1964: The Wood Brothers, a road trip and a surprise driver
Noted road-course racer Dan Gurney won the event and Marvin Panch finished second to give Wood Brothers Racing a 1-2 finish in the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. The name of the fellow who climbed aboard the car in Greenville, South Carolina, however, has been lost in the mists of time. Say what? The year was 1964 and crew chief Leonard Wood , along with brother Ray, was transporting Panch's No. 21 Ford across the country, returning from Riverside to the team's shop in Stuart, Virginia. After a brief stop for dinner in Greenville, the two resumed their journey, planning one more stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. "People were standing around the car, it was 20 degrees," Leonard Wood told NASCAR.com regarding the brief break for a quick meal just across the South Carolina state line. "Normally you'd stop and talk to them a little bit but it was so cold we just jumped in the truck, pulled away and left." The first sign that the two had picked up an uninvited passenger, Wood said, came about halfway between Greenville and Charlotte when their truck "started making this noise and we couldn't figure out what it was." "Ray said 'You can even feel it in the roof. It's vibrating the roof!' " Leonard Wood recalled. Initially, Wood said he thought the loud vibration was the result of a jet aircraft, "so I'm looking around to see if I could see an airport," he said. Neither crewman realized the vibration was coming from the race car, and the engine being revved wide open. But the noise soon stopped so the pair continued on up the road, unaware that a none-too-sober gentleman had climbed inside the race car back in Greenville during the food stop. When they arrived in Charlotte for one final stop, Wood said the noise and vibration had resumed. And this time he realized it wasn't coming from any aircraft. It was coming from the race car on the back of the open truck. "I looked in the side mirror when we got off the highway and I saw steam coming out the exhausts of the race car," he said. "I knew something was wrong and I told Ray to stop this thing. "I saw what looked like a person in the car behind the wheel and I thought, 'Man, one of the crew members is trying to pull a trick on me.' Of course I bypassed that thought immediately because I thought 'There's no one on the crew that's going to be stupid enough to get in that car as cold as it is.' "I look in there and this guy's got Marvin's helmet on. I said 'What do you think you’re doing in here?' and he said 'Let's go!' " In the meantime, Ray Wood had gotten out of the truck, still unaware of the inebriated passenger. With help from Leonard they attempted to pull the unwanted fellow from behind the wheel. "I said 'We'll let you go in a minute,' grabbed ahold of him and jerked him out," Leonard said. "He got his foot hung and was hollering and squalling. We turned him loose and he just settled back in there and got comfortable again. He had a little bit to keep him warm, liquid wise." As fate would have it, a local law enforcement officer happened by and stopped to see what was going on. After explaining the situation, the officer gave the "would-be racer" another ride -- this one in the back of a patrol car. Panch, who would go on to win three times that season for the Wood Brothers, had told Leonard after finishing second at Riverside that the motor had been about to blow near the end of the race. "When I got home," Wood said, "I said, 'Marvin, that thing was good for another 100 miles!' "But the funniest thing is Glen ( Wood , team founder) had passed us in the station wagon and didn't see the man in there. "If he had, he would have had a heart attack."
2013 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Inductee: Leonard Wood
Leonard is second member of the Wood family to make the Hall of Fame -- his brother Glen was inducted in 2012. With 96 wins as a crew chief, he is known as the innovator of the modern pit stop. He is still active with the No.21 Wood Brothers Ford.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Leonard Wood
The Wood Brothers team is renowned as the innovator of the modern pit stop. Leonard Wood was front and center in its development as chief mechanic.
Wood Brothers going full time in 2016
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Wood Brothers Racing , one of the longest tenured teams competing in NASCAR's premier series, will return to full-time competition beginning in 2016. Officials with the team and Ford Motor Co. made the announcement Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of this weekend's Ford EcoBoost 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) season-ending event. Ryan Blaney will handle the driving duties, embarking upon his first full season after making 15 starts for the team this year heading into Sunday's race. Weather issues kept the team from attempting to qualify at Daytona, Kentucky and Chicago earlier this year. "These are the guys that made it happen, Ford Motor Company," co-team owner Eddie Wood said. "It is just a lot of people that have been working on this for a long time and we are really proud of our association and heritage with Ford Motor Company. We have been racing Ford Motor Company products for 65 years and we are really looking forward to next year and getting started with that." The team will continue to have a technical alliance with Team Penske , which fields Sprint Cup entries for drivers Joey Logano and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski . "It is what you dream of as a kid," Blaney, 21, said. "I have been fortunate enough to get great opportunities and meet great people being with Team Penske in 2012 which led to the Wood Brothers this year and then beyond for next year. "Obviously it is a little overwhelming right now … knowing what is going to come but I am excited for it. I don't get excited about a lot of things and maybe I don't show it but I am really excited about this program for next year and having the opportunity." It will be the first time since 2008 that the Wood Brothers organization, founded by team owner Glen Wood in 1953, has attempted to run the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. That season, three drivers -- Bill Elliott , Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood -- split the driving duties, although Johnny Sauter made one attempt, failing to qualify at Las Vegas. The last full season with a single-driver for the team came in 2006 with veteran Ken Schrader . "We were in Pocono … testing for the Pocono race on May 28, 2008," Wood said. "At about noon that day Mr. Ford called me looking for a phone number. I hadn't talked to him in a while and he said, 'I haven't heard from you in a while, why haven't you called?' I told him we had been running so poorly that I had really just been ashamed. He says, 'So, you are saying this 21 is broken?' and I said, ‘Yeah, it is broken right now.' "So he said we were going to see about that, that we would fix that. From that day until now, it has been just like this. He put some things in motion that started to help like increased engineering and just more of everything. There were some Ford Motor Company people that … moved in with us and helped get us straightened out and three years later we win the Daytona 500 (with driver Trevor Bayne ). You can never give up." Wood Brothers entries have visited Victory Lane 98 times, sixth most among active teams and seventh overall. The list of drivers who have won for the team includes NASCAR Hall of Fame members Wood , Curtis Turner (a 2016 inductee), Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Dale Jarrett. Leonard Wood , younger brother of Glen and crew chief for the majority of the team's victories, is also in the Hall of Fame. Despite often running a limited schedule, the organization has finished in the top 10 in points 13 times and won the series' premier event, the Daytona 500 , five times. "I think the timing was perfect for this to all come together," Edsel Ford II said. "I think with Team Penske 's help, that kind of motivated us to sort of talk to the Wood Brothers internally … and find out if this was possible. It just all came together this year and fit. It fit perfectly. So why not do it." NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series schedule consists of 36 points races and two non-points event and runs from February through mid-November. Entering this weekend's event, 35 teams have competed in all points races contested thus far this season.
Return to Martinsville joins past, future for Wood Brothers
Photo credit: Eddie Wood / Wood Brothers. Glen Wood stands next to his first NASCAR Grand National car, a 1953 Lincoln, at Martinsville Speedway on May 17, 1953 – his first NASCAR start. It's a home game for the Wood Brothers. But the April 3 STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is a home game the Wood Brothers haven't experienced as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team with a single driver since Ken Schrader filled the seat of the vaunted No. 21 Ford in 2006. We're talking about Martinsville, of course, the shortest track on the Sprint Cup circuit at 0.526 miles, the closest to the Wood Brothers' family home in Stuart, Virginia, and the next race on the Sprint Cup schedule. "It's a huge thing," says NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Leonard Wood , who co-founded NASCAR's most venerable organization with brother, driver and fellow Hall of Famer Glen Wood . "We look forward to going to Martinsville. We used to run over there and have a lot of fun." The Wood Brothers last competed at Martinsville in 2011, when Trevor Bayne 's unexpected victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 gave the family-owned team the wherewithal to run more races than originally planned. The Woods' last trip to the paper-clip-shaped track before Bayne's 35th-place run was with veteran driver Bill Elliott in 2008. This year, they return to the track with Sunoco Rookie of the Year hopeful Ryan Blaney , a 22-year-old who has never driven a Sprint Cup car at Martinsville, though he does have five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races under his belt there. Blaney appreciates the significance Martinsville holds within his organization. "It's really a home race for those guys, and almost for me, too," Blaney said. "I grew up in High Point, North Carolina, an hour away from Martinsville, and I vividly remember every Martinsville race I went to, watched my dad ( Dave Blaney ) run it. "And it's really neat to go back and bring the Wood Brothers back there and have them in their hometown and home state. Hopefully, we'll see a bunch of Wood Brothers fans out there. I think we will." Obviously, Leonard Wood ’s memory is a bit longer than Blaney's, dating to the days in the early 1950s when Martinsville was still a dirt half-mile. In 1953, Glen Wood raced there for the first time at NASCAR's highest level in a '53 Lincoln. "It had power steering on it, and the power steering was so easy that we had to mark the steering wheel, because, when the track was wet, it was so smooth you couldn't feel it," Leonard Wood says. In 1959, Glen Wood won the pole at Martinsville with a lap at 69.471 mph, a track record at the time. All told, Glen won four poles there, though he never won a race in NASCAR's premier division. In fact, the only two Martinsville victories recorded by the Wood Brothers in 109 starts came with NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough (1968) and David Pearson (1973) behind the wheel. When Blaney completes his 22nd lap at the .526-mile track on April 3, it will mark 45,000 laps in Cup competition at Martinsville for the Wood Brothers. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the beneficence of track founder Clay Earles, the Woods spent countless hours testing there. Leonard recalls one instance where Glen was testing the team's "back-seat car," a 1937 Ford with both the engine and driver's seat moved radically toward the rear of the car. Glen though the car needed a bigger spindle on the right front. From observing the car on the track, Leonard wasn't so sure. "So I climbed in and rode with him around the track at Martinsville" Leonard says. "He is just flying through the corners, and it felt like there's about 10 tons of pressure on the right front. It was getting so much grip that I was just holding on, like it was trying to throw me right out the window. "I'm trying to get him to slow down. He can't hear me. Finally we came to a stop. And I said, 'Glen, you need a bigger spindle on that right front.'" Blaney's experience clearly is a lot more limited, and he's not sure racing the trucks at Martinsville will be all that helpful, even though he posted fifth-place finishes in his last three starts. "I think there are some things you can take away from running the Truck races," Blaney said, "but I think there's a reason why the Cup guys don't normally run both of them. For one thing, it's really hard on your body. And, two, I hear it kind of messes them up when they run both, trying to be consistent between the two cars. "There are probably some things we can take away, and I'm looking forward to learning and everything like that, but there's not a lot that you can take away." Though Blaney readily admits Martinsville hasn't been one of his best tracks, he credits crew chief Jeremy Bullins with helping to retool his attitude. "Last year, when we announced the full-time deal, I said 'Martinsville's the one place I’m not looking forward to,' and he persuaded me (otherwise)," Blaney said. "And now I'm looking forward to going to Martinsville, and I want to go real bad. "So it's nice to have someone that can motivate you." Doubtless, on April 3, there will be a large contingent of fans in the grandstands trying to amplify that support. After all, it's a home game for the Wood Brothers—and by extension and proximity, for Blaney, too.
Wood Brothers reveal Blaney's No. 21 Virginia Tech car
RELATED: Bristol unveils Colossus video screen Ryan Blaney 's No. 21 car will feature a special Virginia Tech football paint scheme this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway , and Wood Brothers Racing unveiled the look on the gridiron Monday morning. Racing's "Last Great Colosseum" is host to the Tennessee-Virginia Tech college football game on Sept. 10., and the No. 21 team is helping get the party started early. Hokies coach Bud Foster poses with Leonard Wood and the VT car Friday. Winners ❤️ winners ❗️ @coachfostervt & @NASCAR icon Leonard Wood #LPD #Hokies pic.twitter.com/08sVU7nxTr — VT Football (@VT_Football) August 15, 2016 "Virginia Tech has been a big part of the Wood Brothers for a long, long time," said Leonard Wood , who helped his brother, Glen, found the race team in 1950. "We've been friends with Coach Foster and just met the new coach [Justin Fuente]. I never dreamed when my daughter was going to Virginia Tech that we’d have a race car on the practice field here at Virginia Tech. It's just awesome. "That 'VT' on the hood just jumps out at you and I love the color combination. It's one of my favorites." The Virginia Tech scheme also will run at the Goody's Fast Relief 500 held Oct. 30 at Martinsville Speedway , and Hokies junior wide receiver Cam Phillips likes the Ford's look. #Hokies @camphil5 @iaf_1 pic.twitter.com/Lrlx39JZNf — VT Football (@VT_Football) August 15, 2016 "You've got colleges and you've got football teams, but Virginia Tech is our hometown college team. We pull for them all the time," Leonard Wood said. "Hopefully they'll win. We'll be racing in Richmond on the night of Sept. 10, the night that they're playing in the Battle at Bristol, so we won't be watching the game, but we'll be paying attention. We'll be watching Twitter."
Wood Brothers Racing reacts to Charter news
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A race team that has been competing in NASCAR for almost as long as there has been a NASCAR, a team that has two of its members in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and can claim 98 victories -- including five in the Daytona 500 -- enters the 2016 season as one of a handful of organizations without one of NASCAR's new Charters. And that, officials with Wood Brothers Racing said here Thursday at Daytona International Speedway , is understandable. "Had we been racing fulltime from 2008 to now we would have been right in the middle of it because we would have been one of them (to obtain a Charter)," Eddie Wood , President of the organization, said. "We just happened to be in a different spot." It was a "spot" created by the team following the 2008 season, a decision made based on the economic situation and the performance of the No. 21 team at the time. Scale back and continue to compete, when and where possible, always with the goal of eventually returning to full-time status. But full-time status came too late for the Woods. NASCAR officials announced the new system earlier this week, awarding 36 teams Charters that guarantee a starting position in Sprint Cup Series fields. To receive a Charter, a team had to have attempted to qualify for all points races since the start of the 2013 season. Wood Brothers Racing has run less than fulltime since '09. A new arrangement with Team Penske , and with backing from Ford and others, allowed the team to announce last season that it would return to full-time status in '16. "We could have done what we did, which was race part time," Wood said, "but when we show up we are competitive and spending enough money to get all the right stuff, the right people and right driver. That actually turned into a Daytona 500 win (in 2011 with driver Trevor Bayne ). "The other choice we would have had was to do a start-and-park or race as best you can and that is not really fair to your sponsors. Ford Motor Company stood by us so long it wouldn’t be fair to them. "Or we could have quit." Len Wood , Chief Operating Officer for the organization, said running a full schedule with partial funding "would have been an embarrassment to our family … if we just showed up and took a check. "We didn't. We tried to perform every time we showed up. It didn't always work out that way, but that is what we tried to do.” Because the team does not have a Charter, rookie driver Ryan Blaney will have to make the field each week through qualifying, being among the four fastest Open teams vying for one of the remaining positions in what will now be 40-car fields. Last season, the team missed three races when qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather, and starting positions were assigned based on car owner points. Len Wood said based on the team’s performance a year ago, earning one of the available starting positions "shouldn't be an issue as long as we perform like we know we can. "Now if the car doesn't crank or (Blaney) goes out and hits a wall or something, then we have a problem," he said. "… It is hard to overcome something like that. If you are fast enough every week that shouldn't be an issue." Glen Wood founded Wood Brothers Racing in the family's tiny hometown of Stuart, Va. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012; younger brother Leonard Wood , who was crew chief for the team during much of its success, was inducted into the Hall the following year. News of the Charter system may have caught the elder Wood off guard, but Len Wood said his father "is fine." "He's coming down here tomorrow (Saturday)," he said, adding that it will be Glen Wood's "70th year for Speedweeks. "He said something about it being his 70th Daytona 500 but there have only been like (58). He came down here in 1947 to watch his hero, Curtis Turner, race on the sand. Daddy started racing in 1953 on the sand himself." So while there is disappointment at being excluded, Eddie Wood reiterated that decisions made in the past put the team in its current situation. But he said he would not change the way things played out if given the chance. "I wouldn't turn around and switch it for that win with Trevor here if you gave me two Charters," he said. "That is how much winning (the Daytona 500 ) means. It is this race. Not just a race, (it's) the race. This race is above all others. I don't care if it is Indy, Le Mans, this race is above all others."
Ryan Blaney to drive Wood Brothers Cup car in '15
Technical alliance formed with Team Penske RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Ryan Blaney will fill in for Trevor Bayne in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford Friday and Saturday at Michigan International Speedway as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams begin preparations for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400. Next season, Blaney will replace Bayne on a more permanent basis. Blaney, 20, has been named driver for the legendary team beginning in 2015, and will compete in at least 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. Bayne will move into a full-time role in Sprint Cup with Roush Fenway Racing next season. This weekend, he will be at Mid-Ohio to compete in the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200, creating the opening for Blaney to practice and qualify the Sprint Cup car for the Wood Brothers. The opportunity to drive the familiar red and white No. 21 Ford, which has carried some of the sport's most legendary figures to victory lane is "unbelievable," Blaney said. "It's really a dream come true so I couldn't be happier. "I'm ready to finish out this 2014 season very strong, try to go after this Truck championship and I'm really excited and looking forward to '15. I think it'll be a great year for us." Blaney currently competes in the Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing. He is the series' points leader after 11 of this season's 22 events with a series' best seven top-five finishes. He has two career wins. Eddie Wood said the search for Bayne's replacement began as soon as Bayne announced his plans to move up to Cup full-time with RFR. "Of course, that left us without a driver," Wood said. "As the summer went on the name that kept popping up was Ryan Blaney and it just kept coming up over and over and over again, so we went in that direction and fortunately we put that deal together. "We've had Trevor for the last four years and had that one great big win at Daytona (in 2011). That was almost a life-changing event for us as well as Trevor. I hope that we can repeat some of that success with Ryan. "He's the next big deal, I think, and we're real excited to have him. We've got a lot of pictures on our wall up in Virginia in the museum and we'd sure love to put him up there as a winner." Wood said for now the team's limited schedule likely would remain unchanged for next season, with the team competing in at least 12 Sprint Cup events. Motorcraft/Quick Lane will return as primary sponsor for 2015. Additional funding could mean an expanded schedule. "We're always chasing other dollars to run more races and we're certainly going to be in a position to do that," Wood said. In addition to the driver move, officials also announced the formation of a technical alliance with Team Penske , which fields Ford teams in the Sprint Cup Series for drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano . Since 2012, Blaney has made several starts for Team Penske in the Nationwide Series , and made his Sprint Cup debut earlier this year with the organization, finishing 27th at Kansas. He is scheduled to make one more Sprint Cup start with the team this year, at Talladega. The alliance "is something that's foreign to us to be honest," said Team Penske president Tim Cindric, "because it's not something we've done in the past. "We've been approached in different ways and … some of that has to do with how well you run and how well you don't run. When you're running up front, everybody wants to work with you and when you're not, then you don't get as many calls. But our answer has usually been the same. Our answer has usually been, ‘We've got enough to focus on at our place.'" Working closely with the Wood Brothers made sense "for many reasons," he said. "We're certainly focused on not only ensuring that Ryan has the tools to be successful and continues his career, but ensuring that the Wood Brothers have everything that we have." In addition to his Sprint Cup duties, Blaney will likely continue to share seat time in the No. 22 Ford fielded by Team Penske in the Nationwide Series next season. "I'd like to do as much racing as possible next year and that stuff will come later on down the road," Blaney said. "We're just excited to announce the stuff today. … I'd like to race as much as possible but we're focused on finishing out this year strong and I'm really excited about the Wood Brothers deal next year and I'm sure we'll figure all that stuff out later." Wood Brothers Racing is one of the longest tenured groups competing in NASCAR's premier series. Founded by Glen Wood when NASCAR was just beginning to take root in the early 1950s, the team has won 98 races and has always been affiliated with Ford Motor Company. Glen and younger brother Leonard Wood , who served as crew chief, are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Glen's children, Eddie, Len and Kim, run the organization today. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Wood Comments on his Hall Of Fame Experience
Alan Cavanna talks with Leonard Wood about his experience being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Night of Living History: Wood Brothers
Glen and Leonard Wood join NASCAR HOF historian Buz McKim to discuss their legendary careers in racing.
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