The Wood Brothers and Atlanta Motor Speedway have a lot in common, besides their history with each other.
The Woods are one of NASCAR’s cornerstone teams, having run their first NASCAR race back in 1953 and continuing today, where they’re the sport’s longest-participating team.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, formerly known as Atlanta International Raceway, is one of the sport’s cornerstone tracks. It was part of the original superspeedway boom back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when tracks opened in Daytona, Charlotte, Atlanta and Hanford, California.
The big, fast tracks joined Darlington Raceway on the NASCAR circuit, and other than the failure of Marchbanks Speedway in California, the three new tracks helped transition NASCAR from a sport built around dirt tracks to the one fans enjoy today.
And just like many a race team, the Atlanta track has had its share of troubles, but persevered to be a major player in the sport today. If not for the dedication of people like Atlanta’s former track superintendent Alf Knight, AMS might not have survived its early struggles and eventual bankruptcy in the 1970s.
“Those people back in the day came up with a plan to keep it going to the point where Bruton Smith could come in and give the track a lot of security,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. “Under his leadership they modernized the place, changed the track from a true oval to a quad-oval and secured the track’s place on the NASCAR schedule.”
Through the years, the Wood Brothers and their Motorcraft/Quick Lane team have built a rich history at the Atlanta track. The Woods ran in the track’s inaugural race in July of 1960 and have run 103 more races since, sometimes entering two cars in an event. They’ve won 12 times, scored 33 top-five and 45 top-10 finishes and captured nine poles. That’s more victories than at any track other than Daytona International Speedway, where the Woods have 15 Cup triumphs.
The Woods got their first Atlanta victory in the spring of 1965, with Marvin Panch driving. Panch added another that fall. Cale Yarborough and David Pearson had three Atlanta wins apiece in the No. 21, Neil Bonnett had two, A.J. Foyt had one as did Morgan Shepherd, who won the 1993 Motorcraft Quality Parts 500.
“We’ve had some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers win for us at Atlanta, and we’re looking forward to a chance to add Ryan Blaney’s name to the list,” Wood said, adding that a strong run and second-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 has the team in a good frame of mind heading into Atlanta. “It’s like getting a push in the draft. A good finish at Daytona gets you ready for the rest of the season.
“You worry all winter long about the Daytona 500, and if you come out of there with a good finish it makes the other races some easier because you haven’t put yourself in a bad spot in the points standings.”
Qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set for Friday at 5:45 p.m., and the race should get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.