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Jody Stroud: Nine Lives and One Championship

Jody Stroud, 2015 Toefco Powershield Coatings Pro Open Outlaw World Champion. [Photo: Gary Rowe / RaceWorks.com / PDRA660.com]

Jody Stroud, 2015 Toefco Powershield Coatings Pro Open Outlaw World Champion. [Photo: Gary Rowe / RaceWorks.com / PDRA660.com]

PITTSBORO, N.C. (January 11, 2016): “Artie with Powershield Coatings pulled it out of his own pocket to give us a place to race. None of us would ever be able to thank him enough. He had kind of a horrible year racing himself, but he sponsored the class anyway. I’m sure he could have used that money for something else.”

Before mentioning anything else, Jody Stroud, the 2015 Toefco Powershield Coatings Pro Open Outlaw World Champion, expressed gratitude to the class sponsor for bringing the class to the PDRA. As a special invitational class for the 2015 season, Pro Open Outlaw depended on the sponsorship in order to be contested at five select events throughout the season. At those five events, Stroud and his “Zombie” dragster had two runner up finishes, two wins, and one semi final finish. Though fellow competitor Phil Esz had three wins to his credit, Stroud’s consistency paid off and earned the 2015 World Champion title.

“With the class being an invitational, it may not ever happen again,” mused Stroud. “We may not even have it again unless we find a sponsor for it. So it may turn out that I’m the Pro Open Outlaw Champion for all eternity.”

A bit of a thrill-chaser, Stroud has been in one form of motorsports or another since finishing his service in the Army. Preferring heads up racing to bracket racing, Stroud took advantage of the Pro Open Outlaw class and stepped up from the Top Dragster ranks.

“[If the POO class goes away] the TD guys are going to hate it. Put all the Pro Open Outlaw guys back in Top Dragster and it’s going to make it tough to make the Top Dragster field next year. If four or five of us show up, we’re going to make it a sub four second field. I joke with the Top Dragster guys that they need to put their own money together to sponsor our class just to keep us out of theirs.

“There’s a lot of people who want to heads up race that don’t have the time or money to build a Pro Mod car,” Stroud continued. “People that want to get into heads up racing can build a Pro Open Outlaw car for the third of the cost of a Pro Boost, Pro Nitrous or Pro Extreme. And if you want to step it up from Top Sportsman, you have somewhere to go to. But the Top Dragster guys don’t have anywhere to go other than POO. There’s nowhere to go except throw it all away and start over.”

Stroud also believes the class was a fan favorite, with help from unique cars like his, nicknamed “Zombie.”

“I let a lot of kids sit in the car over the course of the year. Kids can identify with that name. They may not remember me, but they remember the last time they saw a black car with Zombie wrote on it. Besides the Pro Extreme cars, the top five cars in our class were the quickest cars at the track. I can’t help but think that the fans like to see us run.”

Stroud says winning the first – and perhaps last – Pro Open Outlaw World Championship means the world to him, a feat made even more special by the fact that he does the majority of the work alone. “I’m basically a one man band. I do all the work on it myself. I’m the sponsor, driver, truck driver, crew chief, the whole nine yards.That does make it a little more special.

“Mike Kopchick with Rage Fuel Systems is my tuner. This year his son Tommy helped me out a lot. Every other year, I’ve had to just find some local guy that wanted to come to the track with me. On the way to the race track I’d tell them what to expect and how to help me. This was the first year I didn’t have to train somebody new every time I went to the track. Mike is really meticulous and a lot of what he showed me was just about doing maintenance in between races. The old adage is true: you win these races at the shop before you ever get there. We had to make sure our stuff was right and make smart tuning calls, which he did. Every time we went to the track we felt like we had a chance at winning the race. We were a little conservative on the tune up side because me being basically a one man band at the track, I don’t have three or four guys helping me rebuild in between rounds. I definitely want to thank Mike and Tommy. I could run my operation without him, but it wouldn’t be as fast or as consistent.”

Despite being a self made Champion, Stroud recognizes the companies that played supporting roles in his Championship. “I would like to give a shout out to Miner Brother Racing Engines. I’m the only one in the PDRA that runs that type of motor. It’s really proven to be a competitive piece and very durable. Also want to thank Hoosier Tires, Matt Bieneman with MBE Cylinder Heads, Neal Chance Racing Converters, Spitzer Chassis and Ironman Chassis. My car is a Spitzer car, but Aaron Sipple back halved it for me. My wife, Michelle, she lets me come to the races and doesn’t complain too, much,” Stroud added with a laugh.

“I really appreciate the PDRA and Jason and Mitchell Scruggs and Tommy Franklin for putting this thing on and letting us come race these cars with them.”

The Chesterfield, South Carolina native works as a heavy industrial general contractor in a business started by his father in 1969. When his father got hurt in a plane accident 10 years ago, Stroud took over the day to day operations. His father was also the one who birthed the passion for motorsports, racing both circle track and drag cars. However, the elder Stroud has not been able to participate in Jody’s heads up racing, since his accident left him with several disabilities.

“He got one leg cut off. He lost one eye. He’s blind in the eye that he did keep. He broke every bone in his body. It was a factory experimental plane and he was taking off in his front yard. Got a couple hundred feet off the ground and ran into a problem. It rolled over and flew straight into the ground,” told Stroud.

He went on to tell the miraculous back story of his father’s healing that led to an forgettable moment at Dragstock XII this year:

“When I was in the Army we were getting ready to go invade Panama for Operation Just Cause. The night we were jumping in, the military chaplain, who happened to be a Catholic priest, came by and was passing out religious stuff. Me being me, I’m not Catholic, but I’ll sure take a set of rosary beads. I got those, a small Bible, and a scapular, which is a small, square piece of cloth joined by twine that you can wear around your neck.There was picture of a saint on one side a scripture on the other. I had it and I jumped in the Panama. I jumped on the red light which meant me and the others with me landed in the jungle instead of the airport. I was hanging upside down in a tree in the jungle for a couple of hours. I cut myself free and fell. Did all this stuff in Panama and didn’t get a scratch on me. So when I got out of the Army I put it in my wallet. In 1993, I got electrocuted. I had 14,000 volts run through me. I spent a week in the hospital, but the doctors were amazed that I was still here. I had this scapular in my pocket. In 2000, I hit a tractor trailer head on in my pickup. It cut the entire left side of my pickup off. I unbuckled the seatbelt and got out. I had the scapular with me. So it’s been with me for a long time and through a lot of crap.

“That first night after my father’s plane crash we were sitting around the hospital room and they called in a hospital chaplain. It turns out the one on duty happened to be Catholic. They called the priest in to sit with us while my dad died. His vital signs were dropping. The only thing left from my scapular were two little pieces of brown cloth. There was nothing wrote on them anymore. I had forgotten what they were and what they meant, so we got to talking about them. One of our friends suggested my dad could use them now. Now I don’t believe in the power of these pieces of cloth in my pocket, but I believe in the power of faith. I snuck in intensive care and put it in between his head and his pillow case. I went back out and sat in the waiting room. About 20 minutes later the head doctor came out and said, ‘I don’t know what happened, but his vital signs have improved. He was dying, but now he’s coming back.’ From that point on he got better and better. That’s the power of faith. The Lord comes through. He don’t give you what you want, he gives you what you need.

“I always say a prayer when I’m in the car, right before I stage. I rarely pray to win. I pray to be safe and if something happens that the Lord will take care of my wife and little boy. I pray the Good Lord looks out for us.”

Since that accident in 2005, the elder Stroud had been unable to come to the races and support Jody. However, at Dragstock XII, Jody’s father made his return to the track. It was his first major race since the accident. Jody took the “Zombie” all the way to victory at that event. His dad was able to get in the winner’s circle picture with him, an event Jody says with emotion was “pretty special.”

Being the last stop before the PDRA World Finals, winning Dragstock XII also meant that Stroud had a decent lead heading into the final event. He sewed up his championship early in the rounds at the World Finals, but further ensured his success with a runner up finish there, becoming the first, and perhaps only, Toefco Powershield Coatings Pro Open Outlaw World Champion.

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