NASCAR’s major series will be idle this Sunday in honor of Mother’s Day, as it usually is and probably always will be. If there was ever a sport or an industry that owed a debt to the mothers behind the scenes, it’s NASCAR. Throughout its history, the sport of NASCAR, the sanctioning body, its teams and its tracks, has grown and thrived in large part because of the contributions of the moms who stood solidly behind their husbands and children. Their names are as legendary to insiders in the sport as those of their husbands and sons who went on to become legendary because of their exploits. Annie and Betty Jane France, Elizabeth and Lynda Petty, Martha Earnhardt, Judy Allison and Bernece Wood are among those who immediately come to mind.
On the team chart for the Wood Brothers racing team there are three people listed who have been with the team all 60 years of its existence – Glen Wood, Leonard Wood and Bernece Wood. She’s seen the team founded by her husband Glen grow from a part-time operation into a NASCAR powerhouse. She’s been there as her children, Len, Eddie and Kim took their places in the family business, and now she’s watching her grandchildren, Jordan, Jon and Keven become part of the operation.
Bernece Wood’s duties on the team chart are listed as “Museum Curator” but her son Eddie says she means far more than that to the race team, and to his family and to NASCAR in general. “She represents the longevity of what we do,” Eddie said. “She was there in the beginning and is still a big part of it.” Wood said his mother knows every piece in the team’s museum in Stuart, Va., and is there most days to tell visitors all about it. He said she may well be the best person in the family to tell the 60-year story. “Dad and Leonard were always busy doing the things they did, so she probably had a better view of what happened over these 60 years than anybody,” he said. And like the other matriarchs in NASCAR, Bernece Wood has never really gotten the credit she deserved. “She sacrificed a lot,” he said. “It’s no small thing to put up with racing, and three generations of it. “There have always been strong women in NASCAR who stood behind their men. They stayed in the background and usually got very little credit for anything they contributed.”
Bernece Wood may have stayed out of the limelight for most of her racing career, but she’s quite up front when it comes to telling the story of her family’s race team. Just last week she was enthusiastically explaining the addition of a hood from the team’s current No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford to the museum in Stuart. On the hood is a special logo representing the Woods’ 60 years in NASCAR. “It’s right off the race car, and it’s candy apple red,” she said, referring to the shade of red paint that the team used for years. Mrs. Wood’s is often the pleasant voice one hears when they dial the museum on the phone, and she’s the tour guide most visitors prefer. That’s just fine with her. “The older people especially like to talk to me,” she said.
But while she’s the face of the museum for many, she still tends to stay in the background when she’s at the race tracks. “It’s usually so busy at the track that I can’t talk to the boys much; however, we catch up quickly around the dinner table,” she said. Bernece is well-known for her cooking the vegetables grown by Glen. Most of Bernece Wood’s life has revolved around racing, but those who know the Woods best say her greatest contribution really didn’t have anything to do with motorsports. It was raising two sons and a daughter that have long careers in NASCAR and are as well-known for their character and integrity as they are for carrying on their family’s racing tradition. Happy Mother’s Day, Bernece Wood.