After being away for a couple of seasons, NASCAR’s oldest team is returning to NASCAR’s oldest track.
The Wood Brothers from Stuart, Va., their driver Trevor Bayne and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will race this weekend in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the team’s first appearance there since the fall of 2008. The Woods have been racing in NASCAR for 61 years, and Martinsville has been hosting races for 65 years, since the inaugural race on July 4, 1947. The paper-clip-shaped half-mile track has been hosting races for the series now known as Sprint Cup since its inaugural season of 1949, never missing a year.
Although the Woods are best known for their superspeedway racing, they have plenty of history at Martinsville as well.
In the Cup Series alone, the Woods have raced at Martinsville 108 times, winning twice, with David Pearson in 1973 and Cale Yarborough in 1968, and posting 28 top-five and 42 top-10 finishes along with eight poles.
It was team founder Glen Wood who carried the team’s colors at Martinsville in the early years.
Wood had four poles and three top-three finishes in Cup races at Martinsville. In NASCAR’s Convertible Series, he had one pole and never qualified worse than fourth, and had one runner-up finish. In 1960, he drove his 1937 Ford known as “The Backseater” to victory in a Modified race run in conjunction with the Cup race at Martinsville. The Backseater got its name from where the driver sat. Taking advantage of the relaxed rules of the Modified Series, Glen and Leonard Wood kept moving the engine back in the car until there was nowhere for the driver to sit but in the back seat.
But for Glen Wood, his home track never seemed to give him a break.
“I led a lot of them and was on the pole for about half of them, but somehow they all eluded me,” he said. “But that was one of my favorite tracks, along with Bowman Gray Stadium.”
Glen’s son Eddie, one of the co-owners of the team today, has been making the 25 mile trek from Stuart to Martinsville since that day in 1960 when his father drove the Backseater to victory.
Not surprisingly, it’s one of his favorite stops on the Sprint Cup circuit.
“It’s just like going to your favorite place to eat or hang out in your hometown,” he said. “It’s been a part of my life since I was very, very young, and I’ve seen pictures and videos of my dad racing there in the Convertible and in the Grand National [now Sprint Cup] division.”
Like many a Martinsville veteran, Wood doesn’t waste any time getting to the hot dog stand when he arrives at the track. Martinsville’s $2 hot dogs are almost as famous as the track itself.
“It’ll either be Tony Glover [a veteran crew chief] or me first in line when they start selling them,” Wood said. “We’ll eat a dozen of them a day.”
But for Eddie Wood and his team, there’s more to Martinsville than memories and hot dogs. Bayne and crew chief Donnie Wingo have spent two days testing at “Little Rock,” the Martinsville-like short track at Rockingham, N.C., in preparation for Bayne’s first run on the tricky Martinsville track, one that has confounded many a newcomer over the years.
But Wood is confident Bayne can adapt.
“He probably ran 300 to 400 laps at Little Rock last week,” Wood said.
He has been has been working on the techniques that drivers must use to be fast on the flat, half-mile track. That is he’s learning when to be on the brakes and when to be off the pedal.
“And then you have to be disciplined enough to do it, “that’s the hard part, but he’ll be just fine.” Wood said.
Also in Bayne’s favor is the NASCAR schedule, as there’s no Nationwide Series race for him to compete in this week.
“Since it’s a new race track for him, it’s good that he’ll be able to devote all his time and thought processes to the Cup car,” Wood said.
Qualifying for the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 is set for Saturday at 12:10 p.m., and the race is set to get the green flag shortly after 1 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.