“We finished that year (2016), between Kerry (Madsen) and Justin Henderson … and then Ricky and Richard bought me out of the Outlaws deal,” Wood said. “I really did sell everything then. Sold the truck, trailer, tools, parts, cars … I kept a couple of motors, because I was supplying motors to the team (Day Racing) that Shane (Golobic) was driving for at the time, but outside of that I didn’t have a single piece of sprint car racing equipment to my name.
“And then, just like everything else, things just seemed to fall together,” Wood continued.
Wood spent 2017 supporting Golobic’s sprint car endeavors at Day Racing, as well as touring with Golobic on the USAC National Midget Series en route to runner-up honors in the standings with Clauson-Marshall Racing.
The 2018 season brought the first of many changes.
Golobic moved to Tarlton Racing to chase the NARC King of the West Sprint Car Series championship, while also continuing with Day Racing on the 360 sprint car side.
However, circumstances led Golobic in a different direction, all while he was preparing to marry his longtime girlfriend, Sarah Wood — Matt Wood’s daughter.
It all culminated in a conversation with the elder Wood prior to the 2019 season, shortly after Golobic became Wood’s son-in-law.
“Shane was trying to figure out what was next. I told him, ‘Look, let’s put a team together and if you want to drive and want to do this, we’ll put a team together,” said Wood. “And this time we literally didn’t have a trailer, a truck or even a tire wrench. So we ordered everything you need to go racing and that’s how Shane and I ended up working together … aside from the family bit, of course.”
The last two seasons have seen Matt Wood Racing grow into one of the powerhouse teams in California dirt-track racing. With Golobic at the controls, the NOS Energy Drink and Elk Grove Ford-backed No. 17w has won numerous races with the Sprint Car Challenge Tour and King of the West.
Golobic and Wood have been in victory lane together at tracks such as the Stockton (Calif.) Dirt Track, Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, Calif., Placerville (Calif.) Speedway and even South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway.
But for Wood, it’s not about the wins or titles. His mission in racing is far more simple.
“Our whole philosophy is just that we show up and race,” Wood noted. “We don’t care where we park. We don’t care where we are. We don’t have the biggest or the most impressive operation, though I do think we have as good equipment as anybody in sprint car racing today, but we just show up and race and we try to let our performance speak for itself.
“It’s been fun and that’s our deal.”
Outside of California, Wood checked off a racing “bucket list” item when he paired with Rick Ware Racing to help Golobic make his NASCAR Cup Series debut on the dirt surface at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in late March.
It wasn’t a full ownership deal, by any means, but it was something Wood held great pride in being part of.
“That’s a bucket list (item), right? I think most anybody that has been involved in racing has thought, ‘I’d like to be a part of a Cup team one day,’ but it’s so cost prohibitive. But I have friends in the NASCAR world and I called one of them up … actually thought I was going to put a (Camping World) Truck Series deal together where we could go run some Truck races … but when I texted the gentleman, his text back was, ‘Would you do a Cup deal for X amount of money, with a team that has a guaranteed charter?
“We weren’t going to turn that down. It didn’t turn out how we hoped, but we had fun doing it.”
Team ownership is only one of Wood’s passions in racing, though. His second goal is to better the sport as a whole, whether that’s through contingency awards — like he provides to the Sprint Car Challenge Tour in California — or by promoting marquee races.
Wood stepped into the world of race promotion when he put on the Hangtown 100 for the USAC National Midget Series in November 2019 at Placerville Speedway. He’s added a second show to his rostrum this year in the form of the USAC Nationals at Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota.
“A healthy sport is good for everybody that participates in it,” said Wood. “A rising tide raises all ships. And as for the races we’ve started building, I love seeing that not just for the teams that participate, but for all the fans that support what we love to do.”
In Golobic’s eyes, Wood’s perspective and pure love of racing is something rare in a cutthroat industry.
“It’s obvious that he loves racing and he’s a huge, huge supporter of not just me and our team, but the whole racing community out here in California,” Golobic noted. “He’s got his hands somewhat in everything and he loves making things better for everyone. He’s always got some kind of a cool idea.
“We’re all lucky to be a part of that. People like Matt Wood don’t come along too often in this sport.”
As of May 10, Golobic and Wood already had five wins this season.
Their relationship, both on and off the race track, is something that has brought Wood’s racing journey full circle. It means that racing is a familial passion again, just as it was for Wood in his youth.
“It makes it special,” said Wood of serving as Golobic’s car owner, in addition to being his father-in-law. “It makes it easy, but it’s hard at the same time. It’s really hard because you’re racing with family.
“I wouldn’t trade it, though. It’s a privilege to do what we do and I enjoy every minute of it.”