|Hall Of Famer Glen Wood|
Last Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Wood Brothers Racing was preparing their famed No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane NASCAR Sprint Cup car for the second of two Budweiser Duel qualifying races.
But something, or more accurately someone, was missing.
“Win, lose or draw, no matter what happens in this race, I’m going to go get daddy and bring him down here,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood, of his legendary Hall Of Fame father, Glen Wood. Wood had never missed a Daytona 500 in its 55-year history, dating back to 1947 when the cars ran on the old Daytona Beach course that included Highway A1A and the sands of “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”
As soon as driver Trevor Bayne crossed the finish line in sixth place, earning the Wood Brothers the 14th starting spot for the 56th annual Daytona 500, Eddie Wood was on a Roush-Fenway team airplane heading to Concord, NC. He met his father there at 9 a.m. the next morning, after Glen Wood drove his new Ford Taurus SHO from his home in Stuart, Va.
“I started driving his car from Concord and by lunch time we were in St. George (S.C.),” Eddie Wood explained. “When we came out of the restaurant, he walked to the driver’s side and said he would drive. I thought I might take a nap, but we got talking about the race on Thursday and how it unfolded, and then stories about Curtis Turner. All of the sudden, we were here (in Daytona Beach). He drove all the way from St. George, so instead of me going and bringing him back, I went up there and he brought me back.”
According to the Woods, Glen’s attendance at this year’s Daytona 500 was questionable all along. Travel is not as easy as it once was for the 88-year-old, and Virginia got hammered by severe winter weather in recent weeks, making the trip even more daunting.
But Eddie and his brother Len are determined people.
|Wood and AJ Foyt reminisce|
“When I called Dad and told him I was going to fly home and pick him up, I could tell he got excited,” Eddie said. “The thing that told me he really wanted to come was when he asked what time the plane was going to leave in the morning. He hasn’t flown in years, (and) I knew that if he was willing to fly, he really wanted to come. I told him that we were going to drive his car, and he said, ‘OK.’”
All seemed right with the world once the Wood patriarch arrived in Daytona at 5:15 p.m. Friday and both of the original Wood Brothers were in the pits, holding court in front of the No. 21 hauler. That hauler became a must-stop for some of the biggest names in racing, including A.J. Foyt, who drove a Wood Brothers-prepared Mercury to victory in the Daytona 500 in 1972.
“It just completes it,” said Eddie Wood. “Something didn’t feel right all week. It was like a piece was missing and things weren’t going right. Then, all of a sudden, Trevor runs a great race, Dad is here and everything is complete. We went to dinner Friday night with Mr. (Edsel) Ford and everything was just like it was supposed to be.”
Said the elder Wood about his 68th consecutive February trip to Daytona Speedweeks, “I think it means more to my family, or at least to Len and Eddie, because I’ve been here so many times. I told them I’m getting old and it (the streak) has to stop sometime, but they told me it wasn’t going to be this year. Eddie called and said he had it all figured out, so how could I refuse? I knew I needed to come in a sense, but when (my wife) Bernice said she wasn’t going to come, I made up my mind that I would stay home.
“But now, I’m glad I’m here.”
Wood also took time to honor a longstanding tradition, visiting the old beach race course that was used for the final time in 1958.
“I have never been down here at Speed Week where I didn’t go back down to the North Turn and go all the way down to the South Turn – where the lighthouse is – and re-live what I used to do there,” Wood explained. “The first race I ran in the sand was in 1953. I took a picture of a house a year or so ago (at) 42 Peninsula Drive. That was the office of NASCAR in 1953, and I remember it well. I went in there and Big Bill France was writing out the licenses to get you in.
“I like to go down there and remember,” he said. “I guess I ran eight races there total, and I won the last three sportsman races they had there. That’s a big reason why I need to go back down there. To me, it’s hard to believe I did that back then, but the record shows that I did.”
Wood, who sat on the pole for the final race in the sand, remembers everything about his amazing career in racing and enjoys telling those stories, including one about that historic pole position.
“They ran the modified cars and sportsmen together,” he recalled. “The cars were very similar, other than the fact that the modifieds could run multiple carburetors and had big Lincoln engines. Mine had just a little 312 engine with one carburetor on a little ’54 Ford, but for some reason I beat them all.
“Leonard was in the Army at that time, and I fooled with the car all winter,” he continued. “I blocked off all of the grille, except for two inches about 18 inches long across the front for the air to get through. I guess it was sort of like the air dam of today. They had just come out with 14-inch tubeless tires and I put them on to qualify, which lowered it kind of like they are today.
“It just beat all of the modifieds,” he said. “I think that was the biggest day of my life. The fun thing about it was my time was 139.461 or something like that, and Banjo Matthews was 139.469. It went down to the thousandths, but mine was first.”
Even though Bayne and the No. 21 crashed late in the 2014 Daytona 500 en route to a 33rd-place finish, the Wood family (and NASCAR universe) seemed happy to have the original team back together again.
“From the first week of February to the third week, Daytona is where we’re supposed to be,” said Eddie Wood. “Any way you cut it, that’s where we’re supposed to be.”