In the Rearview Mirror: Wood Brothers Racing

In the Rearview Mirror this week, Wood Brothers Racing. Due to the Daytona 500 win of Trevor Bayne they are back on everyone’s radar.

Glen Wood

Wood Brothers Racing is the longest, active team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Formed in 1950 by brothers Glen and Leonard Wood, they along with their brothers Delano, Ray Lee and Clay had a talent for mechanics and spent time in their father’s garage. When they formed their team each brother served as a mechanic. None of the brothers wanted to drive so they outsourced hiring Chris Williams, a local lumberman, as their driver. The Woods Brothers bought their first car for $50 and that inspired them to number the car as the #50.

Williams along with Glen Wood drove some of the first races for the Wood Brothers. They were a success, winning races at Martinsville Speedway and Bowman Grey Stadium in North Carolina. Shortly after their early success Williams sold his share and parted ways with the team. To fill the slot the Wood Brothers received help from their cousin, Ralph Edwards.

The Wood Brothers Racing Team had evolved from a weekend hobby into a full-time business. Glen and Leonard worked full-time building and preparing cars, while the other brothers and crew worked nights and weekends in addition to their regular jobs. Their first permanent racing shop was built in their hometown of Stuart, Virginia.

Once going full-time the team adopted the #21, which is now as iconic as some of the other numbers in NASCAR: Earnhardt’s #3, Petty’s #43. The brothers were taken in by the big cash prizes offered by the superspeedway races and they made the decision for Glen to step out from behind the wheel. They decided to hire drivers who were known for winning.

Looking at the driver lineup for Wood Brothers Racing is like looking at a “best of” list. Drivers such as Fireball Roberts, A.J. Foyt, Buddy Baker, Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and more recently Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and now into the present day, Trevor Bayne have all called the Wood Brothers team home.

The success of the team was due large in part to Leonard Wood and his work on the engines. It was also Leonard who pioneered the modern day pit stops. In the past, pit stops were slow, drivers would get out of their cars while being serviced. Leonard noticed that if you limit your time off the track, you increase your chances of winning. As the team began winning with this new pit stop other teams took notice and began using the method to pit their cars as well.  

During the early 1970s the Wood Brothers continued their winning ways.  Glen Wood had taken over the role of team patriarch and new family members were being introduced into the business.  Glen's sons Len and Eddie were starting at the bottom of the ladder, working odd shop jobs at first. Brother Delano had also emerged as a bright star on their pit crew; his skills as a jack man are comparable even with those of today.

David Pearson signed with Wood Brothers in 1972. Their pairing would prove to be very successful. In 1976, Pearson won the "Triple Crown" of NASCAR. The Daytona 500, World 600 (Now the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and the Southern 500 (at Darlington) were the biggest races at that time, and Pearson swept them all that season. In his seven years with the team, Pearson had 46 wins.

During the 1980s the team underwent many changes. Clay and Ray Lee Wood both had stepped down from their positions within the team.  Glen Wood retired, leaving the team to his sons, Eddie and Len. They were joined by their sister Kim, who would help with office duties.  The Wood Brothers team truely is all in the family.  

In the 90s the Wood Brothers sought out Dale Jarrett to drive the #21 Ford. That choice proved to be the right one, as Jarrett won at Michigan in his first season with the team. 

The Michigan victory set a unique record for the Wood Brothers team. Every single rookie who had ever driven for them for at least a full season had scored at least one victory in their car. More impressive than that, was the fact that every driver to have driven for the Wood Brothers for a full season from 1953-2002 had won at least one race behind their wheel (although in one case, the win did not come in an official Cup Series race).

Jarrett was quickly seen as a rising star in NASCAR which proved unfortunate for the Wood Brothers. Joe Gibbs was forming a new team and had the finances to lure the young driver to his team. Thus ending their partnership, but setting Jarrett up for a Daytona 500 win with Gibbs.

Michael Waltrip and Elliott Sadler also drove the famous #21 car. Michael won one race with the team, the Winston Select All-Star race in 1996. Elliott was a rookie when he joined the team. Elliott Sadler won his first race at Bristol Motor Speedway with Wood Brothers Racing.  The team had never won at Bristol before, oddly enough they had not run the race much because they had focused on the superspeedways.

During this time, the Wood Brothers also formed a working relationship with Roush Fenway Racing. Jack Roush had the resources that the Wood Brothers needed.

In 2010 the Wood Brothers Racing Team celebrated their 60 year anniversary in NASCAR. 

This year, the Daytona 500 saw a resurgence for the Wood Brothers Racing family.  Trevor Bayne, a Sprint Cup Series rookie, drove the familiar #21 to victory lane.  Bayne had only competed in one other Sprint Cup event before the 500 (2010's AAA Texas 500 where he finished 17th).  This continues the tradition of Wood Brothers developing many of the talented drivers that we will hear about in history books. 

Travor Bayne celebrates winning the Daytona 500
Credit: Todd Warshaw/ Getty Images for NASCAR
In the Rearview Mirror: Wood Brothers Racing In the Rearview Mirror: Wood Brothers Racing Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, March 02, 2011 Rating: 5