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The Wood Brothers Racing story began 63 years ago when family patriarch Glen Wood decided to try racing. It almost ended the same night it began.
Here is Glen’s memory of that first race and what followed:
“In 1950, at Morris Speedway, near Martinsville, VA, I was running along pretty good about the middle of the heat race, when they had a wreck in front of me. I was trying to go through a little narrow opening and hooked my left rear wheel on the bumper of one of the other cars. It bent the rear end housing, forcing us to quit. We were towing it behind another car, and got up the road about 10 miles. The wheel was wobbling from being bent and finally broke the axle. That, in turn, let the brake drum down on the pavement. As the wheel came out, it jerked the gas neck out of the tank and the gas spilled down and caught fire. Then, it caught the car afire, and it burned right there in the middle of the road. Finally, we got the car unhooked from it, but we didn’t have fire extinguishers. We had some extra gas cans and extra tires and tools that we were carrying in the racecar. And once in a while, a gas can would blow up in there. We were scared to get close to it because of that. So we let it burn until it burned up about everything. That was the first race I’d ever got to start. So we figured it all might be over.”
But, it wasn’t over. Glen and his friends got that car fixed and three weeks later he finished third in the main event at Dan River Speedway.
The elder Wood went on to race on the beach in Daytona, win four races on the fledgling NASCAR circuit and become one of NASCAR’S 50 Greatest Drivers. Wood gave up his driving duties following the 1964 season. The team had already employed a number of other drivers during the previous eight years, and in 1965 Glen became a full-time owner.
In fact, 20 of NASCAR’S Greatest Drivers have driven for Wood Brothers Racing. That list includes Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Fireball Roberts, Bob Welborn, Dale Jarrett, A.J. Foyt, Glen Wood, Buddy Baker, Marvin Panch, Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Joe Weatherly, Ralph Earnhardt, Neil Bonnett, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, and Bill Elliott.
A Family Tradition
Over the years Glen enlisted family members to work on the car and serve as the pit crew on race weekends. His youngest brother Leonard was with the team from inception, and engineered the team’s lightning quick pit stops. Leonard also built the engines.
Glen retired in the late 80′s, and the team was taken over by his sons, Eddie and Len. Both had grown up working at the shop. Over the years their duties increased. And, when she graduated from high school, the boys’ sister Kim, joined the team helping her mother with the office duties. At that time the “office” was at Glen and Bernece’s home in Stuart, Virginia.
Len has become the engine specialist and Eddie works on marketing his team to current and prospective sponsors. At the track, while Len keeps a watchful eye on the preparation of the #21 Sprint Cup Ford, Eddie goes to the spotter’s stand for practices. Kim has remained as the team’s office manager and occupies an office at the Wood Brothers Racing headquarters.
NASCAR racing has become a sophisticated business, and after the 2003 season ended, the family decided it was time to move from its Stuart, Virginia home of 53 years to the Charlotte, North Carolina area, NASCAR’s hub of racing activity.
For two years, the team occupied a shop in Mooresville, North Carolina before moving to the current facility in Harrisburg, North Carolina, located just minutes from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The Wood Brothers shop now is home for the famous #21 NASCAR Cup Team.
Wood Brothers Racing, now owned equally by Glen and his children Eddie, Len and Kim, is the oldest continuously operating NASCAR Cup Series team and the team has always raced Ford products.
Edsel Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford I proudly states, “We consider Wood Brothers Racing a part of our family, the Ford Family.”
And, was there ever a question the team would remain a family operation. According to Glen, “No, Eddie and Len and Kim just came up and became a part of it.”