Author Archives: Jordan Wood

Blaney 18th In Daytona 500 Qualifying

27f00a9b364d228530328adbf72e8e5f-1Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will start Thursday’s second Can-AM Duel qualifying race from ninth position after Blaney was 18th fastest in Sunday’s pole qualifying for the Daytona 500.

Blaney’s qualifying speed of 191.746 miles per hour was a bit disappointing given his speed in Saturday’s practice session. There he was fifth fastest with a best lap at 192.980 mph.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood, after seeing several drivers who qualified just before or just after Blaney also post speeds off their practice pace, said an unfavorable headwind likely was to blame.

45b92294273c16765e8376f010743581-1 “Ryan said he really couldn’t feel anything different, but the wind was probably a factor on his lap,” Wood said. “Still, we’re really happy with the effort so far, and I’m optimistic about the Duels and the Daytona 500.”

Blaney, in his post-qualifying comments, also was a little puzzled by his lap.

“I’m not really sure where our speed went, but we’ll have to go back and figure out where that went overnight,” he said. “No matter. I think we’ll have a good handling car in the Duels, so we’ll just go racing there and see if we can start up front in the 500.”

Unlike previous seasons, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are assured of a starting berth for the 500 after the Wood Brothers rented a charter, which brings with it guaranteed starting spots for races this season.

“Being guaranteed to start the race regardless of how things go in qualifying is a comfortable feeling,” Wood said.

The Can-AM Duel 150-mile qualifying races are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1, and the Daytona 500 should get the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Ready To Build On Its Daytona History

2017_WoodBros1AThe long winter’s wait is over for the Wood Brothers and their Motorcraft/Quick Lane race team.

The iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion returns to the track this week at the Daytona International Speedway to start the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season. It’s the second-straight year that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be competing on a full-time basis, but the team’s history in the elite division dates back to 1953, further than any active team on the circuit.

This trip to Speedweeks marks the Wood’s 59th appearance in the February classic at the Daytona International Speedway, dating back to the inaugural event in 1959. That’s in addition to numerous trips to the old Beach/Road Course that preceded the superspeedway.

The Wood Brothers have 15 points-paying victories at Daytona International Speedway, including five in the Daytona 500.

RyanBlaney The team’s sophomore crew chief Jeremy Bullins said he and driver Ryan Blaney, also a sophomore on the elite NASCAR circuit, are anxious to get back on the track after spending the winter months preparing for the upcoming campaign.

“Daytona can’t get here fast enough,” Bullins said. “It doesn’t take long of being in the shop every day of the week to miss the race track.”

“Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team is really excited about our second full-time season together, and we have a lot of good things going on.”

A new addition to the team, lead engineer Andrea Mueller, will be joining Bullins atop the pit box.

“She and I worked together on Team Penske’s Xfinity program and had a lot of success,” Bullins said. “I know she will bring a lot of value to our team.”

Also new this year for all teams is a change in the race format, which breaks each Cup event into three stages, with championship points paid for all three.

“There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the new race format and more opportunity to gain points by being in the top 10 at the end of those segments,” Bullins said. “There will be a lot of opportunities for us this year to get our cars up front and keep them up front, and we look forward to that challenge.”

“Anytime there’s an opportunity for a strategy call I get excited because it’s a chance for us to try to gain an advantage on our competitors.”

“Regardless, your cars will still have to have speed, and we feel like we can produce that, so it’s up to us to capitalize when we have fast cars.  I think having a year under our belt full time together we all feel more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”

For team co-owner Eddie Wood, this year’s trip to the Daytona 500 will be much more relaxing than in recent seasons. The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has rented a charter, which guarantees a starting spot in the Great American Race as well as the other races on the schedule.

“This year is the first time we’ve been guaranteed into the race since we won it in 2011,” Wood said. “And that year we had the owner points from Richard Petty Motorsports.”

Wood said it’s hard to explain just how much pressure there is on a team that is not assured of being in the starting field.

“You worry about it all year long, not just when it comes time to go to Daytona,” he said. “The worries start multiplying as soon as Homestead is over, and it never really lets up.”

“We’re fortunate this year to have rented a charter, and being guaranteed to start races is good for us, but more importantly it’s good for Motorcraft and Quick Lane and all of our other partners.”

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3:10 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX. The Can-AM Duel 150-mile qualifying races are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1, and the Daytona 500 should get the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX.

Rookie Bayne Beat The Odds To Win 2011 Daytona 500

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500Back in February of 2011, Trevor Bayne went into Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway a decided underdog. He was just 19 years old when he arrived at Daytona to begin preparing for the Daytona 500, although he turned 20 on the day before the 500.

He had raced a Cup car just one before, at Texas Motor Speedway in the fall of 2010. Although he put on an impressive performance in his Cup debut, there still were doubts about how he’d perform in NASCAR’s biggest race.

The No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford that he would drive was another story. Even in the team’s lean years, the Woods have had fast cars at Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway. For the 2011 race, then-crew chief Donnie Wingo and his Ford teammates at Roush Fenway Racing had worked hard all winter, as all top teams do, to prepare a car that had all the aerodynamic tweaks the rules allow.

When Bayne hit the track for practice he soon was posting speeds as fast as far more experienced drivers. He qualified third-fastest behind Daytona veterans Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

But it wasn’t until the first race practice after qualifying that Bayne began to show signs that he might be a contender for the win in spite of his inexperience.

The 2011 Daytona 500 saw drivers pairing up, with one pushing the other and making both cars run much faster that either one alone. The phenomenon was known as “tandem drafting.”

Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, remembers how taken aback he was at the speeds two cars in tandem could achieve.

“I saw Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon hook up and run 207 miles per hour,” Wood said. “I called my dad, who was staying in a condo over on the beach, and told him he needed to come see it.”

It turns out that Glen Wood had seen it before.

“He said he’d seen Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly do it in a couple of Ford Falcons at Daytona in 1961,” Wood said. “I went over to the NASCAR Archives that afternoon and found a picture of Turner and Weatherly running bumper to bumper.”

Among those who were excelling at tandem drafting was the youngster Bayne.

“Trevor took to it like a natural,” Wood recalled.

“Having no previous experience in a Cup car at Daytona might have been an advantage because he hadn’t learned to race in the draft any other way. He didn’t have any habit to unlearn.”

Bayne’s biggest problem was in the numbers.

Being from a single-car team, he didn’t have any natural drafting partners as did the drivers from multi-car teams. But having a fast car allowed him to build some drafting friendships.

In the last practice before Thursday’s qualifying races, Kyle Busch agreed to draft with Bayne.

Then, right before the start of the 150-mile qualifier, Jeff Gordon told Bayne he’d draft with him in the qualifier.

“They couldn’t get going good just after restarts, but after a few laps they could go from the back of the pack to the front,” Wood said of the Bayne/Gordon combo. “But it was all with Trevor doing the pushing. He was never the front guy.”

But on the last lap of the qualifier, Bayne was swept up in a multi-car melee and the No. 21 Ford was damaged on the nose and on both sides.

Despite finishing 19th in the qualifier, Bayne made the starting field for the 500 based on his qualifying time.

As Eddie and Len Wood were returning to the garage to help decide whether to fix their primary car or roll out the back-up, they came upon Doug Yates, their engine builder.

Yates answered the question by asking a question of his own: “What would Leonard Wood or Robert Yates do?”

And with that the decision was made to repair the damaged primary car.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, DaytonaWingo, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew and a contingent from Roush Fenway Racing set about repairing the car. The team worked through the day on Friday and didn’t get back on the track until the final practice session on Saturday.

Bayne ran a handful of laps and reported that the car was as fast as it was before.

“That was good to hear, because it meant we’d made the right decision in fixing the car instead of going to a backup,” Wood said.

In the 500, Bayne ran near the front all day. He drafted some with Robby Gordon and Jeff Gordon, then hooked up with Ford teammate David Ragan.

“Back then drivers could talk on the radio to other drivers, so a lot of that time, they were on David’s channel and using his spotter,” Wood said. “It worked fine because Trevor was always pushing.”
A late-race wreck with two of 200 scheduled laps left to run set up a dramatic run to the checkered flag.

On first attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, one that could have been the final one of the race, Ragan and Bayne started on the front row, with Ragan the leader of the race in the outside lane.

After the green flag was displayed but before the leaders reached the start finish line, Ragan shifted lanes to hook up with Bayne. That’s a rules violation, so Ragan was penalized and Bayne assumed the lead for the next restart, which followed a crash on the backstretch.

“Since he hadn’t been in the top spot all day for a restart, Trevor asked Donnie what to do,” Wood said. “Donnie told him to go as hard as he could.”

When the green flag dropped for the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, Bayne had a strong restart, with some dedicated pushing help from Bobby Labonte.

“Bobby got them both out into the lead,” Wood said.

Carl Edwards and David Gilliland were hooked up and coming in a hurry, but when they got to Bayne and Labonte, Edwards bypassed Labonte and fell in behind Bayne and wound up pushing him across the finish line. Bayne led just six laps all day, but they were the final six, from Lap 203 to 208.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, DaytonaThe victory, the Woods’ fifth in the Daytona 500 and the 600th Cup win for Ford, was timely for the family-owned team, which had cut back to a partial schedule and was focusing on the restrictor-plate and intermediate tracks.

“Along about that time, the economy was down and it was hard to get enough sponsorship to run competitively for the full season,” Wood said. “We hadn’t won a race in a long time, so it was good to be able to show that we could still do it.”

The winning No. 21 Fusion never raced again. It spent a year on display at Daytona, covered with the spray from sugary soft drinks and brightly colored confetti.

Now it’s on display in the Henry Ford Museum, still just as it rolled out of Victory Lane at Daytona other than being signed by the Wood Brothers team and by the Ford Motor Company officials involved in the NASCAR racing effort.

“Every time I go to the Henry Ford, I climb over the ropes and check the car,” Wood said. “There was a plastic water bottle jammed under the seat during the race, and it’s still there.”

1976 Daytona 500 Was NASCAR Racing At Its Best

IMG_7557 Magical moments in motorsports can’t be manufactured by rules changes or other machinations.

They just happen, like in 1976, when two of NASCAR’s top teams, the Wood Brothers and Petty Enterprises, and the two most successful drivers of that era, David Pearson and Richard Petty, squared off in the closing laps for the win in the Daytona 500.

As is the case for any other Daytona 500, the preparation for the sport’s biggest race in 1976 began months earlier. Unlike today, when fleets of race cars are the norm, most teams in the 1970s prepared just one car for Daytona.

Eddie and Len Wood, who were just getting started as full-fledged members of the family team, picked up the car at the Arden, N.C. shop of famed car builder Banjo Mathews.

“It was just a chassis, roll cage, quarter panels and roof,” Eddie Wood recalled. “We brought it back to Stuart on a trailer behind a pick-up truck.”

Back at the shop, the Wood Brothers team set about to transform a basic car into one that could win the sport’s biggest race.

Tommy Turner, using an improved Ford block manufactured in Australia, built the short block while Leonard Wood crafted the cylinder heads.
Leonard Wood also hung the rest of the body, which was painted by long-time Wood Brothers crew member Ophus Agnew, who moonlighted at the race shop after working a day job at a local auto dealership.

Eddie and Len Wood decided that the interior of their new Mercury needed some dressing up, so they decided to paint it bright red instead of the flat black of their earlier cars.

“By that time Roger Penske was painting the interior of his cars the same light gray color his teams use today, and the Pettys painted their interior Petty Blue,” Eddie said. “We wanted ours to look nice too, so Len and I, along with Hylton Tatum, painted ours red, using lacquer paint.”
Eddie and Hylton did the actual application of paint, using the standard equipment of the day, a Binks No. 7 paint gun.

“We painted it right in the middle of the shop,” Wood said. “When we were finished everything in the shop was red, but the car looked great.”

The Mercury not only looked great, it was fast when it arrived in Daytona. And as the 500 began to unfold, it soon was apparent that barring any unexpected developments, the race for the win eventually would boil down to a battle between Pearson and Petty.

A.J. Foyt led the most laps, 66 of them, but his Hoss Ellington-prepared Chevrolet blew an engine.

Buddy Baker led 28 laps in Bud Moore’s Ford but also lost an engine.

That basically left Pearson and Petty at the head of the class.

Petty led for a total of 40 laps, including Laps 188 through the white flag lap, No. 199.

Pearson, who had led 36 laps up to that point, was running a close second.

“The end of the race played out under the green flag,” Wood said. “We all kind of had the feeling that it was going to come down to Richard and David.”

Eddie Wood was on the radio with Pearson, and only those two were privy to the conversation. There was no TV in the pits to keep the team abreast of what was happening out of their sight, and much of the track can’t be seen from pit road.
When the white flag flew, signaling one lap to go, Eddie Wood keyed his microphone. “Can you get him?” he asked Pearson, who replied that he certainly was going to try.

And with that the lead duo barreled off into Turn One and out of sight. The radio was silent.

IMG_7558“Then, as they entered Turn Three, the crowd kind of livened up,” Wood said. Pearson came on the radio and said: “I got him.”

But not for long.

Pearson then radioed: “He’s under me.”

That was followed by: “He hit me.”

“By then everyone was going nuts, including me,” Wood said, still unaware just exactly what had transpired. “When they came into sight, David was headed toward pit road, and Richard had piled into the wall and slid to a stop in the infield grass.”
Through the spinning and sliding, Pearson had pushed in the clutch on his car and kept the engine running, remembering what had happened to him in the Daytona 500 the year before.

“David was leading that race with three laps to go and got into an incident with Cale Yarborough and his engine died,” Wood said.

With his engine still running, Pearson radioed Wood to see if Petty, who was ahead of him, had crossed the finish line. Wood told him Petty was short of the finish line, and Pearson responded: “I’m coming.”

Wood initially thought Benny Parsons had won for the second straight year, but although Parsons crossed the finish line before Pearson arrived at a snail’s pace, he was a lap down. Pearson had his first and only Daytona 500 triumph.

IMG_7559It also was a first for Eddie and Len Wood, although it was the Wood Brothers’ fourth Daytona 500 win. “It was the biggest win that I had ever been a part of, at that time,” Wood said. “I was there when A.J. Foyt won in 1972, but Len and I had more to do with preparing the car in 1976.”
That car was rebuilt, and with the same engine under the hood went on to win the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500 that year.

After its racing days, the Mercury that won one of the all-time thrillers in NASCAR history, served as a show car for then-series sponsor Winston before being returned to the Woods’ shop in Stuart, where the obsolete chassis was pushed aside.
“We sold it for $200 just to get it out of the way,” Wood said.

The car found its way to a junkyard in Florida, where it was rescued and restored by Donnie Gould. Now it is prominently displayed in the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Neb.

Flawless Performance Carried Foyt, Wood Brothers To Victory In 1972 Daytona 500

N-DY1-753 Smyle Media copyThe Wood Brothers have enjoyed their share of unexpected triumphs over the years, and then there have been some wins that were unexpectedly easy.

The 1972 Daytona 500 falls into the latter category.

Since its first running in 1959, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s showcase race. In 1972, just like today, NASCAR teams spent much of the off-season preparing for that one race.

A.J Foyt, who already had an impressive, diverse resume at that point, was driving the Wood’s No. 21 Mercury. The year before in the 500, Foyt was poised to win only to be thwarted by a twisted fuel filler hose that caused him to run short of fuel in the closing laps.

Victory lane AJ Foyt copyBut in 1972, there were no issues from start to finish. Foyt started from the outside pole position and led 167 of 200 laps, including the final 120. With many of the usual Daytona contenders falling out of the race early on or dropping hopelessly behind, Foyt was in a class by himself and was a lap ahead of runner-up Charlie Glotzbach at the finish.

Leonard Wood, long-time crew chief and mechanic on the No. 21, said the ’72 Daytona 500 was one of the team’s easiest wins.

“It was,” he said. “But we had some easy ones with David Pearson too. In 1973, he led every lap but one to win at Rockingham.”

The ‘72 Daytona 500 victory, was the third in the Great American Race for the Woods, coming after Tiny Lund’s triumph in 1963 and Cale Yarborough’s in 1968.

Wood said that when a team has a car as dominant as the No. 21 was that day, it can be stressful.

“You still have to worry about finishing,” he said.

It was the first Daytona 500 win for Foyt, and it gave him victories in three of auto racing’s premier events including the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He and Mario Andretti are the only drivers ever to win all three.

Delano copy 2Leonard Wood said the versatile Foyt, who won four times in 11 career starts for the Wood Brothers, was a competitive driver who wanted to be kept abreast of adjustments made to the car over the course of a race weekend.

“If you wanted to change something, you didn’t just do it and tell him about it, you explained why you were doing it,” Wood said.

Once at Ontario Motor Speedway, where Foyt won twice in the No. 21, Foyt wanted to change a spring on the car. Wood made the changes, and Foyt reported that the car felt better.

“But when I told him that he was running a half-second slower he said to change it back,” Wood said, adding that Foyt was at his best when he could see a checkered flag in his immediate future. “If he had a chance to win a race, he knew how to get it done.”

Gurney Was NASCAR’s Best Road-Course Ringer As His 1968 Riverside Win Showed

DG #2Every time the NASCAR circuit visits a road course there’s a lot of buzz about the road-course experts or “ringers” that are brought in to compete with the drivers who earn a living primarily making only left-hand turns.

But winning a Cup race with a ringer is more difficult than it might seem, even considering the different skills required to be successful on road courses.

More often than not, NASCAR regulars wind up in Victory Lane. A true ringer has never won a race at Sonoma Raceway in the track’s 28 Cup races since 1989. At Watkins Glen, there have been 38 Cup races without a ringer victory although several races have been won by road-course experts like Marcos Ambrose, but they were competing full-time in the Cup Series when they won at the Glen.

But in the 1960s, the Wood Brothers had great success using road course ringers at the old Riverside International Raceway in California.

Dan Gurney pitcrew Of the Woods’ seven career victories at Riverside, four were with road-course racer Dan Gurney at the wheel of the No. 121 Ford. The other three were by David Pearson, who was an expert on any type of race track.

Gurney’s win at Riverside in 1968 was one of the final “ringer” wins in the series now known as Monster Energy Cup. Mark Donohue won at Riverside in 1973, and after that all the victories there went to Cup regulars.

In addition to the fact that Gurney won in ’68 despite not being a regular NASCAR competitor, he and his Wood Brothers team had to overcome a broken exhaust box and tire problems late in the race to score the win.

Leonard Wood said that during the race, which Gurney led for 124 of 186 laps after starting from the pole, Gurney was leading but slowed and began signaling to the crew. Radios weren’t in regular use at that time.

“He was holding his hand to his ear, but we couldn’t figure out what he was trying to tell us,” Wood said.

What had happened was that the top of a box underneath the car that collected exhaust from the headers before sending it out the side of the car had broken loose. That meant Gurney was having to deal with the side effects of a major exhaust leak.

“It was deafening him, plus it was hot,” Wood recalled.

Then on Lap 145, Gurney rolled into the pit area with a flat tire. Team owner Glen Wood, Leonard’s brother, noticed shreds of rubber wrapped around the rear axle. It took a lengthy pit stop to remove the rubber from the axle, but it only took Gurney 15 laps to regain the lead and score the fifth and final Cup victory of his 16-race NASCAR career.

Dan Gurney #7 Leonard Wood said that in the early days of competing at Riverside, road-course experts like Gurney were a second per lap faster than the NASCAR regulars. But the NASCAR drivers soon learned the quick ways through the esses and other tricks that the road-course ringers knew from competing in other series.

For example, Wood said Gurney would run a constant speed through the esses, while his then-teammate Cale Yarborough, who drove the No. 21, would be on and off the throttle, which upset his car and cost him time on the track.

“When we first started running road courses, if you had a road-course driver you had an advantage,” Leonard Wood said. “But it didn’t take the NASCAR drivers long to figure it out, and then they were just as good as the road-course drivers.”

 

Three Strikes Of Bad Luck Can’t Keep Yarborough Out Of Victory Lane In 1968 Daytona 500

As anyone who has ever watched a 500-mile NASCAR race knows, the fastest car often does not win the race.

Mechanical problems, flat tires, bad timing of caution flags and other unforeseen issues can derail the strongest efforts and send a surprise winner to Victory Lane.

In the 1968 Daytona 500, the Wood Brothers No. 21 Mercury Cyclone, with Cale Yarborough driving, was clearly the fastest car, but it took several comebacks for the team to reach Victory Lane.

Yarborough won the pole with a sizzling lap at 189.222 miles per hour, but the race was just 14 laps old when he limped into the pits with a skipping engine.

It was the first season that NASCAR teams, including the Woods, used a pair of electronic ignition systems, and as bad luck would have it, Yarborough’s primary system had failed.

In later years, drivers could change to the back-up system with the flip of a switch, but in ’68 that wasn’t the case.

Photo Credit : Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Photo Credit : Don Hunter/Smyle Media

When Yarborough came to a stop, Leonard Wood climbed into the car to make the switch.

Among the things he remembers from that day was a brief conversation with Yarborough inside the car.

“Cale said: “Man, you got to fix it. This thing will fly,’” Wood recalled.

He did fix it, and the car would fly.

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Yarborough charged back into the lead lap and in contention again only to suffer another setback in the form of a flat tire, which forced an unscheduled green-flag pit stop and another lap lost.

But thanks to a fast car, a fast pit crew and an unusually high number of caution flags for that era – 11 of them which consumed 150 miles – he was able to again rejoin the lead lap.

But his worries weren’t over, as Wood recalled.

“Lee Roy Yarbrough was leading, but Cale had to pass David Pearson first,” he said. “Pearson was leaking oil, and it covered the windshield of Cale’s car.”

“But he still blew right by Lee Roy and won the race.”

Afterward, Wood got a first-hand look at how obscured Yarborough’s vision was.

“I got in that car, and you couldn’t see a thing,” he said.

When the circuit returned to Daytona that July for the Firecracker 400, the fastest car won without a hitch.

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Photo Credit: Don Hunter/Smyle Media

Yarborough, in the No. 21 Mercury, led all but 18 laps and was two laps ahead of runner-up Lee Roy Yarbrough at the finish.

Although the Woods and Yarborough ran a limited schedule that season, just 21 of 49 races, Yarborough won six races, four of them on superspeedways including Atlanta and Darlington. He wound up leading the circuit in earnings with $138,051.30.

The Woods did even better and had a total of seven wins that season as Dan Gurney drove their No. 121 Ford to victory on the road course at Riverside, Calif.

“Old Man” Turner Beat A Young Cale Yarborough To Win Inaugural Race at Rockingham

IMG_6921The 1965 American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, the track’s inaugural race, produced one of the best racing stories of all time. A wildly popular but aging driver, back on the circuit after a four-year suspension was lifted, outran one of the sport’s aggressive young stars to get the victory that would be the final major triumph of a Hall of Fame career.

The story of that unexpected triumph began decades earlier when the driver, Curtis Turner, helped Glen Wood and his Wood Brothers racing team secure backing from Ford Motor Company, a relationship that continues to this day.

Turner was a swashbuckler on and off the track. He made and lost fortunes in the timber business. He helped build and then lost one of the sport’s cornerstone superspeedways. And he loved to party.

But when it came to driving race cars, he was one of the hardest chargers ever, the Dale Earnhardt of his day.

Turner was one of the sport’s top stars – arguably its biggest draw – when he ran afoul of NASCAR founder Bill France in 1961. Turner tried to organize a driver’s union as part of his effort to raise funds for Charlotte Motor Speedway, which he and current owner Bruton Smith co-founded.

France suspended Turner, and for four years he was left to run in circuits other than NASCAR. Fittingly, his last NASCAR ride before his suspension was aboard the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford at Charlotte.

By mid-1965, fans were restless for a variety of reasons. Several top drivers, including Joe Weatherly and Fireball Roberts, had been fatally injured in racing accidents. Richard Petty was off drag racing, having left NASCAR in a dispute over the Hemi engines in his cars, engines that France had banned.

After a meeting in Atlanta between France and some of the leading track owners of the day, Turner’s suspension was lifted.

But many felt that at age 41 his best driving days were behind him.

Ford racing boss John Cowley approached Glen Wood at the Southern 500 in Darlington and a deal was struck to put Turner in a No. 41 Wood Brothers Ford.

IMG_6922In Turner’s first time back in a Wood Brothers car, he crashed with Bobby Isaac at Martinsville. He bounced back with a fifth-place finish at North Wilkesboro then it was on to Charlotte, the track Turner helped build only to lose his interest because of the track’s financial woes.

As the laps wound down, Turner found himself in a four-way battle for the lead with A.J. Foyt, Fred Lorenzen and Dick Hutcherson. When Lorenzen and Foyt crashed with six laps to go, Turner had to spin to miss the wreck. He recovered to finish third and told Glen Wood afterward that he felt he was in position to win.

When someone pointed out that it would have been difficult to find enough racing room to pass that many cars, Turner responded in typical fashion, Wood said. “He said, ‘well there was still some asphalt there, and there was plenty of grass.’”

At Charlotte, a rough racing surface led to the seat brace cracking one of Turner’s ribs. For the race at Rockingham, Leonard Wood fabricated a special padded brace that let Turner’s shoulder absorb much of the punishment.

The Woods went with the harder of the two tire compounds offered for that race, but still Turner qualified fourth behind pole-sitter Richard Petty.

The race turned out to be a test of man and machine, 500 miles on the one-mile track, a race that took nearly five hours to run.

During the mid-portion of the event, Marvin Panch in the Woods’ familiar No. 21 and Turner in the No. 41, held down the first and second positions.

IMG_6920 But in the end, it boiled down to a classic battle between the aging Turner and the 26-year-old Cale Yarborough.

Many figured Turner would wear out when it counted, especially those who saw him napping on the decklid of the car during pre-race practice, recovering from a long night of partying.

Those skeptics underestimated the wily veteran.

Turner was able to build a healthy lead, and it looked like he would easily beat Yarborough. But grit from the new surface at Rockingham got under the hood and began eating away at Turner’s fanbelt.

With the fanbelt slipping and his engine overheating, Turner had to back off his pace.

“It looked like Cale was catching him, but really it was just Curtis feathering the car to take care of the engine,” Leonard Wood recalled. “Curtis was in full control. He hadn’t lost a thing during his time away from NASCAR.”

Despite Turner’s triumph at Rockingham, his NASCAR career never really got restarted.
Ford pulled back it support of NASCAR in 1966, and although Turner continued to race occasionally, he never won again.
“He was fully capable,” Leonard Wood said. “He just didn’t have the right situation or the right set-up.”

Turner, who died in a plane crash in 1970, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016, joining a cast of the sport’s legends including Glen Wood, who was inducted in 2012 and Leonard Wood, who was inducted in 2013.

A Substitute Driver And Some Savvy Pit Strategy Delivered The Wood Brothers A Daytona 500 Win in 1963

Daytona 1963The Woods’ first win in NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, was not only one of the all-time feel-good stories in auto racing but an unexpected victory as well.

The story began 10 days before the 1963 running of the 500 when the Woods’ regular driver, Marvin Panch, who had already qualified the No. 21 for the Daytona 500, was testing a Maserati sports car at Daytona International Speedway.

Panch, racing on narrow tires with little grip compared to the treaded tires used in NASCAR at that time, lost control of the car and it turned over. The doors of the Maserati, which wrapped up over the top of the car, pinned him inside as fire broke out in the car.

Glen Wood, NASCAR official Johnny Bruner, driver Tiny Lund and two others saw the crash, jumped in the station wagon Bruner was driving and sped to the crash scene. Others scaled a fence and came to Panch’s aid.

“We were the first ones there, and we all got the car turned over,” Wood said. “It was hot. Some of the guys got their hands burned real bad.”

Lund, being the biggest and strongest of the rescue party, used his brute strength, and that was key to freeing Panch, Wood said.

For his efforts, Lund later received the Carnegie Medal of Honor.

With Panch in the hospital being treated for his burns, the Woods were left to find a replacement driver for the 500.

Good drivers were hard to come by at that point. With qualifying for NASCAR’s biggest race already done, most of the sport’s top talents had commitments with other teams.

“We thought about some USAC drivers,” Wood said. “But it came down to Tiny and Johnny Allen.”

The decision was made when Leonard Wood, the team’s crew chief, asked his brother Glen: “If it’s the last lap and you’re leading the race, which driver would you rather not see on your back bumper?”

That made the decision a relatively easy one.

“Tiny was a pretty aggressive driver despite his weight, which was about 280 pounds at that time,” Wood said.

Despite Lund’s ability to be aggressive when necessary, the Woods saw an opportunity to try to win the race on fuel mileage and adopted that strategy.

“It had rained, and they started the race with the track still damp,” Wood recalled.

The first 10 laps were run under the caution flag, and the Woods made their first stop at Lap 36.

The treaded Firestones of that era actually performed better with some laps on them, so the gas man Kenny Martin refilled the fuel tank while Ray Lee Wood, Glen and Leonard’s brother, and Firestone representative John Laux checked the tires.

Knowing they’d run the 40-lap qualifying race on a single tank of fuel, the Woods ran 40 laps before their next stop. Again, they just refueled and checked the tires.

“We decided we could go 42 laps, so we did that the next two stops, which left us with just 40 laps to go until the end of the race,” Wood said.

As the laps wound down in a race that ran caution-free after the initial 10 laps under yellow to dry the track, the Woods found themselves in position to finish the race without another stop while their competitors would need to stop for fuel.

“We’d already run 42 laps the two previous runs, and Kenny Martin assured us that he’d gotten the tank full,” Glen Wood said. “But we weren’t as certain about the tires.”

Until the final stop, Laux, the Firestone rep, had assured the team the tires were good to go. But he was reluctant to make a recommendation for the final 100 miles.

But Ray Lee Wood said he felt like the tires would make it, so Lund and the No. 21 took off for the final 100-lap run with a full tank of fuel and 400 miles on the tires.

As the laps wound down, one contender after another began making late-race stops for fuel.

First Fred Lorenzen gave up the lead to stop for fuel with 10 laps to go. Then Ned Jarrett led briefly, but stopped with eight laps to go, leaving Lund out front.

“The announcers kept asking us when we were going to come in,” Wood said. “We said we weren’t planning on it.”

The reporters were persistent.

“They kept asking us, and we began to wonder ourselves,” Wood said. “But we did make it.”

Lund told reporters at the track that he ran dry on the final lap, but Wood said that in Lund’s excitement over the victory, he was mistaken about the fuel.

“He drove it all the way around the track on the cool-down lap and back to the pits,” Wood said. “And we loaded the car without putting any more fuel in it.”

The victory was the Woods’ first of 15 Cup triumphs at Daytona, including five Daytona 500 wins. And it was the first anywhere on the Cup circuit for Lund, who had several strong runs in the No. 21 before Panch returned later in the 1963 season.

“It was one of our greatest wins and one of the most suspenseful,” Wood said. “Especially after everyone thought we were going to run out of gas.”

Lund remained close friends with the Wood family until his death in a crash at Talladega on Aug. 17, 1975.

“We got a Christmas card from him every year until he died,” Wood said.

Wood Brothers First Superspeedway Win in 1960

Of the 98 career Sprint Cup victories scored by the Wood Brothers, most have come as no real surprise as the team has a history of fielding fast Fords and employing some of the sport’s greatest drivers.

But some of those victories were rather surprising. Over the next several weeks, Wood Brothers Racing will look back at some of its more memorable unexpected triumphs.

The Woods’ first superspeedway win, in the fall of 1960 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, was an eye-opener for many.

Brothers Glen and Leonard Wood had proven to be a formidable force on the short tracks of the NASCAR circuit, as Glen Wood had driven the team car to three wins earlier that season on the tight, quarter-mile oval at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Superspeedways were another matter, as Wood much preferred the shorter tracks and disliked the superspeedways.

For the inaugural National 400 at the then-new Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Wood Brothers decided to put track co-owner and long-time friend Curtis Turner behind the wheel.

Speedy But Turner had his hands full with his track-owner duties, so the brothers turned to Alfred Bruce “Speedy” Thompson to drive the No. 21.

At that time, many in the sport figured Thompson was no longer the driver his nickname suggested.

He hadn’t won a race since 1958 and even though he was just 34, many considered him to be too old to return to his winning ways.

But, as the Woods proved with other older veterans over the years, most notably the Silver Fox David Pearson, winning with a veteran indeed was possible.

For that race, the Woods prepared a 1960 Starliner. It had been wrecked in its first life as a street car but was rebuilt by the Woods.

Auto Sales and Body Co. in Martinsville painted the car, and Leonard Wood prepared the engine.

Once Thompson got behind the wheel for practice, Glen Wood knew he had a good thing going.

“He was running as fast as anybody,” Wood recalled.

Leonard Wood said Thompson ran a great line around the 1.5-mile oval.

“He’d drive into the corners high, and stay there a lot longer than it seemed like you ought to, then he’d drop down low,” he said.

In the race, Thompson ran with the leaders most of the way, and the Woods showed early signs of the pit-road innovation that would eventually lead to them becoming known as the creators of the modern pit stop.

Gas man Ralph Edwards was quick on refueling, although the equipment of the day was antiquated by today’s standards.

At that time, teams used a gas can made by welding two five-gallon cans together and fashioning a spout on the top. The fueler had to pour the gas into the tank opening in the center of the rear of the car.

Leonard Wood and his brother Ray Lee Wood changed tires, while Delano Wood jacked the car.

Thompson took the lead for good when Fireball Roberts wrecked after leading 197 laps and led the final 35 circuits to get the Woods’ first-ever win on a superspeedway.

1960 1st Super Speedway Win  CharlotteAt the finish, he was a lap ahead of runner-up Richard Petty and third-place Ned Jarrett.

The Woods teamed up with Thompson the following week for a race at Richmond, where Thompson led 173 of the race’s 200 laps to get the Woods’ fifth Cup win and the 20th and final one of his driving career.

The Charlotte win was a major one for the Woods, as team owner Glen Wood explained.

“I had considered giving it up,” Wood said. “We were having a hard time making a go of it, but that win at Charlotte paid almost $13,000 plus a new car.”

Then, the money earned the following week at Richmond, which included a $2,500 appearance bonus from track promoter Paul Sawyer and the $800 winner’s purse, made a big difference as well.

“Those two races really got us going,” he said.

Thompson ran just eight more races in the series now known as Sprint Cup and began racing on the short tracks around North Carolina.

During a Late Model race at Metrolina Speedway in Charlotte on Easter Sunday in 1972, Thompson’s car stopped on the track. He was found to be not breathing and died en route to a hospital. He would have turned 46 the next day.