Joe “Dominator” Woods doesn’t want to be known as the underdog. Still, the hardworking, do-it-all-himself Oklahoman and his modest — by relative standards — family racing operation has made him something of a champion to the every-man during his nearly decade-long run on “Street Outlaws.”
Woods’ life has revolved around cars and racing from his earliest days. As the story often goes, it was Woods’ father and uncle who turned him on to the car hobby.
“I grew up in the ‘70s, so I was still around when hot rods were the only thing there really was. My uncle was very heavy into hot rodding, and when you get that first ride when you’re a kid and you don’t forget it. And it’s been that ever since.”
When we first interviewed Woods in 2016, he spoke of his sizable collection of cars and automotive artifacts at his home.
“I’ve owned 24 cars at one time,” he told us. “Before you start thinking it’s because I’m rich, it’s only because they’re not finished and nowhere near it. I buy parts cars so that if I need them, I have them. I own Darts, Novas, Road Runners, and even a 1966 426 Hemi Satellite. My wife drives a 1968 Firebird, we have a 1968 El Camino and a 1956 wagon or two. I just pick them up when it’s a good deal with the intention of fixing them up and selling them. The problem is, I love cars and just can’t seem to sell them. So, my toy box is full. If I had money I would have a shop full of finished cruisers instead of a yard full of projects…but they’re mine.”
Since then, he’s sold many of the cars he had to help fund the racing program. And despite his fame behind the wheel of a Mopar — one that once had a big-block Chevrolet under the hood, much to the chagrin of the Mopar faithful — he says he “loves cars in general” and has no allegiance to any particular brand. “One of my bucket-list cars that I really, really want, in a bad way, is a ’67 or 2+2 fastback Mustang. There are cars and trucks from all the brands I have a desire to own,” he says.
Among his collection is a ’56 Chevrolet sedan delivery, once a magazine-spread car, that was called “The Dominator.” When Woods found the Midwest Street Cars forum, he simply signed up with that as his username. And he says it “just stuck. I didn’t have any intention of it becoming what it became name-wise.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Woods’ affinity for fast cars led to straight-line acceleration contests on the street and, eventually, onto the small screen with the Discovery Channel.
“I had found the Midwest Street Cars forum, and showed up at Cash Days with a 9-second ’71 Z28 small-tire street car. I got there thinking I was going to be really competitive at this deal, and I started walking around and realized real quick I didn’t have enough car. Two weeks later I had the Dart. It had been bouncing around here locally for 30-plus years. I bought it rolling and had a 632 here on an engine stand that I put in it. Shortly thereafter I was invited to a list shakeup night and got on the list that night, and have been racing with the 405 ever since.”
Woods and his brother do race car and general automotive fabrication work for a living…when not on the road. Joe’s focus on that business has, he admits, taken back seat in his own life with the hectic schedule of filming the many “Street Outlaws” spinoff programs.
The competitiveness — nevermind the financial and time demands — of the ‘No Prep Kings” series has forced Woods and his family to place all of their focus around the racing program.
“Who in their right mind would think that you’re going to take a car and be able to run 4.30s in the street? To be honest, the haters that now all want to be part of it were the ones screaming, ‘you can’t do that, it’s not safe, you shouldn’t be doing that.’ And then, when you’re looking for groups to race, now they want to be part of it. But it’s crazy how fast the cars really are in the street. And to imagine 10 years ago I was going to take this car and try to run 160 mph in the street and go to the track and try to go 200. It’s not easy, and a lot of people swear it can’t be done until they show up and go, ‘oh…those are a lot faster than we thought they were.’
The “No Prep Kings” circuit has become one of the most competitive in all of drag racing, and Woods doesn’t sugar-coat the challenge of competing against world-class equipment and knowledge with his family-run operation.
“It’s next to impossible [to compete]. But we’re doing really good considering the caliber of teams we’re racing against. It’s me, my wife, and my kids. My oldest daughter is running down valves and checking valve spring pressures, my wife is lining me up and taking care of tire pressures and wheelie bar height and packing parachutes. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But we’re racing against professional-caliber groups…the elite of the elite tuners. We’re literally racing against some programs that have more than half a million dollars in just the car. I’m not sure how it evolved to this level this fast, but it did. And I assure you, that the day I win one of these things, it’s going to be a very, very big party.”
Despite getting his hands dirty and quite literally doing it all, Woods doesn’t want to be known as anything less than a threat to win on any given weekend.
“I get tired of hearing that I’m the underdog. I don’t want to be the underdog…I want to go out there and kick everybody’s ass. But, all those people in the stands are there because they’re fans, they’re followers, they love drag racing, and I’m guessing 25-percent of them are going home to build their cars themselves like we are. So to be relatable to the average person at home is a big deal for me.”
“There’s a saying that floats around social media about somewhere there’s a guy that loads his car on an open trailer and fills up his styrofoam ice chest of beer and goes racing and he’s happy as sh-t. And then there’s the guy that’s loading his car in the stacker and he’s getting his beer out of the fridge and he’s lost and he’s mad at life. He’s not happy with what he’s doing anymore. That’s the world we live in. I don’t have a nice stacker trailer or a toter, but I still haven’t lost sight of where I’m at or what I’m doing. You can’t lose sight of what you do have.”
Following a crash while filming for the show in California a handful of seasons ago that left the Dart with considerable chassis and body damage, Woods took the time to carefully rebuild his Dart to the highest of standards, making it worthy of the top echelon of the “No Prep Kings” circuit. Then, last season he took a few races off to drop a potent new powerplant between the fenders to elevate his competitiveness in the series.
The new mill is a 4.800-inch bore space water-jacketed Noonan Hemi, with a pair of 88mm snails from Hart’s Turbo. Behind it is a Rossler three-speed Turbo 400. “When the roller coaster ride slows down, we want to attempt to survive the drag-and-drive type race events, so that’s why we went with the water block. We are sacrificing some in that aspect, but it’s what we want to do,” Woods says.
He adds, “In no way, shape, or form could I be going this fast without the Noonan’s…it’s an animal. It’s honestly half a second faster than it ever was before.” Rossler, Plazmaman, Aeromotive, HPL Oil, King Bearings, and Race Star wheels are also among his most key supporters.
“The car is very competitive. The thing that is holding us back right now is the size of the back tire. To get the car that low to the ground, we had to go to a 34.5×15 tire. The extremely fast guys are running a 36×17, and you just physically can’t compete with that. I mean, we can…we’ve done very well this year, but our first round draws have been absolutely no one but those in the top five, top eight. And we’re still winning, we’re going rounds. I’ve sat beside all the fast cars, and there’s none of them we’re not racing and winning against. It’s very competitive, but for the future, we are building another car for “No Prep Kings” around the 36-inch tire. We don’t have a name for it yet, but we’re building a Dart with a Superbird nose and wing. It started out as a joke, and then I got told that I couldn’t do it, and the more we talked about it, the more that aggravated me. It’ll be different, and I like different.”
Woods and his brother will build the new Dart in their own shop, just as they did the current car. He’s also set to climb behind the wheel of a newly-built ’30 Ford as part of the show’s return to street-style cars in the coming season.
“We have been blessed. This is an amazing roller coaster ride that we’ve been on for nearly 10 years, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that we’d be in a situation where we’re running 200 mph and racing in a realm that everyone wants to be a part of. It’s crazy how it’s all kind of blown up and become a new chapter of life.”