Glen Wood began his working life hauling timber to Virginia’s sawmills before deciding that racing cars offered a more exciting – and ultimately profitable – way of life.
It turned out to be a decision well made. The complete story of Wood’s accomplishments in NASCAR has yet to be written but the next chapter unfolds Jan. 20 when the 86-year-old Wood is inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Though Wood won just four times – all at Bowman-Gray Stadium in North Carolina – he planted the seeds that germinated into NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing history that continues to be made today.
Glen Wood and brothers Leonard, Delano, Clay and Ray Lee went from weekend racers to the Stuart, Va.-based team that for more than 50 years has employed some of NASCAR’s greatest names. Glen Wood won his first race in 1960.
Trevor Bayne won last year’s Daytona 500 bookending a litany of superstar winners that includes NASCAR Hall of Fame member David Pearson, fellow Hall inductee Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund, Marvin Panch, A.J. Foyt, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett and road racer Dan Gurney.
Wood’s team has won 98 times in seven different decades, a total that includes five Daytona 500s. The Wood Brothers also excelled outside the NASCAR world, sending Jim Clark to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
“It’s such a long trip from 1950 to now. It’s sort of hard to believe,” said Wood following the announcement of his selection to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “It’s one of the biggest honors you could have. I didn’t come here alone; I had a lot of help. There’s five of us brothers. All of those helped at one time or another.”
Wood’s brother and choreographer of the modern pit stop, Leonard, has been nominated for future NASCAR Hall of Fame consideration.
Glen Wood – whose early racing nickname was “Woodchopper” because he owned a saw mill – began racing in an era where stock cars actually were street cars.
When Speedy Thompson won the inaugural National 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, the Ford he drove had been junked because of fire damage. The fire saved the Woods from having to removing heavy soundproofing and other materials – ultimately removing weight as well.
The victory was the team’s first on a superspeedway. Wood would later say that his share of the $12,710 purse was a turning point.
Wood purchased his first race car, a 1938 Ford Coupe, for $50 in 1950. As a NASCAR premier series driver, Wood was active from 1953 through 1964 ultimately competing in 62 races. His first victory came on April 18, 1960; his fourth and last on July 13, 1963. He was one of the day’s better qualifiers winning the pole 14 times. Wood’s average starting position was 6.1.
In 1959, he ran a career-high 20 races, finishing 13 times in the top 10. The following season statistically was his best: nine races, three wins, four poles and six top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
Wood and his brothers bought a 1961 Ford Starliner which they tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway on behalf of Ford, which had no factory-supported presence in the series at the time. The Woods and Ford entered NASCAR premier series racing together and have been paired since – the longest association between a race team and a manufacturer.
Tiny Lund claimed the team’s first Daytona 500 victory in 1963, substituting for Marvin Panch, who’d been injured the day before in a sports car race. Fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Yarborough won the race in 1968, followed by Foyt in 1972, NASCAR Hall of Famer Pearson in 1976 and Bayne in 2010.
The team’s association with Pearson was most notable. Pearson and the Woods won 43 times between 1972 and 1978, seasons in which the team pursued partial schedules comprising only the sport’s most significant events.
Between 1964 and 1968, Dan Gurney won four times at the old Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway road course driving for the Woods.
With children Eddie and Len Wood and Kim Hall, the organization scored its most improbable victory in last year’s Daytona 500. Bayne, driving in just his second NASCAR Sprint Cup race, gave the Woods their 98th victory. “It was unbelievable that that happened, we go down there with a rookie driver. He’d driven one time for us at Texas, and ran real well,” said Wood. “But I don’t think anybody would ever have dreamed he would’ve won the Daytona 500.”
Glen Wood remains a humble man – regardless of the history that he and his team continue to write in NASCAR. “I’d like to be remembered as a fair competitor, a man whose handshake was his word,” said Wood.