HUDSON OAKS, Texas — It's always been a tough combination to beat out on the race track. Put a man with decades of experience into a new state-of-the-art machine, and get ready to write the check. When a savvy veteran gets comfortable in a new ride, it tends to elevate his performance in a big way.
For 57-year-old IMCA Southern SportMod pilot Todd West, the 2023 season has been strong. In 15 starts, he's earned one win (Aug. 5 at Kennedale), two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. A new car, great guidance to get it dialed in and reliable horsepower have combined for success in a tough class.
“We've learned a lot about the adjustments that we need to make on this new car between the Heat races and the feature,” West said. “It seems like we do better in the feature than we do in the qualifying race. I think that has a lot to do with the motor we're running.
“It's been a great year, and we've had a lot of fun. We didn't really expect to go out and win that night at Kennedale; but was really happy to pull if off. It happened thanks to a lot of good people behind me.”
Now in his 28th year of racing, West has a very interesting story as to how he got started in the sport.
“I got my start back in 1994 or '95 when I was living in Joplin, Missouri,” he explained. “I'm a Fort Worth native, but I moved to Missouri for work. That's when I actually found out about circle track racing; I didn't even know it existed until I moved to Missouri.
“Shortly after I first got going, I got hooked up with Jeff Musser, who was really good with cars. He owned a race car and his friend owned one, as well. I ended up buying his friend's car, and we raced together for a year. Then over the winter, he built us both new engines. That didn't pan out very well for me at first.”
You see, a new engine can be a little touchy sometimes. And on some occasions, they go boom.
“He put a high volume oil pump on my motor, and it promptly blew its guts on practice day. I didn't have any money at the time to build another engine, and he asked me to drive his car. After that, I drove his cars for the next five years. He worked on them, and I drove them. We had a good run together.
“He actually won the Mechanic-of-the-Year Award from NASCAR one year. It was cool to see him get recognized like that, and we sure had a great time racing together.”
Once he returned to his home state of Texas, West continued his involvement in the sport.
“The car I had when I got back to Texas was classified as a Hot Stock, which they don't run any more,” he continued. “They had them back in the day, so I ran that a couple of years. Then that same guy that helped me before decided we needed to get into a Modified. So he bought one and we did that a while.
“Then he got to a point where he needed some money, and we sold the Modified in 2005 or so and that's when I got into the SportMod class. I'm very happy and comfortable in this division now.”
As we referenced earlier, the competition in SportMods is beyond tough on the ovals of North Texas.
“It's very tough to hit the podium at Kennedale,” he said. “I know a skilled racer who tells me he won't race at KSP yet because he feels he's just not ready. You really need a fast car to be competitive there.”
When West puts on his safety suit and gets ready to compete, he climbs into an extremely fine machine.
“I have a new car from Generation Race Cars in Springtown,” he explained. “Justin Long and those guys build a really nice car; the quality is there and they don't just sell you a car and move on to the next guy. They work with you at the tracks to help get you hooked up, since they know the car.
“I think that's the big plus with them is that customer service. They build a top-notch car, then work right alongside you until it's dialed in to your driving style. I've got a GM 602 Crate Motor in it, and the combination has been fast and consistent all season. We may pull off another win before we're done.”
Along with his years of experience and top-notch race car, West also has great partners in his corner.
“I need to thank my valued sponsors, including Discount Pools, Roof Max, CRS Shocks, Generation Race Cars, Photos by Mike Frieri, and 777 Graphics. I couldn't do this without their support.”
As summer quickly fades away and teams plan their fall events, West looks at the rest of his schedule.
“For me at my age, those two and three-day events in the Fall are a little too much,” he said. “As I get older, I have less free time and stamina in general for those big shows. Spending two or three days at the track isn't as appealing to me as it was back in the day.
“If they have a fall special that isn't too far away and runs off in one night, we may be there. I'd still like to run a few more times after the regular season, but only if we can do it in one night. It's been a very good season and I'm hoping to end it on a strong note. Either way, it's been fun again in 2023.”
By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
Photo by Mike Frieri