It started with a phone call. Where it will end is anyone’s guess.
Bob Tasca, III was looking for a building in the Charlotte are where he could house his NHRA Funny Car operation. Given his connections with Ford, it only seemed appropriate that he would call on the Wood Brothers for advice.
It was from those conversations that an invitation to attend an NHRA event was extended. Amazingly, even with a 65 year background in motorsports, neither of two second generation Wood Brothers had ever attended a drag race event of any kind. Then again, neither had the third generation of Tasca’s attended a NASCAR event.
One half of that scenario has now been resolved. The other will be cleared up before the end of the year. You can bet your Tasca on it.
Eddie and Len Wood, along with their wives were guests of Tasca Racing during the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet Raceway.
Eddie Wood’s face was filled with his famous smile almost from the moment he stepped onto drag racing hallowed ground for the very first time. Len Wood, his eyes fill with the tears only nitro fumes can cause, was a model of restraint despite every muscle of his body aching to lay hands on the massive power plant sitting just a few feet away.
To say that both were awed by their very first trip to a drag race would be a major understatement. To say that their wives were equally impressed would be an outright lie. Carol and Nancy, wives to Eddie and Len, respectively, were as deeply involved in absorbing every minute of the experience as were their husbands.
Eddie immediately noticed the people. Len, the power. Their wives noticed everything about an atmosphere that is 180 degrees out from what they experience at a NASCAR event.
“The thing I noticed was how friendly the people were,” said Eddie when asked his first impression. “We parked exactly wrong from where our credentials were and we were able to walk from there all the way through the pit garage, whatever you call this area, and just explain to each gate guard what our problem was. Everybody was just so helpful. That impressed me.
“It’s such a fan friendly sport. The drivers, the cars, everything is so accessible. Everybody is just right here at it. That really impressed me.”
“I wouldn’t have done it before, but now after being here, I would turn off my soap opera to watch drag racing.” - Carol Wood, wife of NASCAR car owner Eddie Wood
While Eddie was impressed with the people, Len was almost glassy eyed taking in the sheer horsepower which surrounded him. A specially arranged trip to the “tree” during Tasca’s first qualifying run, which included being in position during the burn out, was something close to heaven for Len.
For Tasca, playing host to the Wood Brothers was an exhilarating experience.
“For me, it’s special having those who have never attended a drag race before,” said Tasca. “At every race there’s always a fan that comes out for the first time. We had astronauts in Houston and we’re preaching the platform of the NHRA and what our sport is about – the win on Sunday and sell on Monday.
“With the Wood Brothers we made a pact early in the season, when I was looking for a race shop in Charlotte and I really didn’t know what to do. I called the Wood Brothers and they hooked me up with Kenny Schrader. They had me taken care of while our shop was being taken care of.
“For them to see how we activate, the fan interaction, it’s incredible. [For them to say] our fans could never see this, never do this, our fans couldn’t get to here, to interact with the kids and seeing that is what is so special about our sport. The Wood Brothers are certainly going to leave here with an impression.”
Without a doubt, Eddie Wood walked away with a new appreciation for a sport he had watched in the in his peripheral vision. No more. Eddie took a good hard look at drag racing and loved what he saw. Loved it enough, when asked if there was interest in a deeper involvement in drag racing, a huge grin cross his his face as he said, “I really like this.”
Throughout the weekend, both Eddie and Len were amazed at how the basic fundamentals of running a race team were no different from a stock car team to a drag race team. Implementation was definitely different.
“Some things were alike, some things were different,” said Eddie. “He goes through four or five motors on a weekend and we hopefully get by with one. He hopefully drives just under a mile on Sunday, we might drive 300, 400 or 500 miles.
“When all is said and done, it’s still about the competition. You stand out there at the tree and the sounds waves are beating you in the chest. There is nothing like it. It’s like when they say “Gentleman start your engines” at our race, they fire them all up at once and the hair stands up on the back of your neck.”
There was something else Eddie and Len noticed – the dedication of Bob Tasca.
“I think all drivers are dedicated. They have to be to do what they do. Bob owns his own deal here. It’s his deal and he treats it like his baby. He knows everything that is going on. He has a lot of passion for his sport.
“He likes to drive these things.”
All in all it was an amazing weekend, watch two of oldest families in Ford racing history coming together for the very first time.
In the world of stock cars, NASCAR to be exact, one of the biggest names hails from a small rural town in western Virginia – Wood. In the world of drag racing, NHRA to be exact, there is an equally big name. A name, like Wood, which traces its roots to the very beginnings of the sport. That name is Tasca.
Watching Tasca spend every possible minute with Eddie and Len and the brothers never letting there gaze wander away from Tasca and his team was almost like watching two families, separated through no fault of their own, coming back together again in a grand celebration.
“I remember writing a letter to my Uncle Carl,” Tasca said, “when I was about to embark on my Alcohol Funny car career. I needed what I called starting line money. My family funded that program before Triple AAA, Motorcraft and Quick Lane came on.
“I remember writing that letter because I am a pretty button down guy and I had no business plan. I had no idea how I could, or if I could, gain a return on an investment in racing. I told him that I wasn’t sure where I was going with this, but I wanted to leave our family’s history in racing a little richer than I found it. That was my synopsis and I was really proud to be a third generation, flying the Tasca family banner, with legendary people like John Lawton and Bill Healy, who really pioneered this with my grandfather.
“Now, to look over my shoulder and see the Wood Brothers and how their generations have evolved and left that Ford Racing name a little richer than they found it; this is a connecting of two families and I think it is pretty neat.
“I can assure you that this won’t be their last drag race and I will attend more than one NASCAR race. It’s a special relationship that we share with Ford. They [Ford] have believed in us, invested in us and we, Tasca and Wood, carry the Ford banner with us as we go around the country.”
There is no doubt, Ford, no matter the generation, can’t help to be proud to know that the names Tasca and Wood are truly jut extensions of a great name in all of motorsports.
TASCA’S SPECIAL GUESTS …
For Tommy Leskovan, having Eddie and Len Wood as guest for the weekend was almost like having good friends over for dinner.
Leskovan, a former engine tuner at Peske Racing and now car chief at Tasca Racing, knew about the Wood Brothers. He had just never met them until Eddie and Len walked into the pit area of Tasca Racing during the Route 66 Nationals at Rte 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill.
“When you are in the sport, they are normal people,” said Leskovan. “You meet some people who are important or big in their industry or big in their sport and it’s fun to meet them. It’s fun to talk about their industry and our industry and compare how different they are and how similar they are.”
You could tell Leskovan was almost teasing Len Wood, at times. It was if Leskovan was holding an invitation to dive in and help, just outside the reach of Len’s fingers. The two laughed and joked through several rebuilds, Leskovan quick to answer questions with a smile.
And, when the work was done, Leskovan took a few minutes to just chat.
“We sat back and talked about how we knew the same people. I knew their son.” – Stan Creekmore