Bayne Brings the Wood Brothers Back to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500

Trevor Bayne : Winner of the 2011 Daytona 500

Over the past 61 years, the Wood Brothers of Stuart, Va., have played a part in some of the most memorable moments in motorsports. But Trevor Bayne’s victory in Sunday’s Daytona 500 topped them all. Bayne, making just his second career Sprint Cup start and his first in the Great American Race, scored a stunning victory, ending a 10-year losing streak for NASCAR’s oldest race team and giving Ford Motor Company its 600th Sprint Cup victory.

The win was special in many ways. It was a dramatic victory by a clean-cut fresh-faced youngster, and it was a popular triumph for the Woods, who remain some of the most respected people in the NASCAR garage. But for the Woods themselves, their fifth Daytona 500 triumph was a way for the current members of the team to pay back all the people that have stood behind them all these years.

“I walked in Victory Lane with Richard Petty and Edsel Ford and my dad,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the winning Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. “I don’t know how much better that can get.”

Wood went on to say that the victory is important not only for his father, team owner Glen Wood, but also for the original members of the family race team, people like Glen’s brothers Leonard, Ray Lee, Delano and Clay, as well as all the others who have been a part of the team over the years.

Wood also mentioned the leaders at Ford Motor Company, who stuck by the Woods even as they struggled on the race track in recent seasons. He pointed to people like Edsel Ford, Alan Mulally Jim Farley and Mark Fields who not only helped the Woods get back on track but did the same for Ford Motor Company itself.

“They knew what to do,” Wood said. “We’re so proud to be a part of those guys. We have raced Ford Motor Company products exclusively since 1950. One of the most important things to our racing family is our relationship with Ford Motor Company.”

Wood said it meant even more to be the team that gave Ford its 600th Cup victory.

“For us to be the guys that gave it to them with Trevor at the wheel is just a storybook ending for it,” he said. “I’m just so proud to be a part of their world.  They mean the world to us.”

Crew chief Donnie Wingo also found himself talking about long-term relationships during his part of the winner’s interview. “I’ve known these guys here for probably about 30 years,” he said of Eddie and Len Wood.

“With everything the way it worked out last year, the opportunity for me to come over and work with this great group of people, you know, I couldn’t be prouder, couldn’t be happier.”

Bayne, who held off a pack of veteran drivers in a green-white-checkered-flag dash to the finish and beat Carl Edwards by .118 seconds, said he felt fortunate to be a part of one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history.

“I almost feel undeserving because there’s guys like Donnie and all these guys out here that are racing against us that have been trying to do this for so long,” he said. “But there’s nobody that deserves it more than any of these guys sitting up here.  I’m just glad I got to be the guy sitting behind the wheel for these guys to get this win.”

For 85-year-old Glen Wood, who has been to Victory Lane with some of auto racing’s all-time great drivers, Sunday’s trip was about the sweetest he can remember.

“It’s the greatest thing we’ve ever had happen to us,” he said. “It’s certainly put us in the spotlight more than I can ever remember.”

He said he was especially proud for his sons Eddie and Len and daughter Kim, who now manage the day-to-day affairs of the family race team. He said the second generation racers are responsible for forging a relationship with Roush Fenway Racing that helped them get a Roush car, and it was that trio that decided to hire Donnie Wingo as crew chief and Bayne as the driver.

“It was their call,” he said.

And he had high praise for Bayne, who was a front-runner from the first day of practice for the 500.

“Trevor deserved to win,” Wood said. “He earned it. He didn’t luck into it at all.

“He ran as good or better than any of them did all day long.”

Bayne’s victory continues a streak that has seen the Woods improve their performance over the past year or so, an uphill turn that the team badly needed.

But Eddie Wood said that even as the team struggled through tough times and failed to qualify for races, no one in the family ever considered giving up.

“You begin to think you can never get back, but you keep trying,” he said. “Just the fact that you want one more trophy, one more trophy, you just can’t quit.  And we never did quit.  We just kept trying.”

And on Sunday, just like in the team’s glory years, the red and white Ford with the gold 21 on the doors was in the hunt all day and in Victory Lane afterward.

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was painted in those throw-back colors to honor David Pearson’s upcoming induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but Wood said the colors seemed to do much more than honor a famous former driver.

“Bringing back the red and white car with the gold numbers that Pearson drove, that just seemed like it put things back to normal,” he said.