Tiger wins celebrity stock car race

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

HUNTLY, New Zealand -- Tiger Woods hunkered behind the wheel of his vehicle, its motor coughing noisily. One of the world's most visible athletes was suddenly unrecognizable under a flame-retardant suit, helmet and tinted visor.

On Monday, the world's best golfer became a celebrity stock car racer.

Woods, in New Zealand for the wedding of caddie Steve Williams, won the second of two celebrity stock car races on a dirt track in this small coal mining town 55 miles south of Auckland -- even after starting at the back of the field.

Woods was a designated "blocker" in the first race, which also included several full-time V-8 circuit drivers. He started on the outside of the first row for the race in this branch of motorsports where crashes are not only legal, but often encouraged. His job was to prevent other cars from passing and reaching front-runners on his team, and Woods didn't finish among the leaders in the 12-lap race.

In the second of two celebrity races organized by Williams through his Steve Williams Foundation to raise funds to provide sporting careers for disadvantaged youth, Woods forced his way from the back of the grid to the front.

He took the lead on the sixth of 12 laps over a 400-meter oval, and, despite a crash into the wall which left his car sparking and tires smoking, he held on to win.

-- AP

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