NASCAR Families, Part 5: The Wood Brothers

Some of NASCAR's families are more known for their work behind the pit wall rather than behind the wheel. For some of the sport's drivers, they have been a great influence to them. They have worked on the cars driven by some of the best in NASCAR. They remain some of the most respected people in the sport. Part five of this series is focused on The Wood Brothers.

 

Most NASCAR fans know the Wood Brothers in their role as car owners.  But, many may not know, or perhaps forget, that they did get started in the sport actually driving in races.  The Wood Brothers started in NASCAR when Glen Wood drove at the Morris Speedway near Martinsville, Virginia in 1950.  Glen figured it might be over when he was involved in a wreck about midway through the race.  But, Glen and his friends got the car back in shape and three weeks later, finished third at Dan River Speedway.  Glen's career behind the wheel continued until 1964.  He won four races, raced on the beach at Daytona, and was named one of NASCAR's fifty greatest drivers.

 

After Glen retired from racing, he became a full-time owner in 1965.  Joined by brother Leonard, the Wood Brothers would become one of the best racing teams in NASCAR.  The race team set up shop in Stuart, Virginia.  The also would adopt the #21 for their race cars.  Through the middle of the 60's, many of NASCAR's top drivers drove for the Wood Brothers race team.  That list included Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Parnelli Jones, Tiny Lund, Junior Johnson, Speedy Thompson, Fred Lorenzen, and Cale Yarborough.  Also, in the 1960's the Wood Brothers also recognized how pit stops could factor in the results of a race.  They created and mastered the art of doing pit stops during the races to help their standings.  The rest of the teams soon duplicated their pit stops after what the Wood Brothers were doing.

 

The success continued into the 1970's.  Glen became the leader of the race team and his younger sons, Eddie and Len, started working at the team's shop.  Donnie Allison and A.J. Foyt took turns driving the car.  Another Wood Brother, Delano, became one of NASCAR's greatest pit crew members.  in 1972, David Pearson signed with the team and would drive the famous #21 through 1979.  While driving for the Wood Brothers, Pearson won 46 races, 51 poles, and earned over $1.3 million.  In 1976, Pearson won the "Triple Crown" of racing, winning the Daytona 500, World 600, and Southern 500.

 

In the 1980's other top NASCAR drivers were behind for the wheel for the Wood Brothers including Neil Bonnett, Buddy Baker and Kyle Petty.  In 1986, his second season with the team, Kyle won his first race at Richmond.  In 1987, he won the Coca-Cola 600.  It was also at this time when Len and Eddie as Glen retired late in the decade,  increased their duties with the team.  Glen's daughter, Kim also started working in the team's office in Stuart with her mother and Glen's wife Bernece.  It was in this time when NASCAR was going through many changes.  As the popularity and money in the sport increased, the Wood Brothers found it difficult to retain the dominance they once had.

 

Neil Bonnett returned to the Wood Brothers in 1989.  On April 1, 1990, Bonnett suffered serious injuries in a crash at Darlington.  The injuries forced Bonnett out of the car and the team had to find a driver to fill in.  A young up and coming driver named Dale Jarrett took over the ride.  Dale won his first career Winston Cup race at Michigan in 1991.  Though he left after 1992, the Wood Brothers help provide the opportunity Dale needed to jump start his career.  After Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd, Michael Waltrip, and Elliott Sadler drove the car.  Waltrip won The Winston in 1996 and Sadler had his first career win at Bristol in 2001.  After Sadler left to join Robert Yates, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader took their turns racing for the team.  In 2007, the third generation of the Wood family arrived when Jon started the season behind the wheel of the #21.  Currently, the car is driven by another one of NASCAR's greatest drivers in Bill Elliott.

 

Known as "The Virginia Gentlemen", the Wood Brothers remain favorites among those in NASCAR.  The past achievements along with the who's-who list of drivers who have raced for them prove their place in the sport.  In 2000, Glen and Leonard were inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame and the team's 50th anniversary was celebrated.  The team is now equally owned by Glen

 

By:  CrimsonCowboy

 


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