NASCAR’s past met the present on Sunday at Daytona as Glen Wood, who nearly won the first-ever stock car race on the famed superspeedway, waved the green flag to start the 52nd running of the Daytona 500, a race that included his current car, the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. Wood, 84, was honored along with his brother Leonard, who was the team’s chief mechanic and crew chief for decades, and his sons Eddie and Len, who steer the team’s efforts today.
Daytona International Speedway president Robin Braig said Glen Wood, who ran short of fuel just shy of the finish for the first ever Daytona 500 qualifying race in 1959, then won the race four times as a car owner, was the perfect person to drop the green flag. “The Wood Brothers are legends in NASCAR,” Braig said. “They have an important place in both the history of the Daytona 500 and NASCAR, and it’s an honor to have Glen Wood wave the green flag for our sport’s biggest race of the year.” But the Woods aren’t just faces from the past, they’re a big part of the sport today, and the Woods’ #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, driven by two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott, was on the move in the early portions of the race.
Elliott started 40th, but was up to 27th by Lap 25. He maintained a position in the giant two-wide lead pack for the majority of the race, running mostly in the outside line. “We were just trying to get in a fairly safe position in the lead draft and save our car for the end,” Eddie Wood said.
But those plans hit a bump in the road, literally. When the track surface in turns one and two began to come apart, opening what amounted to a pot hole; the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion suffered damage to the right front, which included the all-important splitter and the braces that secure it. “The way the splitter was damaged, we really couldn’t fix it,” Wood said.
Elliott and the team soldiered on, and were hanging onto the lead draft into the first attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, when Elliott suddenly veered into Joey Logano’s car, bringing out the caution flag and further damaging his own car. The crew patched up the damage as best they could, and Elliott brought the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion home in 27th place.
Elliott shouldered the blame for the Logano incident, even though it appeared on TV replays that the right front tire of his car was deflating just prior to the contact with Logano. “That was my fault down there,” he said. “I ran in on whoever I was following toward the middle and I had to check up a little bit, so when I started up Logano was on me,” he said. “I’m sure my spotter told me, but I didn’t hear him”. “What are you going to do with a green-white-checker? It’s just one of those things.”
And Elliott also said, like many of his fellow drivers, that the problems with the track, problems that caused two lengthy red-flag delays, were something that couldn’t be helped. “I hated to see that,” he said. “I wanted the race to go on and keep running, but we did the best we could, and we’ll do it again.”
Len Wood said that despite the misfortunes near the end of the 500, he left Daytona pleased with the team’s performances, including its fourth-place qualifying effort, and with the honors bestowed on his father and the family team. “All in all, it was a good two weeks,” he said.
Elliott and the Woods return to action the first week of March, in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Elliott’s home track and the site of a series record 12 Cup victories for the Wood Brothers team.