Waddell Wilson NMPA Wood Brothers Award of Excellence winner

NASCAR and NMPA Hall of Fame member Waddell Wilson received another jewel in his career crown Sunday when he was named the 2022 recipient of the prestigious Wood Brothers Award of Excellence.

The award was determined by members of the beloved Wood family and presented during the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the Great Wolf Lodge. It honors crew members, crew chiefs, engine builders and race engineers that offer outstanding contributions to NASCAR through on-track success. Previous recipients are eight-time NASCAR Cup championship crew chief Dale Inman, NASCAR innovator Leonard Wood and NASCAR Cup championship crew chief Harry Hyde.

A Western North Carolina native, Wilson graduated from Nashville (Tenn.) Auto Diesel College before joining the famed Holman-Moody racing operation in Charlotte, N.C. He initially gained recognition for building the engine Fireball Roberts used to win the 1963 Southern 500. His potent engines were favored by Fred Lorenzen and the drivers they powered to victory included David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip.  

Wilson’s engines recorded 109 victories and 123 poles. While in the dual role of engine builder and crew chief, Wilson guided three cars to victory lane in the Daytona 500: 1980 with Baker and 1983-84 with Yarborough. The Oldsmobile known as the “Grey Ghost” that Wilson assembled for Baker still possesses the record for the fastest ever Daytona 500 with an average speed of 177.602 mph.

In 1982, an engine built by Wilson allowed Benny Parsons to become the first NASCAR Cup driver to break the 200-mph barrier in qualifying when he posted a 200.176-mph lap during Winston 500-time trials at Talladega.

During Wilson’s years as a crew chief, he directed his drivers to 22 victories and 32 poles.

Wilson retired from racing full time in 2000, but remained active in the sport in various capacities, including serving as a consultant for Jerico Performance Products.

Wilson and his wife, Barbara, have four children – Gary, Greg, Lisa, and Freddie – who all followed in their father’s footsteps by working in motorsports.