When Trevor Bayne and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway, team founder Glen Wood will have one eye on the No. 21 Ford Fusion and the other on the three Ford drivers among the eight in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Additionally, Wood likely will be paying more attention to how Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards fare in the championship battle that he did to his own team back in 1963 when it won the owner’s championship in the series now known as Sprint Cup.
Joe Weatherly, who drove for the Woods early in his career, won the driving title in ’63, but he did it by driving for nine different car owners throughout the season, so none of them accumulated a significant number of owner points. Wood’s team ran 24 of the 55 races that season with five different drivers behind the wheel of their No. 21 Ford. Fred Lorenzen, Tiny Lund, Dave MacDonald, Marvin Panch and Wood himself all spent time behind the wheel, and the team won three races and had 17 top-five finishes. Lund scored the biggest victory, winning the Daytona 500. Panch, who was burned in a sports car crash prior to the 500 and was unable to compete in the Great American Race, returned to the No. 21 later in the season and won at North Wilkesboro, while Wood himself took the victory at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.
But in that era of the sport, championships didn’t carry the significance or pay the amount of money they do today.
“We didn’t even know we were in that category until the season was over,” Wood said. “It wasn’t like today when there’s a big fuss over it. It wasn’t until Winston came along and sponsored the series that championships became so important.”
The Woods’ championship trophy actually bears the name of another Wood Brother – Ray Lee Wood, a crewmember and tire changer in the team’s early years.
Glen Wood said he listed his brother as car owner back in the day as a cost-saving move.
“Times were hard back then, and I probably saved $10 or $15 by listing Ray Lee as the car owner,” he said. “I had to buy a driver’s license for myself, and if I listed myself as the car owner, I’d have to have two licenses. So it saved one license by putting Ray Lee as the owner.”
Despite running a limited schedule for most of their NASCAR careers, the Woods have had several strong finishes in the championship battle. In 1974, with David Pearson at the wheel, the Woods ran just 19 of the 30 races that year but still finished third behind champion Richard Petty and runner-up Cale Yarborough on the strength of seven wins and 15 top-five finishes, five of which were second-place.
“Some of those years, all we would have had to do to win the championship was run a few more races,” Wood said, adding that if his team were to get the sponsorship needed to run all the races each year he’d relish the chance to compete for another championship.
Wood said the new format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup has brought much more publicity to the sport, especially in the final weeks of the season, but it also makes for some nerve-wracking times for the participants.
“There’s been a lot of ink about the Chase,” he said. “But the way it is now, even the best teams can get knocked out by an accident that’s no fault of theirs.”
“No matter how it goes, somebody will be the champion when it’s over.”
Qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 is set for Friday at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on ESPN.