February 27, 2014 1:05:52 AM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
Chase Washington is cancer-free and ready to lift the lid on the 2014 season at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Washington, 23, won't be the most recognizable driver during the United Speed Contest Sanction Frost Buster 250 -- NASCAR veterans Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace are expected to draw more fans than usual -- but he may have the most interesting path to this weekend's races.
Washington was diagnosed with cancer in his small intestine in March 2013. He returned to the track in June for the Lucas Oil-sponsored race weekend at Magnolia and won a race and placed in the top 3 in two others. But Washington, who had part of his small intestines surgically removed, was going through chemotherapy at the time and wasn't given a clean bill of health until December.
"I stayed sick - a lot," Washington said, "especially during the first part (of treatment). About August or so, my body started getting used to it."
His cancer in remission, Washington already has a win under his belt this season.
Washington rebounded from feature race misfortune at Golden Isles Raceway - a multi-car wreck knocked him out of contention - on Feb. 8 to win the crate/late model stock division at Columbus Motor Speedway last week.
Washington drives the red and white No. 38 car and will race both Friday and Saturday, at Magnolia.
The Houlka native hopes to be racing Lucas Oil late models full-time within the next five years.
"We've been pretty decent over the last five years," Washington said. "But to get to the level of the other great drivers in North Mississippi, I need more seat time and more laps.
"I like how we're progressing, though."
A win at Magnolia would would be make a sweet start to 2014 and would extend a great run of form at two high-level tracks in his backyard -- crucial considering the rising costs of travel, he said.
Magnolia's also a lot of fun to race.
"It's so wide, and you can race two and three wide," Washington said. "It gets real slick, and that means the racing is better. A track like that tests how good of a driver you are."
Note: Kenny Wallace will hold a fan meet and greet at Carl Hogan Toyota from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Wallace's dirt modified car will be on display.
Friday: $15 adult; Kids 10 and under free
Saturday: $20 adults; ages 6-10 $5; ages 5 and under free