Category Archives: Glen Wood

Careful Car Preparation a Wood Brothers Tradition

Tradition is a big part of the culture and heritage of the Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane race team, the family-owned outfit that has been a bedrock of NASCAR for the past 60 years.

The No. 21 team, throughout its existence, has been known for having hard-working, enterprising and dedicated people preparing their race cars. For many years, Leonard Wood, the brother of team founder Glen Wood, was the one leading the car-preparation effort. Today, that role is filled by David Hyder, who in many ways is like a modern-day Leonard Wood, only with some short-track driving experience on his resume.

Just as Leonard Wood once was known for working day and night to gain his team a mechanical advantage, Hyder is similarly driven to make his race cars the best they can be. Both are known for their careful attention to even the smallest details.

Even though Hyder and the Wood Brothers crew are running a limited Sprint Cup schedule, he and his crew put in a full-time effort.

On a recent night, while other Cup teams were traveling to Watkins Glen, Hyder was working late, spending time on the seven-post test rig, trying to wring a few more miles per hour from the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion that Bill Elliott will drive this weekend in the Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

It’s the car that the team debuted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago, one that showed great promise in the Brickyard 400 as Elliott was among the fastest in practice and drove from 31st to 18th in the race.

Hyder said he’s been working to find a good balance on the car’s handling and likes what he’s seen so far.

“It’s a good car,” he said. “We changed some things around for Indy, and it reacted as we expected to the adjustments we made during the race,” Hyder said.

The track at Michigan will pose different challenges than Indianapolis, but Hyder is preparing to conquer them. He said the sweeping turns require a chassis set-up that will allow Elliott to have plenty of rear grip when he takes off down the long, fast straightaways. And those straights will give Elliott a chance to put his FR9 Ford engine, a winner two weeks ago at Pocono with Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle at the wheel, to good use.

Hyder also is aware that many Michigan races over the years have boiled down to fuel mileage, and he’s got that aspect covered too. Team co-owner Len Wood generally figures fuel mileage and plans strategies as his father Glen Wood once did, and Hyder is plenty confident in his abilities.

“I’ll put Len up there against anybody on pit road as far as fuel mileage calculations,” Hyder said.

 Even though Hyder sees lots of improvement in his race team this season, like Leonard Wood in an earlier era, he’s not content to sit on his accomplishments to date.

“We’re trying to get better and better, and we’ve got to keep moving forward,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ve got a lot of good people working for us, and we’ll have better results before the end of the year.”

He’d like nothing better than to kick things off with a strong run at Michigan, in the backyard of the headquarters of Ford Motor Company.

“Working for the Wood Brothers, we all bleed Ford blue,” he said.

Qualifying for the Michigan is set for 3:40 p.m. on Friday, and the race gets the green flag on Sunday just after 1 p.m. with TV coverage on ESPN.

Wood Brothers Appearance with 1965 Indy-Winning Lotus at Goodwood Festival of Speed

In the 60 years that the Wood Brothers of Stuart, Va., have been racing automobiles, there have been many memorable moments. But few define the innovation and professionalism of the team as well as the 41.9 seconds they worked on pit road during the 1965 Indianapolis 500. That was the total time the late great Jim Clark and his Ford-powered Lotus spent on pit road during his victory in auto racing’s biggest race. Although many at the track that day initially were slow to realize what the Woods had pulled off, it soon became obvious. In the weeks afterward, the Woods drew world-wide acclaim for their stunningly quick pit work. “We got the most publicity in the least amount of time that we ever got in our lives,” Leonard Wood said. “We hit a home run for sure.”

That acclaim endures, and next week it will again be on the minds of racers everywhere as Clark’s winning car will participate in the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 2-4. The Festival of Speed, held on the grounds of the Goodwood House in West Sussex, England, features historic racing vehicles in a hill climb on a 1.16-mile course. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the event each day.

The Ford-powered Lotus the Woods serviced back in 1965 has spent most of its life in The Henry Ford (museum), but now it has been put back in racing condition by Clive Chapman, son the of the car’s original owner Colin Chapman. It will be driven by an old friend of the Woods, Sir Jackie Stewart, a fitting choice given that both he and Clark are Scots. Among the honored guests will be two of the original Wood Brothers, Leonard and Delano.

Delano hasn’t attended a NASCAR race since the last time he worked as jackman for the team’s famed No. 21, and that was back in 1983. Before the Lord steered him to church work instead of racing on Sundays, he set a record of 77 NASCAR superspeedway wins as a jackman, a mark that has yet to be bettered. Leonard Wood continues to be a familiar sight around race tracks as he works on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. Many in the sport, young and old, still consider him the smartest man in the garage.

The story of the Wood Brothers’ participation in the Indianapolis 500 actually started at a NASCAR race in Darlington, S.C., when Ford Motor Company racing official John Cowley approached Glen Wood, asking him if he’d help out with the Lotus-Ford effort in the 500. Wood was taken aback by a request from Ford Motor Company to have the team from the remote Virginia foothills, with no open-wheel racing experience, be a part of the Indianapolis 500. Glen Wood said his initial response: “Are you kidding?”

The Ford folks weren’t kidding, and being as loyal to the Blue Oval as they were, Glen and Leonard were off to Indy. The first challenge was building a relationship with a group of racers they’d never met. “We rolled up to that shop and didn’t know if those people were going to accept us or not, being a foreign crew and all,” Leonard Wood said. “But they really welcomed us and seemed happy we were there and wanted to help us any way they could.” The Woods then set to work on the fueling system they’d use on race day. Engineers from Ford and the race team had developed a fuel tank that had a giant venturi inside. The principle was simple, and time-proven. It’s the same device that allows fuel and air to flow quickly through a carburetor and makes airplanes fly. The Woods knew it would work.

Others were caught unaware, including one of the first inspectors to check out the team’s pit equipment. “The inspector said, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand dollars you can’t flow 20 gallons a minute through that thing,” Leonard Wood said. He declined the sure money, in the interest of keeping his secrets safe until race day. “All we were interested in was getting that thing through inspection and getting on with the program,” Wood said. To speed things up even more, Wood spent hours filing and fitting the connections of the fueling system, so hookups would be smooth and fast and there would be nothing impeding the rapid flow of fuel. He even climbed inside the fuel tank to do more grinding and polishing.

Glen and Leonard Wood also decided to bring in the rest of their NASCAR-proven pit crew – brothers Ray Lee and Delano, Kenny Martin, Ralph Edwards and Jim Reed. When it came time to practice pit stops, the Woods had Clark make a mock stop. But to keep their ingenuity under wraps, they waited a few seconds after Clark came to a stop before turning on the fuel. The results showed just how wrong that inspector had been just days before. “We turned that thing on, and it put in 58 gallons in 15 seconds,” Leonard Wood said. “It just sucked the fuel out of there. We knew then we were going to be under 20 seconds on the pit stops.”

Delano Wood recalled that one of the Lotus crewmembers who was clocking the stop immediately realized just how much of an advantage the Woods and the fueling system could give them. “As soon as he clicked that stopwatch, he started whistling away,” Delano said. “He knew that if things went well in the race it would be big.”

Glen Wood added that Clark had to do his part for the pit stops to work as planned. The two heavy fuel hoses needed to be in just the right position for maximum fuel flow and timely hookups, and that meant that Clark had to stop precisely where he was shown. “Leonard told Jim that he had to be close to the right spot every time or the hose wouldn’t reach,” Glen Wood said. “Jim said, ‘You tell me where to stop and I’ll stop.’ “He went out that lap in practice, and when he came in I thought he was going to drive plumb through the pit, but he squatted it down on the exact spot, and he did it every time. “He was a great driver.”

The Woods also prepared for tire changes during the race, sanding and filing on the wheels and hubs and practicing tire swaps. But that tire work turned out to be unnecessary. Clark ran the entire 500 on the same set of tires, giving the Woods the distinction of winning both the Daytona 500 (in 1963 with Tiny Lund driving) and the Indianapolis 500 without ever changing tires and of giving Ford Motor Company its first victories in the two premier events.

Still the pressure was on the Wood crew to perform on the biggest stage they’d ever seen – 350,000 to 400,000 people watching in person and millions more following the action on radio and TV. “I got a little bit nervous,” Delano Wood said. “But when that No. 82 turned off the track onto pit road, I went into 21 car mode. It took the nervousness out of me.” On the first stop, the Woods had Clark going again in a stunning 17 seconds. At that time a pit stop was expected to take a full minute or more.

While the rest of the team concentrated on fueling, with Glen and others cradling the hoses so they wouldn’t sag and slow the flow, brother Ray Lee used a depth gauge to measure the tire wear. The second stop, at 24.9 seconds, was a little slower, largely because there was less fuel in the storage tank and therefore less gravity pressure.

The stops stunned both competitors and commentators alike. The expert commentators speculated to their audiences that the Indy-inexperienced Woods had failed to fill the tank or were running a mixture of gasoline and alcohol. But as race teams everywhere came to know, the Woods rarely made mistakes when it came to racing matters. “They had to eat those words,” Glen Wood recalled. There even were some doubts within the team. Glen Wood remembers team owner Colin Chapman turning to the the brothers and asking in his British accent: “I say, did you fill it up?’’ When Leonard and Glen Wood assured him that the fuel was in the tank, his brief reply was: “Jolly good.”

One person there that day who never doubted the Woods was NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who had fallen out of favor with the Indy officials and wound up watching the race from the grandstands, as Ray Lee Wood recalled. “When we made that first pit stop and broke all the records, the crowd roared,” Ray Lee Wood said. “They said France stood up and yelled ‘Them’s my boys.’” Once the Woods completed their second and final stop, Chapman, the team owner, showed everyone there just how grateful he was. “He jumped over the wall and congratulated us right there on pit road, hugging our necks and everything,” Leonard Wood said.

For Leonard Wood, that triumph at Indianapolis was as sweet as they ever came in his long and storied career. “It was right on top of the list,” he said. “It was very special to go up there. It was the first rear-engine car to win the race, and the first car to average 150 miles per hour in winning the race, and it was really special for Ford Motor Company. It was their engine.”

Wood still fondly recalls the music that power plant made. “They sounded so beautiful,” he said. “They had two bugles out the back and equal-length headers.” Leonard Wood also has fond memories of working with Clark and Chapman’s race team. “We had no problem at all with them,” he said. “They seemed to be happy we were there. Otherwise it wouldn’t have worked.”

For regular updates of the Woods’ participation in the Goodwood Festival of Speed, visit Wood Brothers Racing on Facebook.

Glen Wood Remembers Raymond Parks as a First-Class Car Owner

Glen Wood, founder of the Wood Brothers racing team, has seen a lot of race team owners come and go in his years in NASCAR, but few impressed him as much as Raymond Parks of Atlanta, the first car owner to win a championship in the division now known as Sprint Cup.

Parks, who died on Sunday in his hometown of Atlanta, was a major force in the early days of auto racing, even before the formation of NASCAR. “I remember him very well, from back in the ‘40s to today,” Wood said, adding that Parks was known for having the best cars and the best drivers. “Fonty Flock drove for him, and Red Byron,” Wood recalled. “Red Byron was like the Dale Earnhardt of his day.”

It was Byron who in 1949 drove Parks’ Oldsmobile to the championship in the Strictly Stock division that is now the Cup series. And Parks was the premier car owner of his time, fielding multiple entries in numerous races in both the Strictly Stock and Modified divisions. “He always kept his cars neat, like they do today,” he said. “The rest of us just kind of beat them out if they got banged up.” Mr. Parks also presented himself in a neat manner throughout his life. “You never saw him when he wasn’t wearing a suit and a Fedora hat,” Wood said. Wood said he was especially grateful that his old friend was able to attend some of the opening ceremonies for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte last month.

Mr. Parks, despite his success in the sport, walked away from racing in the early 1950s. He explained many times over the years that it simply was costing him too much money in a time when there was little sponsorship or manufacturer support. Wood said that story might have been entirely different had Parks stayed on a few more years. “He would have still been around today if he had kept on until the factories got into it,” he said. But his legacy lives on, Wood said. “He opened a lot of doors and windows to how to do things and taught a lot of racers how to do it better,” he said. “I hope that some day he’ll be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.” Funeral arrangements for Mr. Parks are pending.

The Wood Brothers’ Father Was an Innovator Too

John Walter Wood isn’t a name one would naturally associate with major-league motorsports. In his day, he refused to drive faster than 35 miles per hour. He worked in the coal fields during the days of the Great Depression, but his natural-born mechanical skills soon led to a career working on automobiles. His contribution to racing was through his sons, whom he taught the value of hard work and mechanical innovation.

As this Father’s Day approaches, the Wood Brothers race team those sons formed 60 years ago now has won 97 races in the series now known as Sprint Cup, and their pit-road skills propelled Jimmy Clark to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. The Wood Brothers race team, in the beginning, literally was a shade-tree-mechanic outfit. Their early work was done under a Beech tree on Walter Wood’s homeplace in Buffalo Ridge, Va. The Beech tree, which still stands, and the spring nearby have become part of the Wood family lore.

Crystal Wood, sister to the racing Wood Brothers, said the tree stands 72 feet high, 12 feet in circumference and has a limb span of 92 feet. The spring, she recalled, offered both tasty drinking water and an excellent way to cool melons and dairy products. Glen Wood recalls how the spring water the Woods carried with them to the track in the glass jars in the early days became popular with crew members of other teams. “Pop Ergle, who was Bud Moore’s jackman, really looked forward to that water,” he said.

Each summer, the extended Wood family still gathers for a picnic under the tree where Walter Wood and his sons, Glen, Leonard, Delano, Ray Lee and Clay once worked on the race cars that Glen drove on the short tracks around his Virginia home. For Leonard Wood, working on cars with his father was something he’d done for most of his life. “I’d been helping him since I was seven years old,” he said, adding that even as a youngster he could torque head bolts so close to specifications that the bolts never moved when his father checked behind him.

Walter Wood enjoyed working alongside his sons, but he wasn’t too amused when the boys dragged in the makings of a 1938 Ford race car. They’d paid $50 for it, which was why Glen Wood’s first cars carried the number 50. “My dad saw that car on the back of the truck and said, ‘Don’t unload that thing here,’” Leonard Wood recalled with a chuckle. But soon, father was helping sons transform it into a race car.

The Woods’ first racing engine was built by a mechanic working for Curtis Turner, the racing legend who inspired the Woods early in their careers. But when it came time to change the rings and bearings and grind the valves, it was Walter Wood handling the wrenches along with Leonard. A chain was swung over a big limb on the Beech tree, and a hoist attached to raise and lower the engine from its compartment. “My father rebuilt it two times, and I did it after that,” Leonard recalled.

Glen and Leonard Wood, both of whom were known for putting new ideas to work on pit road and under the hoods of their race cars, said their father was the kind of mechanic who often solved mechanical dilemmas by making his own tools. “He had patents on some of them,” Glen said. Walter Wood made a tool to remove stuck battery-cable ends, another to remove and reinstall brake springs and a screwdriver that had a device that held the screw in place until it was started. Leonard Wood, who still has the one-of-a-kind screwdriver, said the most amazing part of that invention was how it was made. “He made it with no tools,” he said. “All he had was a fireplace for heat, a file, an anvil and a saw.”

Although he helped out in the beginning, Walter Wood remained leery of his sons and their racing. “He didn’t relish the idea of what we were doing, but he didn’t work against us,” Glen recalled. Leonard Wood said his father was mostly concerned for his sons’ safety, especially when Glen was the team’s driver. “He didn’t want Glen to get hurt,” he said. Walter Wood rarely attended races, Leonard recalled. If he did go, it was to a local track like the one in Starkey, Va., and he usually went with his co-workers from the Ford dealership in Bassett. Leonard Wood said father especially enjoyed being there with his friends when his son won.

Sadly, Walter Wood died 44 years ago, before his sons achieved some of their greatest NASCAR successes. Glen Wood said that while his father never attended big-time races with his sons, he followed the sport with great interest from his home in Buffalo Ridge. “He was very proud of what we were doing, even if he didn’t let us know it,” he said.

Crystal Wood, the oldest living child of Walter and Ada Wood, wrote an essay recently in which she told how proud she was that her father’s family remains close and still gathers each year around the old Beech tree and continues to carry on the legacy of her hard-working, innovative father. Indeed, today the second, third and fourth generations of Walter Wood’s family, men and women, work together on the family race team that fields the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit. “In this day and age, so many families are alienated from each other,” Mrs. Wood wrote. “This is certainly not true of this unusual family who still hold to the values taught them from their youth.”

The Wood Brothers' Father Was an Innovator Too

John Walter Wood isn’t a name one would naturally associate with major-league motorsports. In his day, he refused to drive faster than 35 miles per hour. He worked in the coal fields during the days of the Great Depression, but his natural-born mechanical skills soon led to a career working on automobiles. His contribution to racing was through his sons, whom he taught the value of hard work and mechanical innovation.

As this Father’s Day approaches, the Wood Brothers race team those sons formed 60 years ago now has won 97 races in the series now known as Sprint Cup, and their pit-road skills propelled Jimmy Clark to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. The Wood Brothers race team, in the beginning, literally was a shade-tree-mechanic outfit. Their early work was done under a Beech tree on Walter Wood’s homeplace in Buffalo Ridge, Va. The Beech tree, which still stands, and the spring nearby have become part of the Wood family lore.

Crystal Wood, sister to the racing Wood Brothers, said the tree stands 72 feet high, 12 feet in circumference and has a limb span of 92 feet. The spring, she recalled, offered both tasty drinking water and an excellent way to cool melons and dairy products. Glen Wood recalls how the spring water the Woods carried with them to the track in the glass jars in the early days became popular with crew members of other teams. “Pop Ergle, who was Bud Moore’s jackman, really looked forward to that water,” he said.

Each summer, the extended Wood family still gathers for a picnic under the tree where Walter Wood and his sons, Glen, Leonard, Delano, Ray Lee and Clay once worked on the race cars that Glen drove on the short tracks around his Virginia home. For Leonard Wood, working on cars with his father was something he’d done for most of his life. “I’d been helping him since I was seven years old,” he said, adding that even as a youngster he could torque head bolts so close to specifications that the bolts never moved when his father checked behind him.

Walter Wood enjoyed working alongside his sons, but he wasn’t too amused when the boys dragged in the makings of a 1938 Ford race car. They’d paid $50 for it, which was why Glen Wood’s first cars carried the number 50. “My dad saw that car on the back of the truck and said, ‘Don’t unload that thing here,’” Leonard Wood recalled with a chuckle. But soon, father was helping sons transform it into a race car.

The Woods’ first racing engine was built by a mechanic working for Curtis Turner, the racing legend who inspired the Woods early in their careers. But when it came time to change the rings and bearings and grind the valves, it was Walter Wood handling the wrenches along with Leonard. A chain was swung over a big limb on the Beech tree, and a hoist attached to raise and lower the engine from its compartment. “My father rebuilt it two times, and I did it after that,” Leonard recalled.

Glen and Leonard Wood, both of whom were known for putting new ideas to work on pit road and under the hoods of their race cars, said their father was the kind of mechanic who often solved mechanical dilemmas by making his own tools. “He had patents on some of them,” Glen said. Walter Wood made a tool to remove stuck battery-cable ends, another to remove and reinstall brake springs and a screwdriver that had a device that held the screw in place until it was started. Leonard Wood, who still has the one-of-a-kind screwdriver, said the most amazing part of that invention was how it was made. “He made it with no tools,” he said. “All he had was a fireplace for heat, a file, an anvil and a saw.”

Although he helped out in the beginning, Walter Wood remained leery of his sons and their racing. “He didn’t relish the idea of what we were doing, but he didn’t work against us,” Glen recalled. Leonard Wood said his father was mostly concerned for his sons’ safety, especially when Glen was the team’s driver. “He didn’t want Glen to get hurt,” he said. Walter Wood rarely attended races, Leonard recalled. If he did go, it was to a local track like the one in Starkey, Va., and he usually went with his co-workers from the Ford dealership in Bassett. Leonard Wood said father especially enjoyed being there with his friends when his son won.

Sadly, Walter Wood died 44 years ago, before his sons achieved some of their greatest NASCAR successes. Glen Wood said that while his father never attended big-time races with his sons, he followed the sport with great interest from his home in Buffalo Ridge. “He was very proud of what we were doing, even if he didn’t let us know it,” he said.

Crystal Wood, the oldest living child of Walter and Ada Wood, wrote an essay recently in which she told how proud she was that her father’s family remains close and still gathers each year around the old Beech tree and continues to carry on the legacy of her hard-working, innovative father. Indeed, today the second, third and fourth generations of Walter Wood’s family, men and women, work together on the family race team that fields the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit. “In this day and age, so many families are alienated from each other,” Mrs. Wood wrote. “This is certainly not true of this unusual family who still hold to the values taught them from their youth.”

Glen Wood Among the Best Ever at Getting Around Martinsville

Negotiating the paper-clip-shaped Martinsville Speedway seems like it should be fairly simple, but it can be quite confounding for race drivers. But the best of them usually figure it out fairly quickly. Jimmie Johnson, widely acknowledged as the most talented driver of his generation, is a master at Martinsville. In 16 career starts, he has six wins and a pole, and since dropping out of his first start there, he’s never finished out of the top 10 in a single race. Three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip leads all drivers in career poles at Martinsville with eight, and four-time champ Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven Martinsville poles. But when it comes to calculating the number of poles relative to career starts, Glen Wood rises to the top of the list.

Wood, from nearby Stuart, Va., had four Martinsville poles in just 14 career starts. Gordon has seven in 34 starts, while Waltrip’s eight poles came in 52 tries. Wood also had a pole at Martinsville in a Convertible race and never started worse than fourth in a ragtop at Martinsville. He also won several Modified races there.

Wood’s brother and chief mechanic Leonard Wood remembers a day in practice back in the late 50’s, when Glen Wood showed just how good he was at Martins”ville. Marvin Panch came down the front straightaway at full speed, and Glen pulled out of the pits and passed him on the back straightaway,” Wood said, laughing as he recalled how surprised the rail birds were that day. Leonard Wood said there were several reasons the No. 21 was so fast at its home track back in the day. “Number one, Glen knew how to get around that race track,” he said. “And we came up with a good combination on a 1958 Ford.” Wood explained that he and the crew worked hard modifying the car to get it as low to the ground as possible, creating a distinct handling advantage. “It was just awesome,” he said. His brother’s short track techniques were just as impressive, he said. “Glen had a really good style,” he said, explaining that his brother liked his cars to be on the loose side. On his qualifying laps at Martinsville. He would back off the accelerator early into his entry in the turns, then use a minimum amount of braking as he entered the corner, keeping up his speed and letting the car roll free through the center of the corner, which allowed him to rocket off the corner and down the next straightaway. If that sounds familiar, it’s because 50 years later it’s still the fast way around Martinsville.

Leonard Wood logged some miles at Martinsville himself, but not in an actual race. “I wasn’t trying to set any records,” he said. “I was just trying to feel the car, and check the acceleration, adjust the carburetor and just see how the car ran. “It was a lot of fun, but when it came time to race, I felt safer on the other side of the pit wall.” But there were times at places like Daytona, when the cars used to run pit road at full throttle, that he felt otherwise. “I used to tell [former competition director] Dick Beatty that they needed to have a pit road speed, but he said they couldn’t do it,” Wood said. “But now they do.”

Leonard Wood said that as much as he and his team enjoyed racing at Martinsville Speedway, just 28 miles from home, they never could pull off a Cup victory there in his brother’s driving days, even though Glen Wood led 615 laps there and almost always had a fast car. He finished second to Rex White in 1959, and in 1960 was third behind race-winner Richard Petty and runner-up Jimmy Massey, who drove the Woods’ No. 21 that day while Glen ran a No. 24 Ford.

Leonard Wood missed that 1960 race, as he was in the U.S. Army, turning wrenches at a base in Germany, but it was still a great source of pride to him, especially the start which saw his brother on the pole and Massey completing an all-Wood Brothers front row. “They sent me an eight-millimeter film of the start of that race,” he said. “I was really swelled up showing it to my buddies.”

The Woods did eventually conquer Martinsville, in 1973 with David Pearson at the wheel running a superspeedway car on the tight half-mile oval. Pearson took the pole and beat Cale Yarborough out of the pits on the final pit stop to win the race. Pearson, like Glen Wood, knew how to get around Martinsville. But as Leonard Wood points out, that’s not the whole story. “Pearson was good everywhere you put him,” he said.

Atlanta : The Old Track and The Older Track

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series travels to Las Vegas this week for the running of the Shelby American Sprint Cup race, but the crew of the Wood Brothers #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be back at home base, focusing on their second appearance of the season on March 5-7 in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Woods will be returning to a track where they’re the all-time win leader with 12 Cup victories and where their driver Bill Elliott also has five Cup wins. The Woods, and Elliott, enjoyed most of their success on what most racing folks refer to as the “old track” at Atlanta. By that they mean the old true oval configuration at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which was converted into the current quad oval during the 1997 season. But to NASCAR pioneers like Glen Wood, founder of the Wood Brothers team, the “old track” at Atlanta is Lakewood Speedway, the now-defunct one-mile clay oval just south of downtown Atlanta.

Lakewood, which was replaced on the Cup schedule in 1960 by the new superspeedway further south in Hampton, was known both as “The Grand Old Lady” and “The Indianapolis of the South.” It was built around 1915. The first automobile race there, in 1917, featured two legendary Indy car drivers, Barney Oldfield and Ralph DePalma, in a set of match races. (DePalma won the title of World Dirt Track champion when Oldfield’s car suffered a bent axle.)

One of the races that has become a big part of stock car racing lore occurred at Lakewood on Labor Day, 1941. Lloyd Seay, one of the greatest stock car drivers in the days before NASCAR, came to his home track riding an impressive win streak. It continued in the annual Labor Day Classic as Seay, driving a Modified Ford owned by Raymond Parks of Atlanta, beat another early stock car star, Bob Flock, to win the 100-miler. It would be Seay’s last race. After the race he returned to his home in Dawson County, Ga., and the next day was shot to death by his cousin during a dispute over their moonshine business.

But Dawson County was able to regain its role as the birthplace of stock car stars thanks to the red-headed son of a local Ford dealer who went on to become “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville” and now wheels one of the most famous cars in motorsports. The Wood Brothers team also made its mark at Lakewood in the early days of NASCAR, as Glen Wood was a strong runner at Lakewood in his days behind the wheel. His best finish on the Grand Old Lady came on Labor Day weekend, 1956, when he finished second to Joe Weatherly in a Convertible race.

NASCAR’s Convertible circuit, which ran regularly from 1956 to 1959 and often ran in combined Sweepstakes races with the hardtops of the Grand National Series, featured some of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR. Its roster included several drivers who went on to win races in the Wood Brothers’ Fords. They included Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund and Marvin Panch. And Glen Wood was one of the circuit’s top drivers.

In 1956, his first year in the series, he had 12 finishes of second or third in 31 starts. For his Convertible career, he had five wins, 43 top-five and 62 top-10 finishes plus nine poles in just 89 starts. Lakewood was one of his favorite tracks, even if it did take the men from Stuart a few wrong turns before finding the track the first time they went there to race. “I sat on the pole there once,” Wood said. “The track could either be tacky or it could get to a dry, hard, slick finish. When it got like that you couldn’t charge into the turns like you usually do. “I remember one time Curtis Turner got there late and didn’t realize how slick the track was. I guess I should have warned him, but he went into the corner too hard and about went through the fence.”

Wood said Lakewood, in its heyday, was one of the few tracks a mile in length, and its reputation was known far and wide. “The grandstands were packed, and there would be people all around the track, even up in the trees watching the races,” he said. “It could get really dusty, but the fans didn’t seem to mind getting covered with red dust.” The dust, combined with a more modern track just down the road, doomed the old track, and it held its last race in 1979. “It’s just one of those tracks that has been lost to time,” Wood said.

Glen and Bernece Wood Celebrate 59 Anniversaries in Daytona

Just as faithfully as the swallows fly into San Juan Capistrano every year in late March, Glen Wood and his Stuart, Va., clan will drive to Daytona Beach every February for Speedweeks. This year marks the Woods 64th straight trip to Speedweeks. To fully appreciate just how long a string that is, it helps to know about the first trip, back in 1947.

Wood, the 84-year-old founder of the famed Wood Brothers race team, had become a fan of fellow Virginian Curtis Turner, who was tearing up the tracks up and down the East Coast. So Wood, his future brother-in-law, and future father-in-law decided to strike out for Daytona Beach to see Turner compete on the old beach-road course. “At that time, we’d probably never been further away from home than Greensboro (North Carolina),” he said. “It took the better part of two days to get here.”

In the days before interstate highways, Wood and his fellow travelers, riding in a 1940 Ford, followed narrow roads and crossed swamps on wooden bridge-like structures. But there also were some long straight stretches, something they rarely saw back home in Stuart. So the driver, Bernece’s brother Lane Moricle, decided to give the Ford’s flathead V8 engine a workout. “Lane opened it up,” Wood recalled. “He got up to about 90 or 95 miles per hour, but the engine started getting hot, so he had to give that up.”

When the group arrived at Daytona Beach, they found a racer’s dream land, with drivers and cars of all kinds. They were hooked. Their 1951 trip was even more memorable. Wood and his business partner Chris Williams both proposed to their girlfriends, got married and let their annual racing vacation double as a honeymoon trip. Glen and Bernece celebrated their 59th anniversary on Sunday, at Daytona of course.

In 1953, Wood made his first Speedweeks appearance as a driver, entering a 1939 Ford Standard, equipped with two carburetors, in the Modified Sportsman race. “It wasn’t the best because the ’40 Fords were better,” he said. The grille on the ’40 was more covered, giving it an aerodynamic advantage over the ‘39s, which had more open areas up front. “I qualified fairly well, in the top 10 or 15, and finished seventh,” he said. “I thought I’d done really well, but when I got home people said, ‘Maybe you can do better next year.’ “But they didn’t realize that they started 130 cars, or that the only practice we had was the qualifying runs on the beach.” In those days, qualifying consisted of a timed one-mile run on the beach. The road portion of the course was only used during races.

For the 1956 races, Wood brought a 1940 Ford and set a new Sportsman qualifying record of 119 miles per hour. He went on to finish first in Sportsman and second overall to Modified driver Tim Flock. The next year, he entered a 1951 Ford with a 312-cubic-inch overhead valve engine and raised his qualifying record to 127 miles per hour. “It was still gaining speed at the end of the mile,” Wood said, adding that his brother and chief mechanic, Leonard Wood, couldn’t believe the car was that fast. “It’s just like qualifying on the big track today. The second lap is faster.” Again, he was best in Sportsman class and in the top three overall.

For 1958, the final year of racing on the beach, Wood had to compete without the help of his brother, as Leonard was away serving in the Army. He prepared a 1954 Ford, using sheet metal to close the grille openings and fashioning an air dam for the front. To gain even more aerodynamically for qualifying, he used the front wheels from his 1958 Edsel. Those 14-inch tubeless wheels lowered the front of the car almost down to the sand, and he had the traditional 16-inchers on the rear. When it came time to qualify, he felt like he needed more rear gearing than was available at the time. He happened upon a tire company specialist who helped him solve that problem. The man found two 16-inch tires that were three inches larger in circumference, which when bolted on the rear had the same effect as changing the gear. Even though he was running a Sportsman car, he ran over 139 miles per hour, setting a new record and beating all the Modifieds in the process. “That was one of my proudest moments in those days, beating the Modifieds and sitting on the pole for the last race on the sand,” Wood said. He won the Sportsman race again and was in the top three overall.

But the beach wins weren’t as easy as they might seem. Once his windshield wiper motor caught fire during a race, but a spectator rushed out of the palmettos with a fire extinguisher, doused the flames and sent him on his way. Another time he spun while trying to clear the sandy slush from his windshield, but recovered and continued on. “I was fortunate that nobody hit me,” he said.

In 1959, the new Daytona International Speedway opened, and Wood entered the inaugural Daytona 500 in a Convertible. That race was a Sweepstakes event, with hardtops and convertibles running together. Once again, Leonard was turning wrenches for Uncle Sam instead of brother Glen, and that likely kept Wood from winning the first ever race on the new speedway. During practice, fellow driver Tim Flock urged Wood to richen the mixture in his carburetor to keep from burning a piston while running long stretches with the engine running at full speed on the giant track. So Wood changed the jets, twice. During the race, Wood’s Ford was flying, but he laid back early on. “It was sort of hairy out there, kind of like it gets today,” he said. “They were dancing around in big packs.” But when the flagman signaled five laps to go, Wood picked up the pace. “I got back with it and got back in the lead in a lap or so,” he said.

“I was leading, and coming off Turn 2, I ran out of gas.” The rich mixture of the carburetor had caused the engine to burn more fuel. The first Daytona checkered flag instead went to Shorty Rollins. “If I hadn’t listened to Tim, it might have been different,” he said. “But at least I didn’t burn a piston.”

In the 500, the convertibles were at a great disadvantage to the more aerodynamic hardtops, and Wood wasn’t a factor before dropping out with engine problems. “There was so much difference that it wasn’t even close,” he said. “They never ran another Sweepstakes race on the big track.”

Wood never entered another Daytona 500 as a driver, but he made his mark as a car owner, winning the Great American Race in 1963 with Tiny Lund, in 1968 with Cale Yarborough, in 1972 with A.J. Foyt and in 1976 with David Pearson, who beat Richard Petty in a finish that many consider the best ever in NASCAR history.

His 1963 win is one of the auto racing’s most famous as well. That year, Marvin Panch was set to drive the Woods’ No. 21, but he was burned when the Maserati sports car he was driving at Daytona overturned and caught fire. Wood and several others, including Lund, sped to the crash site, rolled the car upright and rescued Panch. Lund took over the No. 21 and won the race, in large part because of the Woods’ pit strategy. They never changed tires and carefully calculated the mileage, which allowed them to make one fewer pit stops than their competitors.

Today, Wood plays less of a hands-on role with his team, as his sons Len and Eddie now lead the way. But even at age 84, the competitive fires still burn, and he was more than relieved when his driver Bill Elliott safely secured a starting spot in this year’s 500. “The worst feeling you can have is missing a race,” he said. “It was a great feeling to see him lock in a starting spot. I’m really proud of the effort that went into that.”

Although much has changed in Wood’s 64 years at Speedweeks, some things haven’t. For one, he still makes the drive down from Stuart every year, even though the improved roads have made the trip less of an adventure than it was in 1947. And his 2010 Taurus SHO is considerably more comfortable than his brother-in-law’s ’40 Ford.

But occasionally he still spices up the trip a bit. “Bernece will ask me, ‘Do you realize how fast you’re going?’” he said. But for a man, who holds the Sportsman speed records from the beach racing days, driving 70 something on the interstate is no real chore. “I’m just keeping up with the crowd,” he said.

Ford Customer Service Division Congratulates Wood Brothers Racing

FORD CUSTOMER SERVICE DIVISION CONGRATULATES WOOD BROTHERS RACING ON THEIR 60TH YEAR WITH FORD

DEARBORN, Mich., January 19, 2010 – If it was a marriage anniversary, it would be celebrated with a diamond gift.

In this case, both sides of this relationship would relish a trip to NASCAR victory lane.

Ford Customer Service Division is offering the Wood Brothers Racing team its congratulations as it celebrates a racing milestone in 2010 – 60 years in NASCAR racing and 60 years exclusively racing Ford Motor Company products.

“All of us at Ford Customer Service Division, especially our Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands, congratulate the Wood Brothers on their 60th year of racing and 60th year with Ford Motor Company,” said Brett Wheatley, Director of Marketing, Ford Customer Service Division.  “Glen, Leonard, Ray Lee, Clay and Delano Wood were pioneers in racing and their tradition lives on today through Eddie, Len and Kim.  We’re thrilled to offer our congratulations to all members of the Wood family for their first 60 years in racing.”

“They are an important part of our Ford Racing family,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports.  “Through good years and difficult years, they have stuck with us, racing Fords and Mercurys with some of the greatest drivers in the sport.

“We are committed to them, just as they have been committed to us. And part of our commitment to them is to help them return to victory lane.”

The Wood Brothers are acknowledged pioneers in the sport of stock-car racing, and have earned 96 wins in over 59 years of NASCAR competition – second most in Ford Racing history, and fifth overall in NASCAR history.

The team is planning on competing in 13 Sprint Cup races this season, 10 with Motorcraft/Quick Lane sponsorship.  They will run Ford’s new FR9 NASCAR engine in each of their races.

Significant moments in Wood Brothers history:

* The team competed in Sportsman and Modified events in Virginia and the  Carolinas starting in 1950, and then made its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then  Grand National) debut at nearby Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on May 17, 1953.

* Glen Wood was the team’s original driver, and left the seat in the early 1960s.

* The Wood Brothers are synonymous with pit stops, and are credited with inventing the modern pit stop. Their work was so legendary that Ford Motor Co., asked the Woods to serve as Jimmy Clark’s pit crew for the 1965 Indianapolis 500. Clark went on to win the race.

* The Wood Brothers are one of two teams in NASCAR history to win the owners’ championship without the team’s driver winning the drivers’ championship. In 1963, the Woods – with seven different drivers – produced three wins and 18 top-five finishes in 26 starts to win the title.

* The original Wood Brothers – Glen and his brother Leonard, who served as the team’s crew chief for many years – have been inducted into a number of racing Halls of Fame and are winners of the prestigious Spirit of Ford Award for lifetime achievement in racing.

* The Wood Brothers have 14 victories at Daytona, more than any other team. They also won two of the most famous Daytona 500s in history: in 1963, with Tiny Lund, subbing for the injured Marvin Panch (whom Lund had earlier pulled from a burning sports car during practice for another series); and in 1976 with David Pearson, in what many observers have called the greatest race in NASCAR history.

* The Wood Brothers, with driver David Pearson, were the team of the 1970s. Pearson (who won back-to-back championships for Ford in 1968 and ’69) made his debut with the Woods on April 16, 1972, at the very difficult Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He won from the pole. In a six-season span from 1972-77, the team and driver entered 116 races, and won 39 (winning slightly better than once every three starts), with 84 top-five finishes (72.4 percent of the starts) and 43 poles.

* In 1973, the Wood Brothers and Pearson set a NASCAR single-season record with a .611 winning percentage by reaching Victory Lane in 11 of 18 starts.

* From 1970-80 when Ford Motor Co. had officially pulled out of NASCAR racing, the Wood Brothers still ran only Ford products (’69, ’71, ’73 and ’76 Mercurys) through the decade. When Ford officially returned to NASCAR in 1981, the Woods immediately campaigned an ’81 Ford.

* The Wood Brothers’ last victory occurred in 2001 at Bristol Motor Speedway, when crew chief Pat Tryson kept driver Elliott Sadler on the track for the final 162 laps instead of pitting for fresh tires. That move started a trend by teams to not pit later in races in order to gain track position.

* Some of the greatest drivers in motorsports history drove the famous No. 21 Ford. Wood is one of 19 of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers (including current driver Bill Elliott) to have driven for the team. Other notable drivers for the Wood Brothers include: Junior Johnson, Curtis Turner, Dan Gurney, Fred Lorenzen (who in 1963 became the first driver in racing to win more than $100,000 in one season), A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Parnelli Jones, Donnie Allison, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd.

* The 2010 season will mark the second consecutive campaign that the Wood Brothers will run a reduced schedule with Bill Elliott.

* The Wood Brothers are scheduled to compete in 13 points races plus the All-Star race in 2010, starting with the Daytona 500 in February and ending with the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. The 21 will also run at: Atlanta (twice), Texas (twice), Charlotte (twice), Michigan (twice), Chicago, Indianapolis and Kansas.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents.   With about 200,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  For more information regarding Ford’s products,please visit www.ford.com.

Glen Wood Nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Glen Wood, Richard Childress Nominated for HOF Wednesday July 01, 2009.

This is the second “NASCAR Says” blog this week providing “sneak peeks” at the inaugural list of nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which will be announced Thursday night at 8 p.m. (ET) on SPEED. Immediately following, NASCAR.COM will open the fan vote portion which will help decide the Hall of Fame class.

It’s time for another behind-the-scenes preview of the first-ever nominations for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Later this week the entire 25-person list will be known. But we want to give you something to chew on, debate-wise, in advance. Yesterday we let you in on the fact that Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip are nominated.

Today. Here are two more names that will be on that list: Glen Wood and Richard Childress. Both were drivers originally, who switched their concentration to team ownership. Both ended up having some of NASCAR’s biggest stars drive their cars. Wood had David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Fred Lorenzen and currently, Bill Elliott. Childress’ big gun for years was Dale Earnhardt and as we all know, that was enough.

The Wood Brothers are credited with pioneering the modern-day pit stop, becoming one of the first organizations to recognize the value of pit-stop efficiency and how that could benefit a team over the course of a long afternoon of racing. Childress’ ownership efforts have continued admirably since Earnhardt’s 2001 passing. He has 11 owner championships in NASCAR’s three national series, which is a record, shared with Rick Hendrick. Wood or Childress – Which one are you partial to, in terms of HOF consideration?

SPEED will air an exclusive one-hour special at 8 p.m. ET Thursday from the site of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., as NASCAR unveils the 25 nominees for the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

NASCAR Hall of Fame: The First Class will be hosted by legendary motor sports broadcaster Ken Squier, with guest appearances from NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Hall of Fame historian Buz McKim. The NASCAR Hall of Fame has announced May 11, 2010, as the official grand opening date for the state-of-the-art facility under construction in Charlotte. To date, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has announced two major artifacts for display in the Hall — the Plymouth Belvedere that Richard Petty drove to 27 wins in 1967, and an epic collection of NASCAR awards and memorabilia donated by Raymond Parks, including the first NASCAR trophy ever awarded a team.

The hall’s inaugural class, consisting of five members, is scheduled to be enshrined in May 2010. That class will be selected by the Voting Panel from a list of 25 candidates assembled by a 21-person Nominating Committee. The Voting Panel will consist of the members of the Nominating Committee and 29 others from throughout the NASCAR industry. There also will be one more ballot, decided by a nationwide fan vote, for a total of 51 Voting Panel ballots. Members of the Nominating Committee represent NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, major race track ownership groups and operators of historic short tracks.