Gordon Kirby

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A team is reborn

The wood brothers team is one of NASCAR’s most respected outfits. Founders Glen and Leonard Wood are true Virginia gentlemen who have always turned out superbly prepared cars since the team’s start in 1950. They are as much a part of NASCAR’s history as the Peffys and Dale Earnhardt, and through the ’80s their team was one of the most successful.

So there was much to celebrate at this year’s season-opening Daytona 500 when a 20-year-old rookie brought to an end the Wood Bros long winless streak. The 500 was a messy race, strewn with accidents and yellow flag periods, but the day was saved with a fine victory by Trevor Bayne, who had only started one Sprint Cup race aboard a Wood Bros Ford prior to becoming the youngest-ever winner of NASCAR’s classic opener.

The Woods’ NASCAR record is certainly impressive. From 196469 Dan Gurney dominated Riverside’s season-opener in Wood Bros cars and Cale Yarborough won 13 races over four seasons with its Fords starting in ’67. David Pearson, known as ‘The Silver Fox’, scored no fewer than 43 wins in 1972-78 with the Woods, and the team famously refuelled Jim Clark’s Lotus-Ford when he won the 1965 Indy 500. The Woods won the Daytona 500 with Tiny Lund in 1963, Yarborough in ’68, AJ Foyt in ’72 and Pearson in ’76.

But in the last 23 years the Wood Bros have won just three races. Veteran Bill Elliaff has driven for the team over the past three seasons since coming out of semi-retirement, but a decade had passed since the Woods’ last win until young Bayne turned the trick at Daytona in February.

The team is run these days by Glen’s sons Eddie and Len with daughter Kim. Glen, 85, was at Daytona to see Bayne’s victory. “It’s the greatest thing we’ve had happen to us,” he declared. “It’s certainly put us in the spotlight more than I can ever remember.”

Eddie Wood could not have felt prouder. “I walked in Victory Lane with Richard Petty and Edsel Ford and my dad,” he said. “I don’t know how much beffer that can get.”

Eddie said the team felt great pride in scoring Ford’s 600th Sprint Cup win. “We’ve raced Ford Motor Company products exclusively since 1950. One of the most important things to our family is our relationship with Ford. For us to be the guys who gave it to them with Trevor at the wheel is just a storybook ending.”

Eddie also expressed pleasure at the end of the team’s winless streak. “You begin to think you can never get back, but you keep trying,” he said. “Just the fact that you want one more trophy, one more trophy, you just can’t quit. And we never did quit.”

Glen Wood praised Bayne, who ran quickly all week at Daytona and never put a foot wrong. “Trevor deserved to win,” he said. “He earned it, he didn’t luck into it at all. He ran as good or beffer than any of them all day long.”

Bayne hails from Tennessee and has come up quickly through the short track ranks, impressing everywhere he’s raced with his smooth driving and gentlemanly manner. “There’s nobody who deserves this more than the Wood Brothers and their family,” said Bayne. “I’m just glad I got to be the guy sifting behind the wheel for these guys to get this win.”

Just like in the glory years, the Wood Bros’ red and white Ford was painted in the team’s colours from the 1970s to honour David Pearson’s induction into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. “Bringing back the red and white car with the gold numbers that Pearson drove, that just seemed like puffing things back to normal,” said Eddie Wood.

For many years the Wood Bros have run only 20 or so of NASCAR’s 36 races each season, so Bayne won’t be competing for this year’s championship. Nevertheless this is the perfect team for him to hone his skills as everyone watches closely to see if Bayne develops into the true superstar that this year’s Daytona 500 suggests he will soon become.

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