Wood Brothers: The long journey toward win 100 Hendrick Motorsports to compete in four Xfinity Series races Kimi Raikkonen to drive Project 91 car at COTA Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway Josh Berry, Jordan Taylor to drive No. 9 Cup car for Chase Elliott
Eddie Wood last month inside a Wood Brothers Racing tractor at the Daytona International Speedway garage, ignoring the band of noise outside, leafing through a NASCAR history book.
With so many pages, it’s both a Woods family album and NASCAR history. That’s because Wood Brothers Racing and NASCAR enjoyed parallel lives and legendary peak moments. Eddie Wood participated in many of them, remembers most of the others and studied the history of those that preceded his birth.
Wood Brothers Racing started before NASCAR, helped create the NASCAR brand and style, won the biggest race five times, and provided a driver’s seat for the list of honorable names in motorsports.
“Here’s Tiny in 1963,” Wood said, pointing to a photo of Tiny Lund on his way to victory in that year’s Daytona 500. The same colors are red and white, with a bold number 21 on the side, a number that would also stand for Cale Yarborough, AJ Foyt, David Pearson and Trevor Bain to wins in the 500 run.
“And Pearson raced for us in ’74,” Wood said, “and a big finish in ’76, and Neil Bonnett who won for us at Dover in 1981. So much to remember. Great drivers, great times.”
MORE: NASCAR Power Ranking: Ross Chastain – No. 1
Perhaps most impressive of Eddie Wood’s journey through this particular piece of NASCAR history is the photo of his father, Glen, the team’s founder, sitting in 21st at the start of the NASCAR Convertible Division race in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Glen was a lumberjack, fast car lover and motorsport pioneer. The team he built with his first fast engine, Ford parts and parts, and the mechanical skills (literally) of the shade of a tree ride today in search of a historic number 100 team win.
The Wood Brothers team began in the yard of a modest family home near Stuart, Virginia. The mountain valley where the Woods lived – Walter and Ada, their sons Glen, Ray Lee, Clay, Delano and Leonard and their daughter Crystal – is known as Buffalo Ridge. There, in the farmhouse yard, there is a huge American beech tree, and it was the strong lower branch of this tree that held the chain that was used to pull the engine out of the brothers’ first racing car.
In those distant times, the brothers did not have a workshop. They fiddled with cars under blue Virginia skies. Eventually, a number of shops were built, even as Glen recorded the team’s first NASCAR victories, and it became apparent that there was more money to be made at the race track than at the family sawmill.
Wins have come in batches over the years as No. 21 has hosted a number of successful riders: Dan Gurney, Marvin Punch, AJ Foyt, Curtis Turner, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and, most famous in recent years a child named Trevor Bain.
Bain stunned everyone, including himself, by winning the 2011 Daytona 500 for Woods, a shock of epic proportions for a relatively obscure driver who turned 20 just a day before the race. A wild celebration followed, and Glen Wood, then 85 years old, nearly missed it.
Richard Petty, the driver and team owner who fought the Woods for so many years yet cherishes their friendship, tells this story best.
“I ended up next to the Woods pit lane when the race was over,” Petty recalled. “Their whole crowd went to the victory circle. Glen just sat there. They left him. I said, “Glen, do you want to be in the winning circle?” He said yes.’ ”
Petty accompanied Wood to Victory Lane, two veteran racers on their way to the holy land of NASCAR. Petty knew this process. He has won the Daytona 500 seven times as a driver.
“So that’s how Glen got there and celebrated too, and that’s why I ended up there,” Petty said.
This circle remains unbroken today. Glen Wood died in 2019 at the age of 93, but his brother, the mechanical wizard Leonard, and Glen’s sons, Eddie and Len, remain close members of the extended Petty family, a bond that grew even stronger during the Kyle years (1985-88). Petty, Richard’s son, went to the Woods.
“We have always respected what Leonard and they could do while out of town and away from everyone else,” said Richard Petty. “We knew we had to get ahead of 21. They knew we had to get ahead of 43. We were both family businesses and we knew each other. My wife and kids would be in the infield, and theirs too. We ate with each other. It was a friendly but competitive thing.”
Walk around today’s Cup garage and talk to any number of old timers long gone from the weekly grind, and there’s a deep respect in the racing community for the Woods, their history and their ‘good guy’ stance. And while success has been rare in recent years, many fans cling to the aura of the No. 21 with golden numbers and a golden history.
Even during the years when the team did not operate to full schedules, preferring to focus on higher payout races, Woods usually raced at Martinsville Speedway, his “home” track. Clay Campbell, the track’s president, worked to make that happen.
“We’ve always tried to work with them,” Campbell said. “We were the only short track they ran for a long time. We didn’t want to have a cup race in Martinsville without the Wood brothers, given what they meant to NASCAR and to Martinsville. It would be bad if we didn’t have them. So we made a deal with them. They also recognized the importance of managing Martinsville. It was a win-win for both of us as they were in Stuart on the road.
“They are an integral part of how this sport has become what it is. Leonard, Glen, Eddie, Len, the whole family – they’ve done so much. When you talk about the history of NASCAR, you won’t be talking long before you start talking about the Wood brothers.”
Dale Jarrett played for the team in 1990 and 1991, scoring the first of his 32 Cup victories, finishing 21st at Michigan in 1991. wife, Bernes, for dinners. The food came from Glen’s garden, which he tended until the last months of his life.
“You felt like when you went to work for them, you literally became part of their family,” Jarrett told NBC Sports. “They included you in everything they did. It was necessary to look around and understand how much knowledge there is. They saw and did a lot. There were things they came up with that changed the sport, but they also quickly adapted to the things they saw others do.
“You really become part of their family. To this day, Eddie and Len are some of my best friends in the world. I can always count on them.”
This echoes Ryan Blaneywho, like Jarrett, led the No. 21 to his first career win, this time at Pocono Raceway in 2017.
“Those years were a blast, an absolute treat,” Blaney told NBC Sports. “Working with Eddie and Len and getting to know Leonard. Just being around these guys and talking about how the sport has evolved and changed is such a pleasure. I always go down to where they are in the garage, see them and find out what’s going on.”
The only downside to Blaney’s 2017 win with the Woods is that No. 21 hasn’t visited Victory Lane in the six years since that win. Through drivers Paul Menard (2018-19) Matt DiBenedetto (2020-21) and Harrison Burton (2022–present) Woods’ win meter is locked at 99.
The 100th win will be a big celebration in the family, in the wider Ford motorsports community and, to a large extent, on the pit roads. Chasing that checkered flag isn’t talked about that often (bad luck and all that goes with it), and Eddie Wood runs away from any thought that there might be “Wood Brothers 100th Win” caps or other trappings. sit and wait for victory.
“You jinx yourself,” he said.
“You just can’t win the race. Winning a race has always been difficult, but now it is really difficult. For all. I think you just need to put it all together. It must be the right day. The right things have to happen. You should be there at the end.”
Burton, in his second full season of Cup racing after four Xfinity Series victories, said 100 victories are within reach. “For me, it’s week after week to do our job,” he said. “If we control what we can control, we can win the cup race. We just have to prove it. Obviously there is a lot of pressure to get it. I want it for the Wood brothers. They deserve it.”
When that moment arrives, another page will appear in the history book and the banked memories of everyone who has had contact with Wood Brothers Racing over the years.