Glen Wood, Martinsville Speedway, and history

Glen Wood’s racing history is nearly as old as NASCAR itself and in fact is a major part NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway’s story. Wood and the Wood Brothers’ CITGO Ford Racing Team are celebrating their 50th anniversary in...

Glen Wood’s racing history is nearly as old as NASCAR itself and in fact is a major part NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway’s story. Wood and the Wood Brothers’ CITGO Ford Racing Team are celebrating their 50th anniversary in racing in 2000. As a team owner, he built a reputation for dominating the larger tracks. But Wood also had a driving career that spanned 14 years. He was a terror on the NASCAR circuit that consisted mainly of short tracks in the 1950s and early 1960s. At Martinsville Speedway he won five Winston Cup poles and collected wins in a 1960 50-lap modified race and he and Curtis Turner combined for a win in a 1952 team Sportsman race. The Wood Brothers, based in Stuart, VA, have 96 NASCAR Winston Cup victories to their credit including 80 superspeedway wins. The team won at least one superspeeedway race for 21 consecutive years from 1963-83. The team also won an amazing 116 poles positions over the years. In 1973, the team won 11 of the 18 races it entered with 10 superspeedway wins and a victory at the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway just 29 miles from their shop in Stuart. Elliott Sadler is the current driver of the Wood Brothers CITGO Ford on a list of competitors that reads like a Hall of Fame roster. Over the years, and some just ran one race on a special occasion, their drivers have included, in alphabetical order, Donnie Allison, Buddy Baker, Earl Balmer, Neil Bonnett, Perk Brown, Eb Clifton, Ralph Earnhardt, Tommy Ellis, Fonty Flock, A.J. Foyt, Paul Goldsmith, Dan Gurney, Fred Harb, Sonny Hutchins, Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Parnelli Jones, Fred Lorenzen, Tiny Lund, Jim Massey, Dave MacDonald, Banjo Matthews, Billy Myers, Bobby Myers, Marvin Panch, David Pearson, Kyle Petty, Bobby Rahal, Fireball Roberts, Morgan Shepherd, Nelson Stacy, Ted Swaim, Speedy Thompson, Curtis Turner, Michael Waltrip, Joe Weatherly, Bob Welborn and Cale Yarborough. Pearson had the greatest success. Between 1972 and 1978, Pearson drove the Wood machine to 45 victories including ten big track wins in both 1973 and 1976. The team entered very few short track races during the 1970s, but did win the 1973 Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway in the only Ford/Mercury product to win at Martinsville between Richard Petty’s pair of victories in 1969 to Ricky Rudd in 1986. They also won the 1968 Virginia 500 with Cale Yarborough at the wheel. Wood Brothers racing has had tremendous success with many of the all-time greats in their cars but four of those 96 Winston Cup victories came with Glen at the wheel. It was Glen and his brother Leonard against the world in the early days. “Leonard always has been mechanical minded,” Glen said. “Daddy was a mechanic. Leonard has been reworking engines since he was 15. Glen had no idea of becoming a driver. His main interest was sawmill work and by the time he was in his early twenties he owned a mill. It was only natural that when the racing bug finally bit him hard, and he showed up to drive in his first event, someone said. “Well, here comes the old woodchopper.” It was a nickname that proved to be appropriate and stuck as Glen cut down the competition again and again. Glen, at the age of 25, showed up at Morris Speedway in Horsepasture, Va. with his modified, a 1939 Ford Coupe. He spun out and bent the axle in his first try, but that was just the beginning of his troubles. On the way back to Stuart the towed race car overheated from the damage and caught fire. “We had to hammer the tow chain in place when we hooked the race car to our regular car.” Wood said. “But you know I pulled that thing apart with my hands when the car caught fire. All we could do was stand there and watch it burn.” In the early days, Glen raced at Leaksville, N.C., Martinsville Speedway and Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. N.C. The team was formed in 1950 and ran its first Grand National (Winston Cup) race, a 100-mile event, on May 17, 1953 at Martinsville Speedway. Wood finished 30th in a 1953 Lincoln and earned $25. Glen sold the sawmill and went racing full-time in 1954. “I was making as much in racing as at the sawmill so I decided to make racing my profession,” Wood said. It was the beginning of a great career. Wood won the North Carolina State Modified Championship, the Bowman Gray Championship and was voted the most popular driver there. In his career, he set a record for victories on the tight, quarter-mile track that stood for many years. Wood ran the 4.1-mile beach-road course at Daytona and was so impressive that in 1956 he was hired to drive for the Ford factory team along with Turner and Weatherly on the NASCAR convertible circuit. With the completion of the Daytona International Speedway in 1959, racing began to change. It was the beginning of the so-called “superspeedway” where speeds were soaring. Wood didn’t mind the high speeds and led a 100-mile convertible race at Daytona when his car ran out of gas a half mile from the finish. But he wasn’t happy with the change because he loved the action of the short tracks. Still he stayed behind the wheel and finished ninth in the national convertible standing. At the height of his driving career, he had to make a big decision. The demands for the short track racing appearances were becoming greater and the stars of racing were standing in line to get a ride in a Wood Brothers car. The pressure of success was mounting. Wood again grabbed the Bowman Gray Modified title in 1961 but with other drivers running his Winston Cup car. Tiny Lund captured the Daytona 500 for the Woods in 1963 in a car so well set up that it did not require a single tire change. The team was the 1963 Winston Cup car owner’s points champions. The team also crewed for Jimmy Clark when he won the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. With the team gaining national recognition, Glen began to realize that his driving days were finished. He began to dedicate his time to Winston Cup racing. Wood drove his last race in competition at the quarter-mile Starkey Speedway near Roanoke Va. in 1964. Glen always is ready to share his knowledge of racing, sense of humor and mountain wisdom. Take his name, for instance. On all his uniforms, as on his old driving suits, you’ll find the name “Glen”. “My real name is spelled ‘Glenn,’ but it just seems that when I write it, I’m through writing when I get to the first ‘n’” Wood said. When he was driving his famous “backseat driver” Modified car, Wood painted the words “Oil Cooler” on that part of the engine. Why? “So many people kept asking me what it was, I got tired of telling them so I just painted it on so they would stop asking.” This year the team is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary in racing and is known for several advancements including being credited with creating the first organized pit stop. The pit crew composed of relatives and friends was in a class by itself, setting the standard for the circuit. Wood and his brother Leonard Wood have turned most of the reins of the operation over to Glen’s children, Eddie, Len and Kim Wood Hall. Kim’s husband Terry also works with the team “Len and I have a real good relationship, we have confidence in each other’s ability and we can trust each other, and that’s crucial in this sport today.” said Eddie. Kim is the team’s office manager and coordinates the team’s travel schedule. Glen Wood is now in his mid-70s, but looks 15 years younger. And at heart, he's still a racer.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Dan Gurney , Ned Jarrett , Parnelli Jones , Richard Petty , Morgan Shepherd , Marvin Panch , Junior Johnson , Donnie Allison , Elliott Sadler , Buddy Baker , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough , David Pearson , Fred Lorenzen , Tiny Lund