The Wood Brothers – Last of a Breed and Winning Again

The 2011 edition of the Daytona 500 was flawed. No one will deny that, but the result was sheer joy. It was uplifting to see the Wood family in victory lane once again. And they were all there—Leonard and Glen and their sons Len and Eddie. What a tribute to a true family organization.

[media-credit id=22 align=”alignright” width=”188″][/media-credit]Most of the teams in NASCAR, especially the successful ones are owned by some millionaire who wants to dabble in this sport. I don’t count Jack Roush or Richard Childress in this group. Those guys started at the bottom and worked their way up, but how many true family organizations are there? The Woods are one of the few left and it was gratifying to see them in their rightful place—victory lane.

Many expected that one of the powerful Chevrolet’s of Hendrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing would win the whole week, but it wasn’t to be. Childress cars only won a qualifying race all week. Hendrick had two cars on the front row for the 500, but nothing else to show for all the hoopla that surrounded them all week. You just can’t predict who is going to win one of these things at Daytona or Talladega. I’ve said many times that four times a year anyone can win, and that’s not taking anything away from Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers. They had a fast car and an amazingly mature driver for his age and it all came together.

The Wood Brothers are the oldest surviving team still operating in Sprint Cup. They started out in a tiny shop in Stuart, Virginia, just a little bit east of Martinsville. For years they stayed in their little shop where victories by such dignitaries as Marvin Paunch, Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, and Elliott Sadler made them legends in the sport. Until today, the last victory the Woods had enjoyed was in 2001 with Sadler driving at Bristol Motor Speedway. Though the team has 98 victories, the last nine years had given them no victories. They faced a low point in 2008 when for the first time as an organized team; they did not make the field for the Daytona 500. It was then that they decided things had to change.

Because of limited sponsorship, the reduced their schedule to 13-15 races a year. In the early days, they usually didn’t run for championships, but not they had to quit running all the races for financial reasons. Still, that was getting them nowhere. Late in 2010, Eddie Wood went to Jack Roush and they formed an alliance. Roush-Yates was already supplying engines for the team, but now Roush-Fenway would supply cars to them, much like they do for Richard Petty Motorsports. The change in fortunes for the Woods was almost immediate.

The first race was last year’s second Texas race, and the driver was a 19-year old driver named Trevor Bayne that Roush-Fenway had signed. Bill Elliott had been piloting the cars, but Bayne was the driver for that day. Bayne finished 17th on the lead lap. In the off-season, the Woods decided to give Bayne a chance at Daytona and the rest is history. The Wood Brothers Ford was fast with Bayne qualifying fourth. He was a star in the making and proved it with his Daytona 500 win.

So, for a day, all was right with the world. In the beginning of this sport, men and their families built race cars and came to the track chasing a dream. For a little while, the big tycoons who pretty much run this sport with their multi-million dollar drivers took a back seat to the Wood Brothers. It’s a shame that even if Bayne decides to change his declaration for which series he’s running for the championship (he had declared he was running for the Nationwide Series championship because the Woods were only planning 17 races this year), he will get no points for today’s race and the win will not be considered, but a rule is a rule I suppose. Let’s hope he smokes the field again and again this year and the 43 points he lost will only be an afterthought. That is, if someone steps up to the plate and offers the Woods a sponsorship deal for the remaining 19 races. Wouldn’t that be just perfect?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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