GLEN WOOD, founder of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 18, 2002. Prior to this prestigious event Motorcraft Racing Media Relations...
GLEN WOOD, founder of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 18, 2002. Prior to this prestigious event Motorcraft Racing Media Relations will release the transcript of conversations with Glen and other members of his family describing the history of his team.
The fourth of these releases deals with the defining moment in Wood Brothers Racing history. Glen talks about why he almost closed the doors and the circumstances that kept the team in the sport.
Part IV: Remembering 1965 Indy 500
"Everybody Thought It Would Take Over A Minute To Put 55 Gallons Of Fuel Into Those Cars. We Surprised Them." Leonard Wood
Thirty-eight years ago this week Wood Brothers Racing ran the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pit Colin Chapman's Ford-powered racer driven by Jimmy Clark. Unlike this year's 600-miler at Charlotte and the historic 500-miler at Indianapolis that are contested just hours apart, the races in 1965 were run one week apart. So travel was not an issue, but preparation was. Glen and Leonard Wood remember how it was.
GLEN WOOD: "We were there for a week before the race. You see we were responsible to make sure everything in the fueling department and jacking the car and whatever were working right. So we fooled with it for practically a week. That and practicing pit runs, and fuel stops a time or two.
"We were at Darlington, whatever time that was (May 8, 1965) and John Cowley, then one of the Ford bosses said to me, 'How would you like to go to Indy?' And I asked him, 'What for?" And he said, 'To pit Jimmy Clark.' I said, 'You must be kidding,' and he said, 'No, as a matter of fact I'm not.' They had had problems at Indy in the past two or three years. They had run well but had problems in the pits and lost the race because of it. And he thought we could do a better job maybe and get Ford in the winners' circle. That's how come we went.
"Fortunately, we had everything prepared well to do everything you needed to do including changing tires. As it turned out, we didn't end up changing tires during the race. The tires back then had tread and as they wore down they would run as well or better, and if you hadn't worn them out you didn't have to change them. We kept measuring them. We've got pictures of my brother Ray Lee measuring on one of the stops to see how much tread was left. Our first stop was 19 seconds to put in 55 gallons of alcohol and our second stop, because the tank was lower and the pressure was less to gravity flow in, I think was 24 seconds. We only fueled two times. So that was a total of 43 seconds for pit stops during the race, and I guess that's a record that will stay there because they can't carry but 30 gallons, and they can't go 100 miles without stopping for fuel. Alcohol burns about twice as much as gasoline. And nitro is worse. Back then they furnished the fuel and it was pure alcohol.
"We left after the World 600 at Charlotte to go up there. I think we just loaded the crew up and drove up.
"There were six of us. Me, Leonard, Ray Lee and Delano, Clay wasn't along, Kenneth Martin and Jim Reed. Jim was there basically to keep laps. Of course (Colin) Chapman had one of his own. He could keep up with 10 cars. I never saw anybody like him. I can't think of the guy's name, but he was like a live computer when there wasn't any. You could just pick out any three-digit numbers for him to multiply and he could come up with it just off the top of his head. I never saw anybody like that.
"It was basically our job to do the fueling. They had a big three-inch hose. 1965 was the first year they fueled with gravity feed. The fuel had been under pressure prior to that. They had big tanks, but prior to that they had the tanks pressurized so that you could take a nozzle, like a normal gas nozzle, and fill the car. This had a dry break connector like they have on an airplane and similar to what we have today on our stock cars. You had to push it in and turn it on to get it to flow. You had to twist it to turn it on and twist it to take it out. Today with ours, you just push it in and pull it out. These were more like the refueling of an airplane underneath the wing. That meant you had to twist it to turn it on and twist it back to turn it off and then pull it out. Of course that was one the things we had to work on to make sure they worked freely. They didn't when we first got there. That was part of our week's work, to get all of that working properly. Leonard filed and polished on them connectors. One of the things I did was hold the hose up in the middle because the hose was probably about 20 feet long. It went from the tank over to the other side of the car, and you had to hold them up so that they didn't sag down and restrict the flow. Two of us did that I know. I know Ray Lee was measuring the tires. And Ralph Edwards, Bernece's cousin, I forgot him. Leonard and Ralph were the two that connected the hoses to the car. And Delano and I were the two that held the hose up in the middle.
IF IT TOOK ALL OF YOU TO FUEL THE CAR, WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD TO CHANGE TIRES TOO? "Actually, we hadn't planned on changing tires. But if we did, we would have done what we had because everybody would have been in the same boat. The tires had a knock-on lug. It was a little winged nut. The diameter of the hub was about two inches and the hole in that nut was like two inches big and had wings out like three or four inches on each end. And to tighten it, in place of an air wrench like we've got today, you'd spin it on and then hit it on the wings a time or two to tighten it. You'd hammer it on so to speak. They were trying to get it done then to use the air guns with a hex nut in place of the wing nut like they do today.
DID YOU PRACTICE? "We practiced all of it. I don't remember what the plan was if we had to change tires or just how we would have done that. Then we asked Chapman what would happen if there was something wrong with the engine or if the car had a problem not pertaining to the tires or the fueling. And he said he had his crew, he called it the disaster crews if that happened or if the car came un-cranked. Sometimes they let them die in the pits, and you've got to go over the wall with the starter. Somebody else would have done that. Fortunately, that didn't happen. And if you would have had to done all that, it would be a possibility that you wouldn't have won the race anyway.
WHAT WAS VICTORY LANE LIKE? "I remember Chapman - he just hugged everybody and that was sort of unusual. It was great to go."
LEONARD WOOD recalled a funny incident from that week: "When we got there one of the first people we ran into was A.J. Foyt. We had worked with A.J., and he raced for us some. Anyway, he showed us around the garage and showed us his car and told us all about his set up and showed us everything about his car. Then all of a sudden he said, "What are you doing here anyway?" When we told him we were there to pit for Jimmy Clark in Colin Chapman's car - well, you know A.J. You can just imagine what he said."
Glen Wood - "In about 1960, I almost quit then." Part I