Scott Woodruff and his team at Jegs didn’t invent the sportsman team specialty drag race, but many believe they’ve perfected it for almost two decades. The Jegs AllStars event has become a landmark in the NHRA sportsman drag racing landscape.
The event is a continuation of the former TRW and Federal-Mogul All-Star show, but since Woodruff, officially the Director of Media and Motorsports for Jegs, took over the show, he’s made it his mission to make it the be-all, end-all race-within-a-race event.
“When you can put your name on an event where the best of the best are racing each other from coast to coast among ten different sportsman classes, it’s a real stamp of approval for Jegs,” Woodruff said. “It’s a great way for us to say thank you to our customers and just have a good time, a good race. It’s the most prestigious race that there is in sportsman racing to win. So having our name tied to that is pretty cool.”
Prestige is one thing, but the event has turned personal for Woodruff, almost like having another child to nurture.
“This program is very personal to me, to the Coughlin family, to our associates at Jegs,” Woodruff explained. “Simply, we don’t just slap our names on stuff. This is an event that our four owners, our second-generation owners, have all raced in. Now we’ve had two third-generation drivers race in it.
“So there’s a lot of pride in that but really, every year we use the racers input to make the event better and better. I try and ask all the competitors, ‘What are three things that you wouldn’t want to see change? And what are three things that you would like to see change?”
“That’s really, with their input, that’s how we’ve kind of been able to tweak the program through all these years. You know, I really just try and pick three things to improve on each year. Last couple of years, we’ve added contingency. Contingency used to not be part of the All-Star Race.
“I think Top Sportsmen, Top Dragster, adding them a number of years ago, as well as having them race in the event. There was a period of time when they only raced in the All-Star Race, and they weren’t a part of the national event that the All-Star Race was at. It’s hard to ask somebody from division six or division seven to tow across the country and get a couple of time laps and one run. So there is a great deal of pride in it. We want everything to be the best that it can be for the racers for just overall experience for the fans.”
So alluring the race is, multi-time NHRA series champion David Rampy, who retired at the end of the 2019 season while leading the NHRA Div. 4 Super Stock points, opted to come out of retirement to make one last attempt to procure the one title which has eluded him.
“When you have legends like David Rampy speaking highly of this program, you really couldn’t ask for a better stamp of approval,” Woodruff said. “I’m amazed he’d never won the thing. I’m blown away by that. Because he’s been in it a number of times, that just shows that if you can get somebody to come off the couch and come to an NHRA race, they still got something to check off their bucket list. That’s pretty cool.”
For Woodruff, there’s nothing like seeing a first-time winner basking in the glow of greatness.
“When you get to see a first-time winner win this event, it’s pretty special,” Woodruff explained. You key-in on their family members in the winner’s circle. And whether it’s somebody’s child that won and the mom and dad are just elated, and their family’s elated. And a lot of times we’ve had second or third generations win this race and their father and their grandfather has won. That’s pretty cool to have an event like that kind-of tied to somebody’s personal legacy or their bucket list, their achievements, or however you want to phrase it.”
Woodruff points out his goal is to make the event personal for all competitors, win or lose.
“After the first round, I always greet everybody out of their car and I always go to the guy or girl that lost first, tell them to get their ass back in it next year,” Woodruff said. “It was good to see them, thanks for all the support, and I kind of do that all the way until the finals.
“Some of the things that are very special that stick out are when you get somebody that wins, they come around the corner up there at the top end. And we’re scrambling to make sure that when they get out of the car, they’ve got a trophy with their name on it. So all the names are all printed out ahead of time, as well as a check with their name on it.
“And to have guys and girls get out of the car and just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve won this. This is awesome. And it’s got my name on it!”
“A lot of those little attention to details that we’ve brought to the program, I think, has really helped the program exceed to where it is today and where it will be tomorrow.”
The likelihood of the NHRA Route 66 Nationals not returning to the NHRA schedule for 2021 suggests the event could return to the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and if Woodruff has his way, Indianapolis would become the new traditional home for the Jegs AllStars.
“[NHRA] is going to have to really pry my hands off of this track to convince me that it needs to go back to Chicago next year,” Woodruff said.
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