Montezuma Community Schools Superintendent Nathan Wood races #52 stock car at the Bristol Dirt Nationals in March. Wood started racing at age 12 and for the last 20 years, has raced stock cars. After attending the dirt nationals in 2021, Wood returned this year to race. He finished 19th in the final race after hitting the wall.
By J.O. Parker
Montezuma Community Schools Superintendent Nathan Wood knows how to balance a budget and keep a school moving forward. He also knows how to handle a stock car on an oval dirt track.
Wood, who calls Sigourney home, grew up hanging out with his family at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.
When he was 12, Wood started racing Honda Odysseys and go-carts at local race tracks. At age 15, he purchased his first hobby stock race car and competed in that class from 2002- 2006.
“Late in the 2006 season, I purchased a stock car and have competed in that class since,” said Wood, who has only missed four nights at the Southern Iowa Speedway since 2002.
“In 2022, I plan to race at Oskaloosa when I can,” he added. “Life is busy with my own childrens’ events, board meetings and other work events. When time allows, I will also race at the Eldon Raceway, Bloomfield Speedway and Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Mo. and possibly an event at another track or two.”
Since making the switch to the stock car class, Wood had the opportunity to race a hobby stock for a couple other racers on an occasion over the years.
“I had the opportunity to run an open engine modified in 2019,” he said. “It was fun, but I decided I would rather stick with the stock car class.”
In March 2021, Wood, his wife, Sarah, and children, Brayden, 14, Masen, 6, and Ainlsee, 4, along with his dad and father-in-law all attended the Bristol Dirt Nationals in Tennessee.
The family decided to return again in 2022, only this time Wood brought his #52 red, white, blue and black stock car and put it to the test on a dirt-covered NASCAR track.
A busy week in Bristol
Wood and family moved in and set up their pit area on Sunday, March 13.
“We spent the rest of the day visiting downtown Bristol with the kids,” he said.
On Monday, Wood and crew had practice sessions and adjusted the car chassis.
“Luckily for us, the car was very close the first session on the track,” he said. “We ran qualifying races on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.”
Wood won a couple heat races and finished in third, third and fourth in three qualifying features.
“These finishes placed us in sixth place in the point standings for the week,” he said. “At Bristol, we were running 19.80 second laps, correlating to more than 90 mph average lap speed.”
With Friday off, Wood and family spent the day with the kids at a trampoline park and enjoyed other fun activities.
“Friday night, we watched Maguire DeJong (a Montezuma racer in the sport mod class) and NCAA tournament games,” Wood said.
In the final race on Saturday, March 19, Wood started in sixth place and was running in fifth place when he hit the wall.
“The contact with the fence damaged the radiator, and I was not able to complete the race,” Wood said. “We finished 19th overall.”
When asked about the experience of racing on a NASCAR track, Wood said the racing surface and speeds were similar to racing back home at the Southern Iowa Speedway .
“Bristol is higher banked and the dirt is very different than the rich dark dirt we race on here at home,” he said. “The coliseum/venue was the biggest difference. While you’re on the racetrack at Bristol all you can see are the grandstands.”
Throughout his racing career, Wood has won more than 130 races across eight states and 32 different tracks.
“I was fortunate to be the USRA (United States Racing Association) National Champion in 2006 and have won 15 track championships,” he said. “My favorite track is the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Mo.”
He doesn’t build the chassis, but every race car he has owned has been assembled by Wood, his dad and friends. The race car features a 360 cubic inch Chevrolet small block built by Bill Gibson at Dynosaur Race Engines in Knoxville.
“We do all the interior work, plumbing, and assemble everything on our own,” he said.
Through the years, Wood said he has been fortunate to have great support from his family, a number of people and sponsors.
“My wife and kids, my parents, my sister and her family, and my in-laws rarely miss a race,” added Wood.
The best part of racing, he said, is meeting and developing life-long friendships through his experiences in racing.
“The ability to put on my helmet and strap into a car also provides an adrenaline rush and puts me in a “zone” that I can’t really describe,” said Wood. “All of the many tasks, to-do’s, and worries of the world all go away when I’m racing.”