with some of the best drivers in the country. And now I am going to have my name up with theirs. I am thrilled to be joining the greatest drivers in the history of sprint car racing that have preceded me into the hall of fame. Thank you to everyone that has made this possible!!”
In closing, this writer would like to thank Jay for the opportunity to do this story. I am particularly pleased about renewing our friendship that started in February 1963 at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. My thanks to Jay and Pat for their time and for sending me all the information needed to do this story. My main thought here is to give my heartiest congratulations to Jay for the great racing career he had and for his induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame!!
Jay Max Woodside
1939 - 2004
Jay is buried in Lakeview Gardens Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas