When Saugus Speedway abruptly closed just over a year ago, Sean Woodside found himself in a peculiar situation.
He no longer had a home to showcase his talents.
Woodside was leading the Super Late Model division at Saugus when the speedway closed in July of 1995.
Like many other dislocated drivers, he was forced to scramble and find a new racing venue.
The answer for Woodside, who lives in Saugus, is 100 miles north at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield.
Based on his performance, it's a question as to why he wasn't racing there all along.
"Bakersfield had always been a place I wanted to race, but with Saugus so close I never did," Woodside said.
Since committing to a full season at Mesa Marin, Woodside's career has taken off.
He is among the leaders in the point standings at Bakersfield and has led the NASCAR Pacific Coast Region standings much of the season.
Another plus for Woodside is the competition and exposure at Mesa Marin. It is superior to what was available at Saugus.
Crowds average 4,000 and high profile events are constantly held at the half-mile oval.
"Eventually I would like to move up the racing ladder," Woodside said. "And by racing here my career is getting a boost with the added exposure.
"Tour races are held here all the time and the truck series comes through town too. Those are levels I want to compete in."
Woodside says he is thankful for the opportunity to race at Mesa Marin and track officials have similar feelings.
"We want to be selfish and keep guys like Sean Woodside here because they put on a good show for us," track owner and promoter Marion Collins said.
"As a driver, he is one of the best we have and that is why he is the regional leader right now."
There have been 15 Late Model feature events at Mesa Marin this season and Woodside has finished in the top five 13 times. He has victories in four main events.
Woodside, 25, has been racing for five years, spending a majority of his time in the seat of a Late Model car.
As a teenager, Woodside was at Saugus Speedway hanging around Ron Hornaday Jr. and Lance Hooper, two of the more prominent drivers in the track's history.
Woodside raced go-karts at the one-third mile oval until he started racing stock cars, where it didn't take long for him to excel.
In a couple of years he made a reputation as one of the top drivers at Saugus.
Steve Nickolai, a former Super Late Model competitor at Saugus, said he is impressed with what Woodside has done this year.
"At the end of his run at Saugus, Sean was coming into his own," Nickolai said. "What he's doing at Bakersfield is phenomenal."
After the initial shock of Saugus closing wore off, Woodside realized it was probably best for his career.
With the exception of Hornaday, drivers from the facility haven't had much success at higher levels.
Several drivers used Bakersfield as a steppingstone to the big time.
Winston Cup star Ernie Irvan commuted from Salinas and SuperTruck driver Rick Carelli drove in from Denver to compete at Mesa Marin, which also produced home-grown champions Rick and Roger Mears and George Snider.
Mesa Marin's atmosphere differs drastically from what Saugus offered.
The car counts are higher, the track is larger and the turns are banked. A pit row is also part of the track's facilities.
Compared to Saugus, which had its faults, Woodside admits Bakersfield is a better deal.
The oval at Saugus is short and flat, and its surface is uneven.
But it was because of those conditions and his experience racing in the tight quarters that Woodside considers himself a better racer today.
"Anyone that raced at Saugus usually does well when they come up here," Woodside said. "There were things you could only learn at Saugus.
"The track here in Bakersfield has high banks and you can go wide into a corner and pass someone. You couldn't do that at Saugus, so when you get to do it here it's fun."
Woodside worked during the off-season to enhance his career.
He competed in the Winter Heats in Tucson and traveled to Daytona, where he spent time with Hornaday and Southwest Tour racer Sean Monroe.
"I'd be ignorant not to watch these guys and get advice from them," Woodside said.
"The big picture of how professional NASCAR is came clear to me while I was down there."
Woodside doesn't exhibit any particular style to his racing. He claims that familiarity with his vehicle is his biggest advantage.
"Sean is a very tough competitor and he is a good driver who knows what his car can do," Bakersfield driver Dick Shepherd said.
Shepherd, second in the point standings, added: "I've been racing 16 years and I haven't been in a point battle as tight as this one."
Just what Woodside envisioned when he moved to Mesa Marin.
"We came here to run for the points championship and maybe capture the Pacific Coast Region title," Woodside said.
"That's what we're doing, so how could I complain?"