After 61 years in the NASCAR racing business, the Wood Brothers have two long-standing relationships that stand above the rest – their ties to Ford Motor Company and to David Pearson.
Both of them will be prominently represented on their No. 21 Ford Fusion for the 2011 season. Ford Customer Service Division is returning as the team’s primary sponsor with its Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands for the 11th straight season, and the team has dedicated its year to Pearson in honor of his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The season-opening paint scheme, a red-and-white car with gold numbers, is the same as the Woods ran on the 1971 Mercury that Pearson began driving at Darlington in the spring of 1972. The magic was apparent from the start as Pearson won both the pole and the race that weekend. It was the first of his 43 wins and 51 poles in the Wood Brothers Mercury.
An announcement will be made at the Concord, N.C., airport on Thursday, and Pearson is expected to be on hand along with several members of his crew from the 70s, a group that included Glen Wood, Leonard Wood, Delano Wood, Kenny Martin, Cecil Wilson and Butch Moricle, as well as Len and Eddie Wood.
Eddie Wood, one of the team’s current co-owners, said he was especially pleased to be starting the season with Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Fordparts.com backing his car and with the opportunity to honor Pearson.
“As we begin our 61st year, we’re really excited to have Ford Customer Service Division back for the 11th straight year,” Wood said. “And we’re proud to be able to honor David Pearson as a friend and as a 2011 inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”
Wood acknowledged that of all the drivers who have been at the wheel of the No. 21 over the years, one stands head and shoulders above the rest.
“We’re most associated with Pearson,” he said. “Almost half of the 97 races we’ve won came with him as the driver.”
Having Pearson and the old crew come to Concord for Thursday’s announcement means a lot to Wood and the current members of the team.
“It’s really humbling,” he said. “David and Leonard together, made Wood Brothers Racing. What they did is almost unheard of in terms of racing today. They won 11 of the 18 races they started in 1973, and all but one was on a superspeedway.”
In that impressive season, the team also had two runner-up finishes and a third.
Their 1976 season was another dominating performance as they won 10 times in 22 starts and swept the Triple Crown, the sport’s big three races – the Daytona 500, World 600 and Southern 500.
Among those who find the Woods’ accomplishments with Pearson something to behold is the team’s current driver, rookie Trevor Bayne.
Bayne, 19, is the youngest driver ever to take the wheel of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. As he’s toured the team shop and visited with members of the family like Leonard Wood, he’s come to appreciate the car he’s driving and the special paint scheme it will carry in 10 races this year.
“I remember that famous paint scheme with the gold numbers,” he said. “David Pearson made it famous. It’s a real honor to be a part of that history.”