The Roderick Woodie story
Discovery is a big reason to write each episode of UpNorth Motorsports. Rarely does a week go by that I do not learn something interesting about this vast field of motorsports. This past week, I began another journey down the path of car collecting and restoration.
Entering Presque Isle, Maine from the south on Route 1, you will notice a neat three-bay garage adorned with antique gas pumps and fuel station signs from yesteryear. For years I drove by that place when heading south or coming home. After visiting with owner Greg Roderick I learned that this is the place from which the “magic” emanates.
The 61-year-old native of Presque Isle graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1978. His father, Peter worked at Welding Supply in his hometown. His father worked with future Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame member Tom Peters. Greg’s friendship that began in the 80’s continues to this day.
. After high school he spent about a year at Star City Ski-Doo selling boats, chainsaws, and snowmobiles. Roderick is a self-taught autobody specialist. After the stint at Star City Ski-Doo he started Northern Auto Body Inc at the barn on the family farm on Centerline Road.
He spent about three years working at the family barn/garage with a woodstove for heat. He then moved in 1981 to a tiny, block-built garage about 3/4 miles north of his current location.
Roderick credits his father with introducing him to several men who had an influence on him while growing up.
When a teenager, his father introduced him to Dr. Richard Dick the dentist. Dr. Dick owned a1940 Ford Wagon that doctor was restoring. Organized disassembly technique and a mild mannerism were picked up by the teenager hanging out with his mentor.
It was Dr. Dick who helped Roderick get Otto Palmer’s 1941 Ford Woodie running. That project was a two-year deal which, eventually had Palmer from Fort Fairfield at the time, selling the red painted car to a buyer in Reston, Virginia. Roderick remembers the unique pink painted wood.
Billy Wight, a merchant in downtown Presque Isle, had a collection of cars, many of which were stored in the basement of his store. Wight liked to tinker with his cars. He had a 1942 Ford Woodie. He patiently answered many questions about his collection and cars in general.
A little later in life, Roderick was introduced to Dr. Malcolm Harris who came to him looking to have one of his collection painted. His 29 Ford Coupe was mentioned by Roderick as an influential project in regards to detail and trim.
In 1997 Roderick married Lisa Freeman of Presque Isle. Together they have two children, Bailey (20) who is attending Husson University in Bangor and Riley (18) who is attending the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
The 1940 Ford Woodie Deluxe
When I asked Greg what car to focus on for this episode, he immediately replied, ” the Woodie. If you want to start a conversation with strangers simply show up in the Woodie”.
Roderick’s love for Woodies began at a young age when he was around his mentors mentioned above. Indeed, he has been a member of the National Woodie Club since 1975 at the age of 15.
His Woodie for this story began in the 70’s and late 80’s when he noticed it sitting forlorn in Mars Hill. Almost as a joke he brought it home from Mars Hill after it had been not-so- delicately rolled around by a front-end loader in preparation for a trip to the scrapyard.
The intensity of sitting in the elements for decades took its toll on the car. Not enough pieces could be salvaged or restored to make a complete car, not even close. Thus, began the search for donor cars.
Roderick has made the trip to Hersey, Pennsylvania to the world-famous Hersey Swap Meet as well as the Carlisle Car Show in Carlisle, Pennsylvania every year for decades, except last year. COVID-19 protocol forced cancellation of both shows.
While at Hersey the next spring after he brought home the Mars Hill car, he obtained a full nose and left rear fender. The dash and a right rear fender were found in the woods in South Paris, Maine. The Woodie in South Paris would also supply the door and hinge hardware. They were obtained by using a shovel to dig up the area where the car had sat. The soil yielded the precious hardware, which of course, showed the effects of decades in contact with the ground.
The parts and pieces were gathered and how the car came together will be told in the next episode. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the end results. Stay tuned!
Sting Ray Robb announces his 2021 Indy Lights team
The 2020 Road to Indy Pro 2000 championship run of Idaho’s Sting Ray Robb was a classic. His story has been shared in previous episodes, however, could be summarized in three words, late season dominance.
Robb proved to be the strongest and most consistent driver during the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season claiming seven victories, five poles, 11 podiums and 15 top-five finishes, setting four new track records and leading the most laps. He was the only driver to complete all 485 laps of the season. All of these accomplishments came while he was racing in the highly competitive field of international drivers which saw eight different race winners during the 17-race season.
As a result of earning the championship, Sting Ray won a $600,000 plus scholarship to help him move up to the Indy Lights Series. He talked with a few teams and not surprisingly chose the team that helped him to the Pro 2000 Championship, Juncos Racing based in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Robb stated, “What a great start to 2021 – securing a much-coveted seat with Juncos racing and my first ride in the awesome Indy Lights car! Working with Ricardo Juncos and the rest of the outstanding Juncos team to challenge for the Indy Lights Championship would be a dream come true for any young driver. I’m so excited to be returning to Juncos for my third season with the team. The chemistry that the team and I have had through the past two seasons will undoubtedly play a key role in our results for the upcoming Indy Lights season.
“In tandem with that, Juncos Racing’s years of Indy Lights championship winning expertise will likely pay big dividends toward strong results during the 2021 season. I am blessed beyond belief for this opportunity and am so excited to begin the journey that lies before us. The competition will be outstanding and every race will be tough but I am confident in our team’s ability to compete with the best. To say the least, we are all very excited to see what God has in store for us in our 2021 Indy Lights campaign.
“Thank you to everyone supporting me through the past seasons… It truly has been an honor, one for which I am so grateful. Now, the privilege of having the Road to Indy logo on the side of my car for the season is amazing and it is truly a blessing to have their support in 2021!”
Robb joins a highly talented list of previous Juncos Racing championship-winning drivers who have moved up the Road To Indy ladder including champions Spencer Pigot (2014 Indy Pro 2000 and 2015 Indy Lights), Kyle Kaiser (2017 Indy Lights), Victor Franzoni (2017 Indy Pro 2000) and Rinus VeeKay (2018 Indy Pro 2000).
Swanson going late model racing in Florida
Five-time USAC Silver Crown champion and three-time Little 500 winner Kody Swanson will drive a super late model and a pro late model fielded by Team Platinum in the 55th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Feb. 4-13 at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Swanson’s participation is a direct result of his desire to expand into forms of racing that are new to him. He has proven to be a quick learner. In 2020 Swanson, the winningest driver in the history of USAC’s top series, USAC Silver Crown, won in his first start ever in the Indy Pro 2000 formula-car series. The latter is part of IndyCar’s Road to Indy program.
He also made his ARCA Menards stock car series debut, and finished eighth at Iowa Speedway. He also debuted in late model stock cars at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and finished second in only his second event. He has also won and finished on the podium in vintage sports car events at Daytona.
“This year my focus is to continue working further into more forms of racing,” said Swanson, a native of Kingsburg, Calif., who currently resides in the Indianapolis area. “I’m looking forward to competing with Doran Racing in the asphalt USAC Silver Crown events and large asphalt sprint car events, and Kevin [Doran] is actually who really helped get this conversation started. His relationship with Marc [Metz, Team Platinum’s crew chief] helped introduce the idea. After meeting with him and Myna [Burba, team owner], we were able to move forward and get this all set up.”
“I’m very excited to work with everyone on Team Platinum,” Swanson continued. “They have proven to be a great team, with fast cars and many talented people all pulling in the same direction. I’m excited to run at New Smyrna at the World Series too. With so many races it is a great opportunity to gain a lot of experience in a short period of time, and all before the rest of the season starts in the Midwest. I haven’t run at New Smyrna before, nor driven either of these cars. From a suspension standpoint they are very different than even the late model I ran last year at Hickory, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“Fatheadz Eyewear, owned by Rico Elmore, has been so supportive of me moving into new opportunities, and I’m thankful that they’re willing to continue building that relationship and direction,” Swanson continued. “In addition, I’m thankful to have support from our friends at Radio Hospital and Rosewood Machine and Tool, along with our other partners.”
CORE Autosports is back in 2021
Another team that I will be following in 2021 is CORE Autosports based in Rock Hill, South Carolina literally across the river from Charlotte, North Carolina. CORE owner Jon Bennett has some ties to the County.
You may recall that I met with team principal Bennett at the 2019 wet and cold Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Bennett was driving the Nissan DPi.
2020 saw the CORE Autosports team concentrate their efforts totally on the GTLM Factory Porsche 911 RSR. Porsche pulled out of IMSA racing after the season.
After a year out of the driver’s seat, Bennett found a partner who wanted to get into the LMP3 class for a season of racing. George Kurtz owner of Crowdstrike internet security will be teaming up with Bennett and Colin Braun who also is returning to the seat with the team.
This year the Roar Before the 24 just concluded. With only a week until the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, teams will not need to make the trip back home with their cars. Another added feature was the Motul Pole Award 100 which ran Sunday afternoon. The finishing order determined the starting positions for the race next weekend.
With Bennett and Kurtz behind the wheel, CORE Autosports finished third in LMP3 thus securing a third place start for the big race.
The video that follows is of the driver switch from Bennett to Kurtz courtesy CORE Autosports:
Exciting news from Daytona this week and Part 2 of the Roderick restoration project with a view of the finished car.
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)