As the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team and driver Ryan Blaney head to Martinsville Speedway for this weekend’s STP 500, race fans in the Virginia area are celebrating the return of the Wood Brothers to their home track for the first time since 2011 and for the first time as regular Sprint Cup competitors since 2008.
The Woods’ long history at Martinsville is being recalled, including team founder Glen Wood’s success at Martinsville in the series now known as Sprint Cup, where he won four poles and had three top-three finishes, and in the Modified Division where in 1960 he sped to victory in a 1937 Ford known then and now as the Backseater.
That car gets its name from the fact that the Woods, taking advantage of the more liberal rules of the Modified division, moved the engine so far back that the driver’s seat was pushed back to where the car’s back seat normally would be.
Martinsville Speedway also holds a special place in the heart of one of the team’s third-generation members, Jon Wood.
Wood, who now works as the team’s Director of Business Development, spent his early years in the sport as a driver. He raced in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, including the Sprint Cup Series, where he drove the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion in four races in 2007 and 2008.
But for many, especially those fans in the south Virginia area that includes the Woods’ hometown of Stuart and nearby Martinsville, his shining moment as a driver came in a Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville in 2003.
Wood started second in a race that became a battle between him, veteran Dennis Setzer and Carl Edwards, who like Wood was driving a Ford F-150 for team owner Jack Roush.
Wood led 54 laps midway through the race then yielded the top spot to Setzer only to retake the lead with 25 laps to go.
But it was no cruise to the finish as a late-race caution set up a three-lap sprint to the finish and gave Edwards one last chance to take the lead.
But Wood motored away, just as his grandfather had done in similar situations decades earlier, and scored the victory.
The cheers from the crowd that day left little doubt that the third-generation driver from Stuart had scored a popular victory.
And for many in the Martinsville garage that day, seeing Jon joined in Victory Lane by his father Eddie Wood and grandfather Glen Wood was a significant moment in NASCAR history.
Sentimentality aside, for Jon Wood it was first and foremost a big win at one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks.
“I’ve driven in all three of NASCAR’s top series and even driven the 21 in races for my family,” he said. “Nothing compares to winning at Martinsville though, and that’s the honest truth.”
“Even though Martinsville wasn’t my first win, it’s by far the one I’m the most proud of. I think Martinsville has this reputation of being a track that you either get it or you don’t. People that run well there tend to have more than just one good finish and for me, Martinsville was a place I not only looked forward to because of it being the hometown track, but because for some reason I just always seemed to have better luck there than other places.”
Martinsville also was the track where Wood made his first major NASCAR start, in the truck series, in 2001. And it was one of his better tracks.
“Growing up through my earlier racing years, Martinsville has this aura and mystique about it,” he said. “It was the place to go, and I always wanted to do well there.”
Wood ran nine Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville, with a win, and three-top five and four top-10 finishes.
Fast forward 13 years from that glorious day at Martinsville in 2003 and Wood is now working behind the scenes as another youngster, 22-year-old Ryan Blaney, has become the face of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“It’s been a challenging transition going from a decade preparing for and being a race car driver to what I do today,” Wood said. “Now I am working closely with my dad and uncle Len Wood, learning the business side of owning a NASCAR team.”
He describes his current role as somewhat of an apprenticeship.
“When there is a meeting involving ‘owner stuff’ they drag me along,” he said. “I think having had experience as a driver helps in some subliminal and not-so-obvious way. It’s not like having to re-learn a trade entirely, but it is different going from one side of the industry to another.”
Qualifying for the STP 500 is set for Friday at 4:15 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Blaney will be at the Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart, where he and the original Wood Brothers will sign autographs from 6:30-9 p.m.
On Sunday, the race is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m., with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Executive Jon Wood Was A Martinsville Winner Back In The Day
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