Category Archives: Classic Memories

Michael Waltrip Made All-Star History with The Wood Brothers Ford

When Len Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford Fusion, considers his team’s all-time accomplishments, he counts 98 wins in the series now known as Sprint Cup plus a victory in the sport’s All-Star race.

Although the annual event at Charlotte Motor Speedway doesn’t pay points, it pays big bucks and is a prestigious event in its own right.

The Woods got their win in the 1996 running; then known as, The Winston Select, during their first year with Michael Waltrip at the wheel of the iconic No. 21 Ford. The Woods and Waltrip had opened the season with some strong runs, and had been in position to win on more than one occasion, only to come up short.

In the All-Star race, they had to run the Winston Open, a race for those who hadn’t won a points-paying race the previous season, just to have a chance to advance to the main event.

Len Wood recalled that engine builder Danny Glad had provided a strong engine for the race; but the team, despite its record of success at Charlotte over the years, was considered a dark horse.

Waltrip finished fifth in the Open to take the final slot in the main event.

During the short break between the two races, Waltrip and the second generation members of the Wood Brothers team, Len and Eddie, talked about the adjustments they needed to make for the main event.

“Michael called a lot of the shots as far as the set-ups he wanted,” Eddie Wood said. “We put everything exactly like he wanted it.”

That meant wholesale changes of spring rubbers as well as adjustments to the track bar and other suspension components.

Waltrip and the No. 21 lined up at the rear of the field and made it halfway to the front by the first break. The inversion wasn’t an issue for him, and Waltrip continued his march forward. He made his big move in the final 10-lap segment. As Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte raced side-by-side for the lead, Waltrip drove low on the race track and motored away from the field to score his first major triumph in 12 years of competing in NASCAR’s elite division. It was the first time in the history of the All-Star race that a driver had advanced from the preliminary run to win the main event.

Waltrip said in an interview a few years back that the victory was important because it showed that he belonged on the Cup circuit and in the No. 21 Ford.

“It was big for me because the Wood Brothers entrusted me with their car,” he said. “That’s a family team, and they’d had so much success at Charlotte with David Pearson and had picked me to drive their car.”

“That was a quarter of the way into our first season together. It validated their decision in hiring me to drive their car.”

Eddie Wood said that even though the race was a non-points event, it was a major milestone for Waltrip and the Woods.

“Every big name in the sport was there,” he said. “And at the time, it was a really big story.”

Len Wood said the winner’s paycheck was further evidence of the significance of the accomplishment. “It was a little over $211,000,” he said. “That was the biggest payday we’d ever had at that point. Some people said that win didn’t count because it didn’t pay points, but it counted at the bank.”

The victory also ended a three-year losing skid for the Woods, one that dated back to 1993 and a win at Atlanta by Morgan Shepherd, one that paid $70,350.

The Woods and Waltrip raced together through the 1998 season then parted company but remain good friends today.

Len Wood said that he’s hitched rides on Waltrip’s airplane occasionally, and sometimes sends him text messages when Waltrip’s on the air broadcasting races in the Camping World Truck Series.

“We get along really well,” Wood said.

Waltrip will return to this year’s Sprint All-Star Race as owner of the cars driven by Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin, and Clint Bowyer. The Wood Brothers are entered with Trevor Bayne driving the No.21 Good Sam/Camping World Ford Fusion.

Cale Yarborough Got First Darlington Win in No.21 Wood Brothers 1968 Mercury Cyclone

This weekend at Darlington Raceway, Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 car will sport a special paint scheme honoring Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough.  The Timmonsville, S.C. native won 55 races in a car numbered 11.

Yarborough also won 13 races in a car numbered 21 and fielded by the Wood Brothers of Stuart, Va.

Yarborough had just one victory in the series, now known as Sprint Cup — on the half-mile dirt track in Valdosta, Ga — when he was hired by the Woods midway through the 1966 season.

He scored his first major victory the next year, when he sat on the pole and won at Atlanta.  It wasn’t until 1968 that he began to deliver the kind of results that Ford executive Charlie Gray had in mind, when he convinced the Woods to put the relatively inexperienced Yarborough in their potent No. 21 Fords and Mercurys.

Yarborough won the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. He won the spring race at Atlanta and the first Martinsville race.

The fifth of his six wins that season, in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway; however, was a special one for both driver and team.

It was the first of five victories at his home track for Yarborough, and the first of eight at Darlington for the Wood Brothers.

Leonard Wood, the team’s crew chief in those days, recalled that Yarborough was sick heading into one of the most grueling races on the schedule.

“He had the flu or something,” Wood said. “You can look at his picture in the Winner’s Circle and tell that he was under the weather.”

While the driver wasn’t feeling up to par, his car was. He qualified on the outside pole and led the first 16 laps.

Wood said that; then and now, the secret to success at Darlington, is having a fast car from the time it’s unloaded.

“You set your wedge and handling like you think it ought to be.” Wood said. “If you didn’t hit it right on the money in the first practice, you wound up working for it.

“Most of the time if you weren’t right when you got there, you didn’t get it right; but that time we hit it right on the money, and he ran well all day.”

Yarborough led 169 of 364 laps that day, but his biggest challenge came from a fellow South Carolinian who would go on to drive the No. 21 – David Pearson.

As was his style, Pearson, driving the Holman-Moody Ford, stalked Yarborough as the laps began to wind down. When he made his move at Lap 320, the two cars touched. Yarborough bounced off the guardrail while Pearson spun into the grass.

“It didn’t knock Cale out,” Wood said. “He kept on getting it.”

Even though the caution flag never flew, Pearson caught Yarborough again, but was unable to wrestle the lead from him.

In his post-race comments, as reported in Greg Fielden’s Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, Yarborough credited his victory to a decision by the Woods to switch brands of tires early in the race, even though it meant losing two laps.

“The tire change was the key to our victory,” he said.

Leonard Wood said changing tire brands in mid-race isn’t as radical as it sounds today.

“That was kind of common in those days,” he said. “If one set of tires was doing better than the other, you just switched.”

Wood said when Yarborough was driving the No.21, the hard-charging style he showed that day at Darlington was always evident.

“There was never a need to put the ‘Go’ sign on the pit board,” Wood said. “He ran hard all the time. He was a go-getter as far as giving it all he had every lap. He really wanted to win, and he was strong physically, and determined. Yarborough was driven to win and didn’t like losing at all. At Daytona in July of ’67, there was a rain delay late in the race. We were in fourth place, and I would have been happy if it had rained it out; but he said, ‘Oh no, there are three more spots up there’ and he went out and won the thing on the restart.”

Wood said in the years since, Yarborough, who was named Ford’s Man of the Year in 1968, has remained close to his old team.

“He’s always been an A-Number-One friend,” Wood said. “He was when we had him as a driver. We never had any arguments, not one disagreement.”

Pearson-Wood Brothers Combo Was A Winner From The Start

Forty years ago this month, one of the great pairings in the history of NASCAR hit the track for the first time.

It was at Darlington Raceway, on April 16, 1972, that David Pearson first drove a car for the Wood Brothers race team.

Pearson, who hadn’t won a race in NASCAR’s premier division in more than a year and hadn’t won on a superspeedway in two years, was hired to take over the No. 21 Mercury for A.J. Foyt, who was moving on to concentrate on his Indy Car racing.

Some in the sport at that time speculated that Pearson, then 37, was past his prime after winning 60 races and three championships. He’d only won three races in the previous two years combined, and his average finish in 1971 was just 18.9.

But Crew Chief Leonard Wood and the Wood Brothers believed otherwise.

“We’d raced against David, and we knew how competitive and how good he was,” Wood said. “We knew he was available, and when we got the chance to get him we took it.”

Pearson had similar thoughts about the Woods, and it turned out that both parties were right.

While some driver-crew combinations take weeks or months for the chemistry to click, Pearson and the Woods hit it off from the start of practice that week at Darlington.

“You have crew chiefs and drivers get together, and sometimes it takes six months to hit the right combination,” Wood said. “But man, we hit it that first race. I knew what he was thinking, and he knew what I was thinking.”

During their first practice session together, Wood soon discovered that one of the things that others had told him about Pearson was indeed true.

The word was that Pearson would never show his hand in practice but still assure his team that the speed was there. He’d run hard on one corner on one lap, then run the other side of the track on another lap, learning what he needed to know without ever running hard all the way around the track until it counted.

When practice was done, Pearson told the Woods not to worry.

“Sure enough, after practice he told us: ‘I might run a little quicker when I qualify,’” Wood said.

When qualifying was done, Pearson had the No. 21 Mercury on the pole with a lap at 148.209 miles per hour. He would go on to win 50 more poles driving for the Woods.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than having somebody run faster in qualifying than in practice, and David always did that the whole time he drove for us,” he said. “He knew what he had left.”

That Rebel 400 also launched a renewed rivalry between Pearson and Richard Petty. A hungry Pearson had put Petty behind him when Petty had to make a couple of unscheduled pit stops.

Leonard Wood remembers that Petty knew he was in for a battle.

“Richard made the comment that he knew David wasn’t going to back off,” he said.

Wood said he was amazed at how easily Pearson handled tough tracks like Darlington and at how simple it was to set up a car for him.

“His driving style just matched our way of setting a car up,” Wood said. “It just clicked from the start.”

Wood recalled that while some drivers left him with an uneasy feeling as they ran Darlington, Pearson made it look smooth.

“He knew exactly when to back off and when to get back on it,” Wood said, adding that Pearson was especially good at negotiating the old Turn Four [now Turn Two]. “He’d run down into Three and let that thing go up to the high side. Then he’d run part throttle for a little way, and he knew when to bring it off the wall and make a straight shot out.”

While many of his competitors were flirting with a Darlington Stripe off of Turn Four, Pearson usually wasn’t.

“He never looked like he was in any danger coming off of Four,”

Wood said. “He brought it off earlier and dropped down low three-fourths of the way through the turn and ran it straight out of there.

“I remember it well. The car would kind of leap twice over the bumps there, but it was completely straight, and he was just flying coming out of there.”

Pearson parlayed those Darlington skills into his 61st Cup victory and the first of 43 that he would win with the Woods. He also prevailed in a 1-2 finish with Petty. From 1963 to 1977, Pearson and Petty finished 1-2 on 63 occasions with Pearson holding a 33-30 edge.

Leonard Wood said those days with Pearson were as good as it gets in racing.

“We became very close,” Wood said. “We sure had a great experience, a great racing career.”

Leonard Wood’s Lawn Mower Is A Mechanical Marvel

Throughout the decades in which he served as crew chief for the Wood Brothers race team, Leonard Wood was known for being able to take his machine tools and solve most any problem and create some innovative components as well.

It was that same approach to problem solving that led Wood to build one of the most tricked-out lawn mowers ever to snip a blade of grass. He’s also built an even fancier one for his brother Glen Wood, and it’s on display in the Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart, Va. Not surprisingly, both mowers carry the same paint scheme as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusions that the team fields for Trevor Bayne on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

Leonard’s mower can be seen in Stuart as well – when he’s mowing his front lawn.

The lawn mowers are the solution to the problems Wood used to experience mowing a steep slope on his property.

“This bank in front of my house, you try to mow it with a self-propelled, walk-behind mower and your ankle would turn and it would wear you out,” Wood said. “I thought to myself: I’m going to make me a lawn mower, wide and low to the ground that will mow that bank without turning over.”

He said it’s the same approach he used when preparing the No. 21 Fords and Mercuries that many of the sport’s greatest drivers steered to Victory Lane 98 times since 1950.

“In racing, when you’ve got a problem, you think about how to fix it and what can you do to make things easier,” he said.

What he came up with to solve his mowing problem rivaled some of his handiwork on race cars and pit equipment.

“I just made the thing with four-wheel independent suspension so it rides good; it’s automatic, hydrostat,” he said. “It takes about two swipes to mow the bank and that’s it.”

Seeing the mower in operation, Glen Wood decided he wanted one of his own, and Leonard put even more innovations on the second one.

“I spent a little more of his money,” Leonard said with a laugh. “I thoroughly enjoyed building it. I fixed his just like I wanted it.”

The Leonard Wood lawn mowers definitely have a motorsports look to them. The updated version of Leonard’s mower has an Indy-car like nose on it. Both have big tires, roll bars and chrome bumpers. Even the suspension components are like miniature versions of those found on Cup cars.

“They look pretty cool,” he said. “I wanted them to be racy looking.”

Wood said that other than the engines, none of the components are from regular lawn mowers.

“I just visualized what it was going to look like and what I wanted, and I just went and made it,” he said. “I didn’t make any drawings or anything. I got the material, sawed it out and welded it together.

“It’s all from scratch; it’s not copied from anything.”

Unlike his race cars, Wood’s lawn mowers aren’t known for setting speed records.

“You don’t want a lawn mower running fast,” he said.

But the subject of getting speed from them has come up.

A state trooper who had seen Wood’s mower in operation wanted him to prepare it for a speed run at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

“He wanted me to speed this thing up and let him take it to Bonneville,” Wood said, adding that a lawn mower speed record wouldn’t be out of the question. “It’s got suspension on it similar to a race car. You could make it run as fast as you wanted to, like a Midget or something. There’s no limit to how fast you could make it run.”

Wood decided to hold off on a Bonneville run. Instead, he gets his satisfaction from just mowing the grass and watching his creation perform just as he designed it.

“When you go over a bump, you can see the tire going up and down while the vehicle remains level,” he said. “It’s neat to see the A-frames and the suspension working.

“It’s definitely the best riding lawn mower I’ve ever been on.”

Before There Was A Speedway, NASCAR Raced on Daytona’s Beach – Courtesy of NASCAR

For Immediate Release

Before There Was A Speedway, NASCAR Raced On Daytona’s Beach
Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne To Make Ceremonial Visit In Woods’ No. 21 Ford

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2012) — You could call Daytona’s Beach & Road Course one of America’s first off-road competitions. At least part of it.

More than half of the temporary track was sand, a pair of turns and a long strip of beach linked to Route A1A’s pavement. It was unique to say the least but ultimately drew tens of thousands of post-war race fans to Central Florida before Speedweeks was shifted a few miles northwest to Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

“It was just like a dirt track,” said NASCAR Hall of Fame member Glen Wood, who won three sportsman races on the beach and finished 11th in his only NASCAR premier series start in 1957. “The turns were like a half-mile track – one bank to the other.”

On Friday, last year’s Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne will drive his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford over a section of the beach course to the track’s former north turn. Following a press conference, Bayne will continue on to the speedway, where he’ll present the American Ethanol Green Flag to symbolically open 2012 Speedweeks festivities.

Racing began on a 3.2-mile course in 1936. Daytona Beach racer Sig Haugdahl promoted the first two events, which weren’t commercially successful. City officials gave promotional rights to Bill France, who wore both a promoter’s hat and a competitor’s helmet – and with the latter won the Labor Day event in 1938 and a July race the following year.

France reinstated competition following World War II. The course was lengthened to 4.1 miles, beginning at 4511 S. Atlantic Blvd. then continuing two miles down paved A1A to the Beach Street approach where the track’s south turn took the field onto the packed sand for a two-mile run back to the north turn. The races were scheduled to coincide with low tide.

The formation of NASCAR, at the nearby Streamline Hotel, led to the beach races becoming the organization’s premier event until the construction of Darlington Raceway in 1950. The 1949 race, won by NASCAR’s first champion Red Byron, was held in July. The following year’s event was moved to February where it remains today.

Additional races for convertibles, modifieds and sportsman cars were added during NASCAR’s first decade creating the Speedweeks concept upon which France expanded even further with the opening of Daytona International Speedway in 1959. A total of 10 NASCAR premier series races were run at the Beach & Road Course.

Some highlights from those early races:

· The 1952 race, won by Marshall Teague in a Hudson, was shortened two laps because of the incoming tide.
· In 1953, a whopping 136 cars started the modified/sportsman race, still NASCAR’s largest field.
· Technical infractions caused apparent winners in 1954 and 1955 – Tim Flock and Fireball Roberts – to be disqualified handing victories to Lee Petty and Flock.
· Charlie Scott became the first African-American driver to start a NASCAR premier series race in 1956. Scott, driving one of Carl Kiekhaefer’s famed Chrysler 300s, finished 19th in a field of 76 cars.
· Cotton Owens drove a Pontiac, sponsored by Daytona Beach auto dealer Jim Stephens, to its first NASCAR premier series win in 1957.

Flock and Teague won twice. Byron, Owens, Petty, Harold Kite, Bill Blair and Paul Goldsmith were the race’s other winners. The race maintained its local flavor throughout the years. Teague, who later lost his life testing an Indianapolis-type roadster at Daytona International Speedway, was from Daytona Beach as was master mechanic and innovator Smokey Yunick, who fielded Goldsmith’s winning Pontiac in 1958.

Teague was nicknamed “King of the Beach” based on his performances but Wood’s favorite was Curtis Turner, who won two convertible races and had a best NASCAR premier series finish of second. Turner, along with NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bud Moore, will be inducted into the Oceanside Rotary Club of Daytona Beach’s Hall of Fame on Feb. 20. NASCAR President Mike Helton will induct Moore. Both Wood and his brother Leonard also are members of the hall.

For sure, Turner’s driving style stood out on the beach portion of the course. “He was the most spectacular of anyone,” said Wood. “He’d turn it sideways (on the straightaway) but he was under control the whole time. You knew it was him when he’d come into sight crossways. Buck Baker and Joe Weatherly were fast but not as spectacular.”

Racing conditions were hit and miss – mostly miss during the race’s latter stages. The turns would get chopped up. Historic photos taken during modified and sportsman races show cars that had gone over the embankments on their sides and left where they stopped.

“I remember Ralph Moody did a complete flip, landed back on his wheels and kept on going,” said Wood, who completed eight of the nine races in which he participated and never was involved in an accident. “If you missed the turn, you’d go down the beach, turn around and come back.”

Racing in the sportsman division, the Woods replaced their car’s vacuum-powered windshield wipers with an electrical unit which caught fire. Wood pulled off the track prepared to watch his 1950 Ford go up in flames. A man appeared out of the palmetto bushes with a CO2 extinguisher and put out the fire – a figure apparently undeterred by France’s “Beware of Rattlesnakes” signs designed to keep out non-paying customers.

“I still had my helmet on so I got back in, kept going and we still won,” said Wood.

Although the Woods towed their cars to Daytona, many competitors drove to the event, taped up headlights and raced, “basically like running on the highway,” said Wood. Not everyone, however, was able to make the return trip on four wheels.

Louise Smith, according to Wood, was one who had to make the “uh-oh” telephone call when she crashed her Ford on the first lap of the 1950 race. “She called her husband to tell him she’d wrecked it,” said Wood. “I’m not sure it was even paid for.”

Glen Wood’s Final Run Was A Fine One

A wise man once said that the best time to leave a party is while everyone is still having fun. The same can be said for race car drivers in deciding when to end their driving careers.

Many a race car driver hangs on to the steering wheel long after they’ve passed their driving prime, but NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood ran his final race as a driver when he was still among the sport’s best.

Wood’s last run came at one of his home tracks, Starkey Speedway near Roanoke, Va., on Aug. 23, 1964 in a race for the series now known as Sprint Cup.

“Ironically that was the only race that I helped promote,” he said.

“It was Marvin Panch, John Moose and me.”

Panch had been driving the No. 21 Ford on the bigger tracks, while Wood drove on most of the shorter ovals. And since his was the bigger name around Starkey, Wood would do the driving.

“It was thought at the time that since I had won seven in a row there with my Modified we’d have a better crowd if I drove it,” Wood said.

He qualified on the pole for the 50-mile run on the quarter-mile paved track. He and Junior Johnson won their respective 25-lap heat races, but the wins came at considerable expense to their softer left-side tires.

“When the heat races were over, we got to looking at the tires,” Wood said. “The two of us had worn them down, but one of [Johnson’s] was still pretty good.  His crew wanted to know if they could have my best left-side tire to go with their best one.”

Since Johnson had been the one who helped Wood get the softer left-side tires, Wood agreed to let Johnson have his best left-side tire and he’d run hard tires on the left side of the No. 21.

“If I had known that that was the last race I’d ever run, he’d have had to put on some hard tires like I did,” Wood said. “He might have still outrun me that way, but I thought he’d blow the tire out.

“But he didn’t. I held him off for five for six laps, but I let him go. I knew what he had.”
Ned Jarrett caught Wood too, and he let him pass as well.

“After I let Junior go, I wasn’t too concerned about where I finished,” Wood said.

Even with the win out of his grasp, Wood had to draw the line somewhere.

“About five laps to go, I felt somebody tap me in the rear end,” he said. It was David Pearson in Cotton Owens’ No. 6 Dodge.

‘The other two in front of me were Fords, and that was all right,” Wood said of the drivers he’d let by. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to let him go with five laps to go.’

“And I held him off.”

Johnson won over Jarrett, Wood and Pearson, but top four in that race turned out to have a lot more in common than good finishes at Starkey Speedway. All have since been become members of one of the first three classes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 15th-place finisher at Starkey made it too, in the first round. His name – Richard Petty.

Five future Hall of Famers in a race is a statistic any promoter could be proud of. 
A one-hour biography reflecting on Glen Wood’s career will be featured on SPEED TV tonight, January 13, 2012, at 8 p.m. est.

The Woodchopper Lived Up to His Hard-Earned Nickname

Only those who know just how hard the work is around a sawmill can fully appreciate how much Glen Wood’s early nickname “The Woodchopper” says about him. They know it goes a long way toward explaining how he and the race team he founded went on to win 98 Sprint Cup races and earn the team founder a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Before Wood was a racer, he was a sawmiller. Sawmilling in the 1940s was physically demanding, required long hours and mechanical ability, and involved both physical and financial risks. In other words, it was a lot like running a NASCAR race team. And Wood was good at it.

His first sawmill experience came as a teenager, when he hired on to a crew and was assigned the job of carrying the slabs away from the mill.

In a typical portable sawmill of Wood’s era, the person running the saw, the sawyer, operated the levers and determined what kinds of boards would be cut from a log. One person stood to his right and helped roll the logs onto the rolling carriage that carried the logs down the track where the spinning blade sliced off a section at a time.

The sawyer and helper rotate the logs as the round bark edges, or slabs, were sawed off, leaving a square beam that would then be sliced into lumber. On the other side of the large circular blade would be one person who would “off bear” or remove the freshly sawn board.

Another would dispose of the slabs, and still another would operate the edger, a separate device consisting of multiple blades that cut the edges off wide boards, many of which still had bark on the sides.

In a modern sawmill, hydraulic lifts move the logs around. In Wood’s day, it was done by hand, with a tool called a “cant hook.” Cant hooks have heavy wooden handles, with a swinging spike at the end. The spike is hooked into the log before turning, but it will easily come loose once the log is turned.

Still, great strength is required to roll over a log weighing several hundred pounds.

“It was a hard job, especially to turn a big log,” Wood recalled. “How I was big enough to do it, I still don’t know. But I got pretty good at it.

“The sawyer, Will Hopkins, would sometimes help me turn it.  Sometimes the logs were big enough that both of us could hardly turn them over.”

Wood went from turning logs to hauling lumber after it was sawn.“I had an old cab-over-engine truck,” he said. “It was a very awkward truck to drive into the woods to get the lumber.”

He eventually swapped it for a conventional – and more powerful – truck, and continued on with his hauling business until he and his eventual racing partner Chris Williams went into the sawmill business.“We bought the mill and had different people sawing for us,” he said. “One morning we went out to saw, and the sawyer didn’t show up.

“I decided: ‘I’ll just see if I can do this.’ I’d been turning logs and running the edger, so I knew enough about it, I thought, even though I’d never attempted to do any sawing.

“I was cautious to begin with, but before long I was sawing as good as anybody we’d been hiring.”

On good days, Wood could saw between 8,000 and 10,000 board feet. (A board foot is the equivalent of a 1-by-12 inch board one foot long.) Production depends largely on the size and quality of the log, the skill of the sawyer and the horsepower at his disposal.

Eventually he and Williams sold their mill and Wood went to work sawing for Williams’ brother.

By then he was also driving race cars, which made for many a long day and night. He’d be in the woods by daylight to start sawing, then go straight from the woods to a race track and drive a race car that night.

“Somebody would bring the car by where I was working, and pick me up and go on to the track where we were racing,” Wood said.

Among the many items in the Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart, Va., is an old cant hook, which says as much about Wood and his team’s work ethic as any other piece there.

The Woodchopper himself is there most days too, and even at age 86, he’s still strong enough to turn a good sized log if he needed to.

Weaverville Pile-Up Unique For NASCAR and Glen Wood

In his long career as a NASCAR driver and team owner, Glen Wood, who is being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this month, has been a part of many of the sport’s historic moments.

Many of them are associated with his team’s 98 victories in the Sprint Cup division, but one in particular was a rare occurrence for both Wood and NASCAR. Neither came away winners that day.

It happened on Sept. 30, 1956, at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway.

The race was for NASCAR’s Convertible Division, a circuit that ran from 1956-1959, with Wood being one of the top drivers, In 89 starts, he had five victories, nine poles, 43 top-five and 62 top-10 finishes.

At Asheville that day in the fall of 1956, Wood qualified on the outside pole in a field of 24 cars. Well into the race, it was an all-Ford show at the front, with Curtis Turner leading Joe Weatherly and Wood.

“The track kept getting dustier and dustier as time went on,” Wood recalled. “We kept running through the dust on the backstretch coming off Turn Two, then we’d pop out on the other side and you could see again.

“But you couldn’t see a thing as you went into it.”

That went on for lap after lap without incident, until there were about 20 laps left to run in the 100-mile race on the half-mile dirt track.

“All of a sudden, this particular time, there were cars wrecked in that dust,” Wood said. “I didn’t know it. There wasn’t a caution or anything, or if there was, I didn’t see it. Evidently no one else did either.”

“I went into that dust into a pile of cars wide open,” he said. “It threw me down across the steering wheel, and split my nose and mouth open. I started to get up and get out of the car and I about passed out, so I just sat back down.

“I remember seeing Joe Weatherly getting out of his car, and he jumped up on the fence and just hung onto it.

“They kept piling in there. They just kept on hitting.”

All told, 14 drivers were involved. Turner, who had managed to avoid the melee, was the only driver left on the track. So he wound up with the distinction of winning the only major NASCAR race ever cut short by a lack of competition.

And Wood, who was credited with third place, ended up with the only serious injury of his driving career.

He spent some time in the hospital while doctors patched up his nose.

“It didn’t hurt anything beyond that,” he said. “But it left me sounding like I had a stopped up nose when I talked.”

In his driving career, Wood took several other tumbles that left him with cracked ribs, relatively minor injuries especially given the lack of safety features in the race cars he drove, compared to the cars of today.

“I went over the bank once at Hillsborough [N.C.] and cracked a rib,” he said, chuckling at the comments of one of the first people to reach his wrecked racer.

“Somebody came over and said: ‘What happened to ol’ Turner?’

“I said: ‘I don’t know. I just got here.’ He didn’t even ask if I was all right.”

His experiences on tracks surrounded by fences made of upright boards gave special meaning to the old saying about drivers “knocking the wall down” in a crash.

“When you hit it, you knocked the whole thing down,” Wood said.

One time he knocked the fence down at a track in Draper, N.C., but it was no joking matter.

“Somebody crossed me up, and I went through the fence,” he said. “I had a little ‘34 Ford in that particular race.”

Wood said that race drivers often will say they closed their eyes just before impact, but in most cases that’s not true. In his case, it was. So it wasn’t until he and the crew were back in the shop at Stuart, Va., that he realized just how close a call he’d had.

“We got to looking at the car when we got home with it,” he said. “There was a dented streak, from a board, all the way from the front of the hood to the back of it, and the steering wheel was bent towards me.

“That just about scared me right there.”

Another time a broken spring shackle launched his car into the air at a track near Floyd, Va.

“I went straight over the bank,” he said. “I remember going through the air and it was quiet.”

Then his car slammed into the ground outside the track.

“Later I checked my helmet, and it had cracked it,” he said. “And I had dirt in my ear where I had landed on the driver’s side.

“How I didn’t get hurt I don’t know, unless that dirt was softer than I thought.”

It wasn’t enough to keep him out of a race car, even that same night.

“We had two cars at that time, and I was dumb enough to send my partner Chris Williams back to Stuart to get the other car,” Wood said, “He got back in time to start the race, but I think something happened to that one too.”

Wood said he never considered himself a daredevil, and he said he wasn’t much for superspeedway racing.

“I guess that’s one reason I quit, the speedways were getting really fast,” he said.

But Wood still finds it hard to explain how it is, he loved the breakneck speeds of the old beach-road course at Daytona, where speeds on the road portion of the track were much faster than those seen in the early days of Daytona International Speedway, but didn’t like the sweeping new track.

“We used to run faster on the sand than we did at the big track at Daytona,” he said. “We ran a two-mile straight run. However fast the car would run, that’s how fast you’d go.

“I liked that, but somehow I didn’t care for the new speedway that much.”

Charlotte Paint Scheme Honors Glen Wood’s Last Winning Ride

The Wood Brothers have had lots to celebrate in 2011, including a win in the Daytona 500 and the election of team founder Glen Wood into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The celebration continues during the Bank of America 500 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as the paint scheme on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion honors Glen Wood’s final win as a race driver.

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane car will be painted in the same colors as the 1963 Ford Galaxie that Wood drove to victory at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on July 13, 1963, and crew members will wear shirts just like the ones the Wood Brothers wore in the mid-1960s.

That No. 21 Ford from 1963 was rugged, fast and versatile. In its first race, at Riverside, Calif., Fred Lorenzen turned the car over in practice, but the Woods repaired it at the track, and Lorenzen took a 22nd-place finish. From there it was on to Daytona, where the Woods’ regular driver Marvin Panch was badly burned in a sports car crash and one of his rescuers, Tiny Lund, took over the No. 21 and drove it to victory in the Daytona 500 in one of the biggest stories ever in auto racing.

Wood returned to the seat at Bowman-Gray that July, and the “Master of the Madhouse” lived up to his nickname earned on the quarter-mile track known then and now as the “Madhouse.”

He started on the pole, but was involved in an early spin. While fellow future Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett took turns on the point, Wood was using his mastery of the Madhouse to work his way back to the front, no small feat on the small, narrow track. On Lap 107 of 200, he took the lead from Jarrett and led the rest of the way.

The red-and-white Ford was back in Victory Lane on Sept. 29 at North Wilkesboro Speedway with Panch driving, and Dave MacDonald finished second in it at Riverside. That talented stable of drivers combined to give the Woods the 1963 car owner’s championship for the series now known as Sprint Cup.

Then that history-making Ford was turned back in to Holman Moody in exchange for a new model, and the Woods began to focus on building a faster car for the 1964 season.

The Stuart, Va.-based team also began to change its strategy when it came to its driver line-up.

With the team finding increasing success with other drivers behind the wheel of their fast Fords, Glen Wood soon cut back on his driving. After his win at Bowman Gray, he only ran three more races, two of them at Bowman Gray. Then the driving portion of his Hall of Fame career came to a close on Aug. 23, 1964, at Starkey Speedway in Roanoke, Va., where he started on the pole and finished third in a race that he also helped promote.

The 2011 version of the Wood Brothers’ car will carry the same color scheme as the ’63 version, with red on the bottom of the car and white on top, and the logos will be 60s style as well. Glen Wood’s name will be on the roof, but where the Glen Wood-driven version carried the logos of English Ford in High Point, N.C., the Trevor Bayne-wheeled car will have Motorcraft/Quick Lane instead. But as Wood’s son and team co-owner Eddie Wood pointed out, the sponsor really is the same, even after nearly 50 years.

“Back then it said ‘English Ford’ but it was really sponsored by the Ford factory,” Wood said. “And 48 years later we’re still sponsored by Ford Motor Company.”

For the 20-year-old Bayne, the Charlotte paint scheme is another part of his ongoing, year-long lesson in Wood Brothers and NASCAR history. Since he began driving for the Woods about a year ago, one of Bayne’s favorite parts of the job is being around the shop and hearing stories from the past from Glen, Leonard, Eddie or Len Wood. The conversations are a bridge to an earlier era, one that drivers his age and many a fan know little of.

“When they’re telling stories, I think, ‘Did racing really used to be that way?’” he said, adding that the Woods’ history is in many ways the history of NASCAR. “The Wood Brothers are timeless. They have wins and history from the early days of the sport until now. They’re very proud of their history.”

Bayne said that as he runs paint schemes like the ones he’s run featuring David Pearson and now Glen Wood, he’s reminded that the men he knows only as friendly senior citizens once were tough competitors behind the wheel in an often rough-and-tumble era.

“But you can tell that once they put the helmet on they’d really go for it,” he said. “Glen Wood is The Man.”

Donnie Wingo, the current crew chief on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, has only been a part of the Wood Brothers history for a short time, but he’s been friends with the family for years.

So it’s no surprise that he’s already a fan of the throwback paint scheme that will adorn the same Fusion that Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. drove to an 11th-place finish earlier this year at Charlotte when he was filling in for the recovering Bayne.

“It’s pretty cool,” Wingo said. “The car really stands out. I like the background and the way it makes the numbers and the writing on the car stand out.”

And Wingo likes the idea of being part of a gesture to honor a true racing legend.

“It means a lot,” he said.

Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 is set for Thursday at 7:10 p.m., and the race is set to get the green flag on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with TV coverage on ABC.

Pearson’s Daytona 500 Winner Was One Memorable Mercury

As he watches his rookie driver Trevor Bayne work his way into a job in the Sprint Cup Series, Eddie Wood can’t help but think back to the days when he was just coming into his own as a mechanic on his family’s race team.

One race that stands above the rest from Wood’s early days as a full-time mechanic was the 1976 Daytona 500, a race that is rated by many as having the most exciting finish ever in NASCAR.

In that race, the Woods’ driver David Pearson drove a 1976 Mercury Montego.

Eddie Wood, now a co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Bayne, remembers that the car arrived at the team’s race shop in Stuart, Va., as just a rolling chassis with the roof and quarter panels tack welded on. It was built up to that point by famed car builder Banjo Matthews, and it was up to the team to complete the car and prepare it for racing. Unlike today, where teams prepare fleets of cars to start the season, the Woods had just one car to build. And whereas today’s race teams have dozens of mechanics assigned to car preparation, the Woods handled that basically by themselves.
Team founder Glen Wood, his brother Leonard, and Glen’s sons Eddie and Len had just one full-time employee besides themselves working in the shop.

Eddie Wood, then 24, said he and his brother decided they’d like to paint the inside of their car something other than the dull flat black that it had been in the past. Their inspiration came in part from seeing their friends and rivals at Petty Enterprises paint the insides of their cars blue.

Wood said the first color chosen for the Mercury’s interior was silver.

“We painted it in the middle of the floor,” Wood said.

But when it was done, it just didn’t look right.

“We got together, Len, myself and Leonard and got lacquer thinner and some rags and wiped all that paint off,” he said. “Then we painted it in red lacquer.”

Wood said that experience illustrated how his uncle Leonard, who is still regarded as one of the brightest minds in the NASCAR garage, was patient with his nephews and willing to try their ideas on a race car.

But, as Wood pointed out, Leonard’s primary focus was on that No. 21 and making it fast. And at the race tracks, when Len and Eddie would wander around the garage and check out other cars, Leonard never ventured far from the No. 21’s garage stall.

“He stuck close with the car,” Wood said. “It was his baby.”
For the ’76 Daytona 500, Leonard’s baby was one of the best in the field.

A former Woods driver, A.J. Foyt led the most laps that day, but his Hoss Ellington Chevrolet blew an engine. Buddy Baker, who would eventually drive the No. 21, led 28 laps in Bud Moore’s Ford, but also blew an engine.

But all the while, from the drop of the green flag, the two drivers at the head of the class were Pearson and Richard Petty, just as they were at countless other races and countless other tracks back in the day.

The Pettys and Woods were fierce rivals, but also friends. It was true then, and it’s true today. “We’ve always been friends with the Pettys,” Wood said. “When we were running a limited schedule and happened to fall out of a race, we’d go stand with Dale Inman in Petty’s pits. It’s still that way today.”

As the laps wound down back in February of 1976, Pearson led from Lap 177 to 187. Then Petty led from 188-199.

As usual for those times, Eddie Wood was the only team member in radio contact with Pearson. “Leonard was the crew chief and changed tires, and he didn’t want to be bothered with the radio,” Wood said.

As Pearson trailed Petty under the white flag, Wood keyed his radio and asked his driver:
“Can you get him?”
The reply was brief: “I don’t know.”
The cars went out of sight into Turn One. With no TV monitor and no vantage point providing a view of the backstretch, Wood and the rest of the people on pit road were left to wonder what was happening.

As the cars roared off Turn Two down the backstretch, the crowd began to stand up. A roar was building.

Pearson came on the radio with a simple update: “I got him.”

Pearson went high to the lead, but Petty came back on the low side. The two future Hall of Famers ran side by side, but a slight bump set in motion a series of events that have become an unforgettable part of Daytona and NASCAR lore.

Wood still couldn’t see what was happening and only got a brief report from Pearson over the radio: “He hit me.”

By this point, everybody at Daytona International Speedway was going wild. “Especially me,” Wood said. “I knew what had happened before they came into sight.”
Wood looked to his right and saw Petty’s Dodge sliding through the grass toward the plane of the finish line. But he slid to a stop just shy of victory.

Then Wood heard Pearson on the radio, asking: “Where’s Richard?”

It was a moment that clearly illustrated just how calm Pearson was in that situation compared to everyone else around him.

“I couldn’t even find the button to push to answer him,” Wood said.

When Wood finally got the message back to Pearson that Petty had not crossed the finish line, Pearson responded, as calm as ever: “I’m coming.”
And he won the Daytona 500, at about 20 miles per hour.

Wood said that over the years, he’s watched replays of that finish, and come to appreciate even more just how calm the Silver Fox was in those critical moments.

“When he asked me ‘Where’s Richard’ he was spinning,” Wood said. “He had clutched the car and was keeping it running, which was using both feet. He had to use one hand to push the talk button, which was on his shoulder harness, and he still had to steer the car.

“And there was no emotion in his voice.”
In the years since, moments like that have helped build a special bond between Pearson and Wood.
“There was nobody monitoring the radio,” Wood said. “I’m the only one that knows just how calm he was.”
But the story of that Mercury and David Pearson didn’t end with that finish. The car was rebuilt and Pearson drove it to victory in the sport’s other two big races that year – the World 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington, all won with the same engine block that was in the car at Daytona.

The car later served as a show car for series sponsor Winston, then ended up parked out back of the Woods’ shop in Stuart, made obsolete by NASCAR’s downsizing of the Cup cars.

“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. At last report it was on display in the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Neb.