Early in this decade, Josh Woods was another bright Michigan Mafia member with a promising career. Switching from ECC Suzuki to Factory KTM for 2003, Woods was taking top fives in both Supercross and Motocross Lites, until a series of injuries and bad luck sidetracked his charge. Later, as a last-minute replacement rider for Fun Center Suzuki in the 2006 - 2007 BooKoo Arenacross series, Josh led the points battle, until he was once more sidelined with an injury. Absent from the racing scene since the summer of 2007 with a severe brain injury, I recently caught up with the now-healthy 25-year-old while practicing at the Georgia Practice Facility.
Josh Woods: This summer, I was racing the Canadian Motocross Nationals, and having some good finishes, while still riding though some injuries. We had a weekend off so I decided to race the Lake County Fair race in Chicago. I don't remember too much about the day, but from what I was told, I was riding all right until the first main event when I endoed into the face of a jump. At that same time, I was hit by another bike; leaving me with two spots of bleeding on my brain. Luckily, they didn't have to drill to relieve the pressure, and I came to a day later. It's been a slow recovery process from that. I was cleared to ride in December; since then, I’ve gotten back on the bike and am feeling better all the time - just trying not to rush anything. I’ve been at my place in Georgia (GPF) training a few guys, and training myself at the same time. Last year, my dad came up with the idea of starting an Arenacross team. With the way the AMA rules are now, making it tougher for riders to earn their pro license, we had a lot of our GPF members needing points. Babbitt's stepped up big time by supplying the team with bikes. Along with a lot of other sponsors helping us, this provided us the pieces needed to put this together.
Has working with the team been fun for you?
It really has, more so than I ever thought. When you have guys that you’re working with, and really want to see do well, it's a different kind of nervous feeling than I've ever felt - a taste of how it must be for my parents to watch me. I'm enjoying it, and learning a lot at the same time. Our riders, Dave Ginolfi and Shane Sewell, have been getting better and better every week and it's exciting to see their progress.
Definitely. As I said before, I think this team is a really good fit – a grooming process for our riders at GPF. Hopefully, we can get a little more sponsorship help in the future, and do even more. The great thing we have going for us is that GPF has some of the best tracks in the country for our guys. We have two arenacross tracks, a full supercross track, and a huge outdoor track that are all watered and maintained. We really hope that we can continue this, and get the budget to improve on it.
Any plans for your return to racing?
I plan to, Jim. I’m working to get back to race speed, and return to that comfort point where I feel that I can do anything on the bike - it’s been a few years since I've been healthy enough to say that. One good thing about the head injury was that all my small nagging injuries are totally healed and I feel better than I have in years. I didn't ask any sponsors for help while I was hurt, because I wasn't sure how I would feel when I returned - and didn't want to make commitments I couldn't keep. Now that I have confidence in myself, and feel that I can get back up to speed, I don't mind asking for help. As of right now, Suzuki is on board to help me again, and I can't thank Cole Gress there enough for still believing in me. I’m also with Fun Center again; they have taken care of me in Arenacross the past few years and are amazing people. I’m not 100 percent on what races I'll be doing yet, I’m still playing everything by ear. I would like to maybe do a few Supercross rounds on the 450. Definitely, I’m doing a few outdoor nationals here, and would like to go back to Canada and race the nationals there - but that is up in the air, still, depending on the Suzuki Canada team budget.
Of course, my Loretta Lynn's Championships are very special to me. I have one from 1998 and one from 2001. I have a bunch of Canadian titles as well as a 125 Pro Canadian Championship. Finishing second place at the Anaheim SX in 2005 was huge for me. Winning 13 main events in the BooKoo Arenacross Series in the 2006 - '07 season was very memorable, with the exception of missing a few rounds with injury, and giving up the championship points lead.
Can you get back up there?
I feel that I can. Injuries have been my biggest downfall. I've had some big ones that have really set me back at times, but I just keep fighting. I really want to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can still do this and be competitive. I know that it isn't going to happen overnight, and it’s going to take a little luck at the same time. Sometimes it can be very easy to get down on yourself at those times, and makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong - but I've learned to deal with it and just keep plugging away.
I’ll be just working hard and having fun - that's all I can do. I have a really good setup here for life after racing, and can still doing something that I enjoy - I'm really fortunate to have what I do here at GPF.
I want to thank my friends and family for always supporting me and helping me get through the injuries and tough times. I also want to give thanks to Suzuki for their continued support.