When most NASCAR fans think of the Wood Brothers and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team and racing at Daytona International Speedway, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the team’s five victories in the Daytona 500.
But the Woods actually have had more success in the summertime, winning 10 races on the July 4th weekend, making team founder Glen Wood the all-time leader in car owner victories in points-paying Cup races at Daytona, with a total of 15.
Many times, the Woods rolled their Fords into Daytona’s Victory Lane on the strength of dominating performances while other times luck played a hand. Sometimes a July win made up for the disappointment of a lost opportunity to win the Great American Race in February. The 1983 Firecracker 400 was one of those races. Buddy Baker, a current nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, was driving the No. 21 Ford, which was the team’s first of the then-new aerodynamically sleek Thunderbirds that came to rule the superspeedways for most of the 1980’s.
Baker had driven that same car in the ’83 Daytona 500. He led 35 laps and was poised to win, only to lose the lead to eventual winner Cale Yarborough on the last lap of the race and eventually finishing third behind Bill Elliott.
Then in July, it was Terry Labonte that dominated the race only to run out of gas coming to the white flag. Baker assumed the lead, and his No. 21 Ford also ran dry but not before he crossed the finish line to claim his 19th career Cup victory, which wound up being the final triumph of his career.
For team co-owner Eddie Wood, that ’83 win was special for several reasons.
“For one, it was the first race we won for Ford in the new model Thunderbird,” Wood said.
And it seemed overdue to the Woods, who built the car on a new Banjo Matthews chassis and unloaded it with lots of speed when they first arrived at Daytona that February.
“That car led the 125 miler, and we lost it to Dale Earnhardt, who at that time was driving a Thunderbird.” Wood said. “And in the Busch Clash it was fast but got wrecked on the last lap. To finally win one here in Daytona with it was really special.”
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team returns to Daytona this week to try for its 16th win, and it’ll be the team’s most recent Daytona winner, 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, at the wheel of the No. 21 Ford Fusion.
Qualifying for the 56th annual Coke Zero 400 is set for Friday at 5:10 p.m, and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with TV coverage on TNT.