Up to Speed with Jack Wood

All smiles from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jack Wood at Las Vegas (Photo: Landen Ciardullo/TPF).

Hailing from Loomis, California, 21-year-old Jack Wood has had a topsy turvy season.

What started off as an ARCA Menards Series East gig with GMS Racing also came with a national ARCA campaign. As if that wasn’t enough, Wood earned a shot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where already he has a top-10 to his name.

Two months ago, Wood was confirmed as the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado on a full-time basis next season. Earlier this month, GMS Racing confirmed veteran Grant Enfinger will be joining Wood’s team.

With just Martinsville (Oct. 29) and Phoenix (Nov. 5) left to cap off the 2021 season, Wood is looking to turn things around. That’s because an engine failure at Talladega Superspeedway resulted in a last-place finish, his second in 10 series starts.

Despite having his work cut out, the former ARCA West competitor has grown in the past year. No longer is Wood just known as the guy who finished fifth last year at Colorado National Park for Velocity Racing. He’s a man who’ll keep fighting.

I caught up with Wood last week where we discussed about career where I learned he spotted for his cousin Travis Milburn in All-American Speedway last Saturday. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Jack Wood on The Podium Finish.

Luis Torres: You’ve had quite an interesting 2021. What’s the mindset going into these final couple races in the Truck Series that you’d like to accomplish before going full-time in 2022?

Jack Wood: I think for us, it’s just going to be trying to get rid of a little bit of the bad luck that we’ve had the past two races and just finish strong. Hopefully we can put together a good run at Martinsville and Phoenix just get off the season on the right foot. Moving into the off-season and then get ready for next year.

I don’t think there’s a specific goal, but I think if we can just put together two solid runs that myself and the team feels good about. That way we can just keep our heads high and go into next season with some confidence.

Torres: You’ve had quite an interesting year where initially it looked like it was going to be an ARCA East bid. Then it turned to a national ARCA. Suddenly, you’re in the Truck Series.

How do you view this year as far as going from one commitment to another commitment to just suddenly, a bigger commitment that ultimately led to where you’re going to be next season?

Wood: Yeah, I was actually just talking to my manager about. It’s been wild, you know. Going from thinking I was running ARCA East to ARCA elite to then trucks. My schedule has been moved around quite a bit and honestly I didn’t really know what I was doing. What races I was running and so on and so forth.

It feels good to have a contract signed. Especially when we got our contract done for next year. It was really pretty early in the season back in like beginning of August. I’m excited to be able to have that No. 24 truck all year long next year.

But it has definitely been an interesting year going from a different series and kind of move around quite a bit. Next year, I can just focus on one specific series is going to be pretty good for me.

Wood climbing into his then-ARCA East ride at New Smyrna in February (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: It does help to have Grant (Enfinger) a part of the team next season. Of course, that was announced at Talladega.

How do you feel like having him around will help, not just you as a competitor, but GMS Racing as a whole?

Wood: I think you look at GMS’ truck lineup right now. You have some really solid drivers with Zane (Smith) and Sheldon (Creed). Then of course Tyler (Ankrum) and (Chase) Purdy as well. It’s been a great environment for me.

I think when you bring in someone like Grant Enfinger, who’s been in the sport for so long, and definitely a seasoned veteran of the Truck Series. That’s just going to help the organization as a whole, really when it comes to feedback that Grant will be able to give these guys. The way we approach these race weekends. I think it’s going to be a big help for me.

It’s definitely going to change the environment because, for me I got Sheldon and Zane as teammates. All three of us are pretty good buddies. I’d say we’re friends off the race track. That environment will change a little bit just because the age difference between me and Grant.

But at the same time, I’m excited to be able to work with someone like Enfinger. I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot from him. I’m excited to be able to have someone like that as a teammate under the same manufacturer banner, the same team, and just be able to work with him all year long.

Torres: Speaking of Sheldon, he’s going to be moving to the Xfinity Series with RCR (Richard Childress Racing).

How dynamically interesting has it been being teammates with a couple of Californians as well?

Wood: Yeah, it’s been fun. I mean, the only driver for GMS that’s not from California is Chase Purdy. All of us have a little something in common when it comes to where we’re from. It’s funny, you have a lot of guys, really in NASCAR in general, but especially over at GMS that are all from California. So, it’s been fun.

It’s been a really great experience for me working with all those guys. I think all of us get along really well. We really spent a lot of time together during the week, just with training with Josh Wise and stuff like that. It’s been a good environment for me to be a part of.

Torres: Speaking of Josh, what has been the greatest element he’s brought to the organization?

I know Josh has been working with a lot of drivers in the past several years since his driving days were essentially over as far as the NASCAR level is concerned.

Wood: The biggest thing for me that I think Josh adds that’s a benefit to me is just structure. I think it’d be pretty easy to get lost out and what your lifestyle is as far as, being a race car driver in North Carolina. Just the stuff that Josh has us do week in and week out really helps build structure into my life.

Whether it’s the training or go into his office and learning about vehicle dynamics, the reaction time training, all that kind of stuff. It gives you something to do during the week, but then also it all pays off from the race track as well. But, I think really just keeping us all busy. Keeping us focused on the task at hand is definitely the biggest thing for me that he’s been able to offer.

Torres: Before heading to the East part of United States. What was the main method that keep you trained and focused when you were driving late models and ARCA West or at the time, K&N West a couple years ago?

Wood: Honestly, I didn’t really do much stuff to prepare for these races. I spent a lot of time at the race shop getting the cars ready. That didn’t leave much time on the table for me to really prepare to drive the race car. It’s rather than just get the cars to the track. I’d watch a little bit of race footage here and there. Maybe like a little bit of iRacing.

Then really just talk to other drivers when I get to the racetrack. But my entire process has changed so much over the last eight months on how I approach what I’m doing behind the wheel of these race cars. It’s definitely changed. It’s changed my performance, but really just who I am all around as a race car driver in general.

Wood started fourth at Kern County, finishing 10th last October (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: No, for sure. Certainly, I remember when you were driving out West, (Velocity Racing) was one of the very few teams who would occasionally get a solid top-five. Of course, you have Bill McAnally and Bob Bruncati (Sunrise Ford) pretty much running the whole realm down there.

How neat is it to be right around the competitive edge between those guys in the No. 78 on the occasions you were able to?

Wood: I think towards the end of our stint running on the West Coast with our family team, we put together some good runs in the ARCA stuff. Really our last three races with Roseville, Kern, and Phoenix were all solid runs.

Like you said, BMR and Bob Bruncati really kind of control the West Series out here. They dominate it and it’s tough being so far away from, you know, I would say the hub of NASCAR, (Charlotte, North Carolina). It’s tough to be competitive with family-run teams. At the same time, it was an exciting challenge for us to take that on. I think we did a pretty good job.

I’m actually came out (to California) this weekend just to come home for a little bit. But I’m also out here because my cousin, Travis Milburn is actually gonna run the ARCA car that I ran at Roseville. Last year he was going to run that race here. I’m actually came out here to spot that race for him on Saturday night.

Torres: Interesting. It’s been a while since Travis last ran out West. I know he was spotting for John Wood at the Las Vegas Bullring. So that’s interesting to know he’ll be back at it.

Wood: Yeah, it is. It’s a fun opportunity for him. Racing is really a big family sport for us. I’m excited to be able to come out here and be a part of it for him. He hasn’t been in an ARCA car in a while. That car for us last year ran decently well, I think we qualified fourth and I think ran majority top-five all night long.

It’s a good opportunity for him, but it’s also just fun to me to get out of the seat and take a different role at the racetrack. Just kind of enjoy the sport from a different vantage point.

Torres: Of course, with COVID and all of that. How tough has it been for Travis to get back behind?

I know in 2019 he drove the No. 08 Kart Idaho car. He had a solid run at South Boston. After a while, I’ve had somebody on Twitter wondering what happened to Travis.

Wood: He runs that kart track up now up in Idaho. I think his focus changed a little bit from driving race cars often to now go out there and running the kart track and running some racing series up there at his track.

Torres: I kind of figured, but it’s kind of one of those things that’s just popped out of my head. Now that you brought up that he’s going to be driving down at Roseville, it’s neat because more cars, the better. More variety, the better as people would say.

Wood: Yeah, absolutely. There’s 23 cars entered into this race at Roseville. It’s going to be a good race and it’s going to be fun for me to be on the spotter stand and watch.

Milburn finished 20th last Saturday after being involved in a crash. Prior to his West return at Roseville, Travis Milburn last competed in the series two years ago (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: Absolutely. A year ago, you were driving for the family team. How did the GMS come to be when it was initially going to be a regional schedule?

Wood: I’m trying to think it’d be almost two years ago now. We brought Ryan Reed aboard, just to kind of come out and help driver coach and spot and stuff like that. Towards the end of last season, I think I was kind of ready to start looking for some different stuff. Maybe try to get into some more competitive equipment and just challenge myself a little more.

Ryan started making some phone calls around on the East Coast. What different opportunities would be available to me and GMS was one of those options. I think it’s the one that was going to fit me the best. So, that’s where we ended up going. But it’s been quite a journey.

For me personally, moving all the way out to the East Coast and move my whole life to North Carolina and running with the new team and a new series, new crew chiefs. It’s been a big change in my life,. But it’s been a pretty exciting journey so far. Hopefully, we still got a long ways to go.

Wood duking it out with Mason Diaz at New Smyrna (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: For sure. It is a huge transition. What’s been the grand advice Ryan has given you, considering he used to run in Xfinity, winning a couple of times as well?

Wood: Yeah, I think Ryan’s been a huge help. The environment of NASCAR in North Carolina is very different. What I’d say is like a traditional lifestyle. It’s a tough road to navigate. And I think having someone like Ryan, who’s been a part of the sport for so long and lived out there for so long. It really just helps me being as young as I am, just trying to navigate and be a part of this world. He has a lot of knowledge when it comes to driving race cars.

But really at the same time, Ryan’s even a bigger piece of my life. Someone that’s been out there long enough to know what are the right things to do, wrong things to do, and help keeping me surrounded by the right people. Ryan’s been a big influence on my life over this last year. I’m definitely very thankful that I’m able to have him be a part of that.

Ryan Reed last competed in the Xfinity Series in 2018 (Photo: Josh Jones/TPF).

Torres: Now, as far as this season. One of the performances that stand out is of course the top-10 at Gateway. But before we talk about it, I want to bring up Nashville because you started outside pole with Derek Kraus. You were this close of getting a top-10.

How important was that weekend for you to kind of build the confidence around you, the team, and the No. 24 truck?

Wood: I think it was huge. For me personally going from ARCA to Trucks is a really big step. There was definitely some nerves that were involved in that decision to move up a level and to go to Nashville. A track that most drivers in the series had never been to before.

I knew that was going to be an opportunity for me to kind of have a leg up on the competition just because everyone was on a level playing field when it came to seat time at that specific racetrack. I put in a lot of time on iRacing on the Chevy sim before we even got there and it paid off. As far as a confidence builder for our team for that weekend, it was a big deal.

I think for everybody at Chevrolet and GMS to see the speed that our 24 had there was a big deal qualifying out front like that, running top five most of the night.

Then we had a left rear get loose on pit road that kind of hurt us a little bit, but I think that was a good showing of our speed and what is there. The speed and the ability to run up front like that was good for everybody to see.

It’s been a while really since we’ve shown the ability to run up front. But it’s kind of like a little bit of a diamond in the rough. We’re gonna just keep chipping away at it and hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can do that every weekend.

Wood gaining track experience at Las Vegas last month (Photo: Landen Ciardullo/TPF).

Torres: Did it help to being at a new venue – Well, I wouldn’t say new, but a venue back on the calendar. Did it help to have practice and qualifying?

That’s been one of the big things this season is making most out of those sessions when available.

Wood: Yeah, absolutely. Being able to have a practice for me is huge because about a hundred percent of these race tracks on the schedule I’ve never been to before. So it makes it tough not having practice or qualifying. Even your starting position on some of these mile-and-a-half is completely determined by the weekend prior.

If you get caught up in a wreck or a motor blows up, like we had at Talladega, it really hurts where you start. Majority of these race tracks we go to, track position is a really big deal. Hopefully, we can bring practice and qualifying back into our schedule next year.

From the sounds of it, it sounds like we’ll have it at about 50 percent of the races next year. But as far as it goes personally, it’s been tough not having that. But it’s a challenge that everyone’s going through right now. I got to find a way to navigate the waters.

Torres: In some instances where there’s no practice at qualifying, you were still able to have a solid run, like at Gateway.

How amazing was it to leave there, as long of a night as it was with the power outage to get that top-10 considering the rollercoaster year that you’ve had?

Wood: Yeah, it’s been good. I think Gateway was another solid weekend for us. I don’t think personally, we had the speed that we needed to be a competitive truck compared to where Sheldon was all night long. We kind of just kept our heads down and kept chipping away at it and were able to get that top-10.

That was a good race to have to put on the Racing Reference and stuff like that. But as far as speed and tracks, I think we can go back to next year and win at Gateway. It’s definitely going to be one that we’re going to need to work on.

Like I said, it was good to have the top-10 just to be able to show that we can go out and do that. Hopefully we’re getting a lot more top-10s next year. Quite honestly, we needed to get quite a bit of wins next year as well.

Torres: Martinsville is next, and I’d imagine it’s going to be difficult because of the starting position. Then there’s Phoenix where you’ve ran before.

Are expectations going to be high to have a strong result down in Phoenix, especially being the final race of the season?

Wood: Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, Phoenix is the race that I have had circled by my schedule all year long. Where I felt like I could go out there and put together a top-five run and honestly, possibly even a win. I think of every track I’ve ever been to; Phoenix was probably my favorite. I’m definitely looking forward to having a solid run at that track.

I know our guys are pretty focused on that one. Just for Sheldon and Zane right now, is that being the final race of the year and that’s going to be the one that settles the championship for the Truck Series.

For me personally, I think that’s one where I can show up and put together a really solid run. Just because the seat time that I’ve had there prior and from the sounds of it, we will have practice and qualifying.

Hopefully I can put together a good couple of laps and get ourselves up a good starting position. Put together a solid race to end off the year.

Wood battling Bill Kann at Phoenix Raceway in 2019 (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: What makes Phoenix very unique that has boded well for you that you’ve had circled?

Wood: Phoenix just incorporates a lot of different aspects of different racetracks. You kind of have that little bit of a mile and a half feel down in Turns 1 and 2. Then 3 and 4 is kinda more like short track style. Hard on the brakes get to the bottom kind of deal. It’s a very unique racetrack and I don’t really think there’s anywhere else on the schedule that you can compare to Phoenix.

There’s a reason that NASCAR has chosen to make that their championship venue for their top three series. I think it races really well. They got a great fan base out there in Arizona.

But for me as a driving perspective, it just seems to fit me well. The things that I can do good, that race track takes advantages of those and be able to put together some good runs.

Torres: And I imagine friends and family will come by down there because it’s the closest venue until next year when Sonoma, correct?

Wood: Yeah, absolutely. I think we’ll have a decent group come out to that race and come watch. That’s always fun for me to have family and friends come out to the track and watch me do what I love to do.

Then, like you said, next year having Sonoma on the schedule is going to be huge. That’s a track I raced out before with ARCA West from my hometown. I’m pretty excited to go there and give it a shot.

Torres: Fortunately, in the national divisions, they’re expanding more out West. Xfinity are going to Portland and then Trucks are going back to Sonoma. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Truck Series handle Sonoma after over 20 years since they last competed down there.

The photographer in me, I remember shooting multiple West races. A couple of drivers prepare for a race differently. Some just focusing on the car, talking to their crew, or kind of keep themselves reserved, listening to music. Let them be themselves beforehand. Where do you fall into that line?

Wood: I mean, Josh has us do some specific stuff before races, but I didn’t do last year. But yeah, I think I still have a lot of the same qualities that I did back when I was racing on the west coast.

And really for me, it’s just having some time to be to myself. Just kind of thinking about the race.

What are my goals? How am I going to accomplish them?

I’m really just trying to just relax for a little bit before strapping into the car and go race. It’s nothing too crazy. I know a lot of guys have some very interesting things that they do. As far as mine goes, it’s pretty simple.

A focused Wood prior to qualifying at Roseville (Photo: Luis Torres/TPF).

Torres: Music wise, because when I do these one-on-one interviews, I tend to ask because I’m more of a music guy as well. What type of music do you have routinely on your playlist?

If I were to describe mine, it’s all over the place.

Wood: I would kind of agree with you there. My music choices are pretty broad and I’ll listen to just about anything. From country to rap. So, it’s a pretty big swing.

As far as like getting ready for a race and trying to get yourself hyped up. I guess it’s gotta be something like a rock or something that gets you going.

Torres: Sure thing. Mine is pretty much rock and metal. Sometimes it goes to the independent (pop) route. Honestly, it kind of varies how I feel about the day or where I’m at.

Wood: Yeah, no, absolutely. The music is very determined by moods. So I get what you’re saying.

Torres: If there’s one advice you were to tell younger competitors, as far as the racing path, what would you tell them?

Wood: That’s stuff I think everybody has different paths on how they’re going to get to where they want to go in their careers. I think what I would tell myself if I could go back five years and give myself a piece of advice is just to keep your head down.

This sport is notorious for beaten you down and making it tough to move on to the next level. This is unlike football or soccer where you know, that you’re going to win 50 percent of the time. There’s 43 guys you gotta beat instead of just one team. It’s a tough sport to compete in.

You gotta be really mentally tough and you really just keep going. You can’t give up. For me, I had some pretty rough stretches in my career where I didn’t win a lot of races and didn’t do too well. And I just kept my head down and kept trying. It’s paid off to this point, but the hard work never ends.

I think you see guys that run in the Cup Series today, still work hard just as anybody. I think Kyle Larson is a great example that. Even making it to the top level of the sport and he still works just as hard as he ever did and quite honestly harder. So, you just got to kind of keep your head down and keep working.

Torres: Most certainly. I think it’s very important for any anybody, whichever profession it may be, to kind of keep going at it. There’s no true sign of settling down or going full steady mode. You’ve got to keep at it to keep yourself in the mix for the long haul.

Wood: Yeah, absolutely. Racing is tough. Whether it’s motocross racing, Formula One or NASCAR. It’s a pretty demanding sport physically, but I think quite honestly it’s more of a mental sport than anything. You just gotta keep going. You gotta find something that if you love it enough, you’re going to do anything to make it happen and do anything to make it happen. So, I’ll just keep fighting.

Wood during pre-race at Darlington Raceway (Photo: Michael Guarigila/TPF).

Torres: Totally. The last question I have is being born in San Jose, California. Where exactly is Loomis because that’s what it has you as your hometown?

Wood: Loomis is a little bit North of Sacramento and South of Auburn. It’s kind of between Sacramento and Auburn. Just around I-80 and the foothills.

Torres: Ah, gotcha. Not too far from Roseville then. Obviously, I was around California up until 2003 when I was nine years old. Then I moved up to the Pacific Northwest.

So, I was just curious where exactly Loomis is. I think in a lot of people’s eyes, it’s an obscure town that people may not remember as much, but it sounds like it’s not that far from a big city.

Wood: It’s not, it’s not far at all. I’ve grew up here my whole life. It’s really cool little, small little country town. It’s been a big change for me going from a small town like Loomis to then moving into Charlotte. Like I said earlier in the interview, it’s been a great journey at this point and I’m excited to continue.

Torres: No, absolutely. I kind of had the reverse feeling. Like I mentioned, I lived in the San Jose area before heading out to a small town in Washington. I lived there for 11 years before moving back to a more city area.

Wood: Absolutely.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Jack Wood for spending time to be interviewed. Also, Leighton Sibille and GMS Racing for making this latest “Up to Speed” feature possible. You can keep track of Wood on his Twitter account and here on TPF.

The full interview with Wood is available to be listened right here.

Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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