Martinsville, VA---Itâ€™s been more than 30 years since a member of the Wood family has raced in NASCAR competition, but there is another one coming on fast. Jon Wood is making quite a name for himself in the NASCAR Late Model...
Martinsville, VA---It’s been more than 30 years since a member of the Wood family has raced in NASCAR competition, but there is another one coming on fast. Jon Wood is making quite a name for himself in the NASCAR Late Model Stock division in his rookie season. Wood has already won once at New River Valley Speedway and has begun to consistently run in the top five at the very competitive venue. On September 26, in the Taco Bell 300 at Martinsville Speedway, Jon will attempt to bring that success to the most competitive race in the Late Model Division. Jon's grandfather is Glen Wood, founder of the race team and a legendary driver, who was good enough to be selected as one of the top 50 drivers in the history of NASCAR a year ago. Jon's great-uncle is Leonard, who is generally regarded as one of the best engine builders and mechanics ever to spin a wrench. Jon's father Eddie and uncle Len have been around racing since they entered the world. Today they run the team their father founded. Jon now drives the number 16, his grandfather’s number, Tonka Ford Taurus and is experiencing success not only on the track, but also with the fans. It’s a common site to see Jon walking through the crowd at New River before the race talking with the fans and signing autographs. Many of the fans who request autographs are wearing Tonka Racing T-shirts which are sold in the track’s souvenir stand. Jon has found quick success in Late Models, but for the most part he is a typical teenager. He often wears a baseball cap and has constant nervous energy that keeps him in continuos motion. He has braces that will probably come off soon and wears clothes that let him blend in perfectly in the halls of Patrick County High School, where he will be a senior this fall. He likes to hang out with friends, and he's concerned about college. But that’s were typical ends. He's a race car driver. He's only four months into his Late Model Stock career, campaigning every Saturday night at New River Valley Speedway, and occasionally venturing out to other tracks in the region. Jon started the season with several top ten finishes but his success began to level off and the team decided to give itself a jump start. The cars and equipment were moved from Greensboro into the Wood Brothers shop in Stuart. Talmadge Thomas, who worked on Modified racers owned by his father, Speedy Thomas, was brought on as crew chief. The chemistry between Jon and his new crew chief was immediate. The first week they were together Jon was in contention to win when he got bumped late in the race. A week later he rolled into victory lane at New River. "I had no idea it would come this quick. The goals I had set for this year was to finish most of the races and maybe have a top ten here and there. I think I have had a pretty good season so far because I have finished in the top ten every race except one and I didn’t finish that race." He is doing so well that, in fact, he had the win on June 26 followed by a two seconds, a third, fourth and a fifth place finish in the past five races. Winning in only a half season of Late Model racing was great for Wood. "It didn’t really dawn on me until after the celebration and all that stuff. It was a shock really. I mean that’s not suppose to happen," he said. Wood gives credit to Thomas for making him successful. "I have a crew chief that every question I ask him he has an answer for me. I really attribute all my success to him," said Wood. But Thomas has a different view. "He is a third generation racer and it really shows. He is into his racing, he concentrates on working his car, he’s good about knowing how it’s suppose to feel. He’s really good and that’s the bottom line. He’s the one that’s driving it." "Jon's got natural ability and that's something everybody doesn't have. Some learn it, but natural is better. He's really focused on what we're trying to do." Wood will race in the Taco Bell 300 NASCAR Late Model Stock race on Sunday, September 26 at Martinsville Speedway. The Taco Bell 300 begins at 12:30 p.m. with four 25-lap qualifying races to set positions 21-36 in the 42-car starting field. The top 20 starters will come from qualifying at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 25. There also will be six provisionals awarded. The Taco Bell 300 winner will receive $25,000 and the leaders at lap 100 and 150 of the 200-lap feature race will receive $2,500 each from BB&T. Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12.
It was at Daytona, more than a decade ago, that Eddie Wood realized that there was something special about his son. It was a hot Fourth of July weekend, and Eddie and most of the Wood clan were spending the Independence Day holiday as they have for years ... at Daytona International Raceway for the Firecracker 500. But before the weekend's showcase race, there was another race, a cutesy little family event, a big wheel race for all children of pit road. "There were two or three races and I noticed Jon just standing back and watching all the kids in the first two," said Eddie. "When his race started he shot out to a big lead and won. When he took off, he didn't pedal, though. He pushed along with his feet on the ground for about 10 feet and then started pedaling. "Afterwards I asked him why he did that and he said he had watched the others when they took off and they all spun their wheels at first and couldn't get going. "And he figured out a way not to spin his wheels," said Eddie, shaking his head, still pretty amazed at his son's first bit of racing strategy. Jon was five, maybe six years old at that Daytona race. But deep down inside, Eddie had to know that after a skipped generation, there was another driver in the family. It's the last name that should be the tip-off. Wood. As in Wood Brothers Race Team. Jon's grandfather is Glen Wood, founder of the race team and a legendary driver, good enough to be selected as one of the top 50 drivers in the history of NASCAR a year ago. Jon's great-uncle is Leonard, who is generally regarded as one of the best engine builders and mechanics ever to spin a wrench. Jon's father Eddie and uncle Len have been around racing since they entered the world. Today they run the team their father founded. And then there's Jon. He's a typical teenager in most every way. There's the baseball cap and constant nervous energy that keeps him in continious motion. There are the braces that will probably come off soon and the clothes that let him blend in perfectly in the halls of Patrick County High School, where he will be a senior this fall. He likes to hang out with friends, and he's concerned about college. But Jon Wood is no typical teenager. He's a race car driver, one that is quickly living up to his family legacy. He's barely three months into his Late Model Stock career, campaigning every Saturday night at New River Valley Speedway, and occasionally venturing out to other tracks in the region. Amazingly he's already won a race at New River, one of the toughest Late Model venues around, and is a consistent top-five runner at the half-mile track. "He's my kid. He's great to me, but in all honesty, I didn't think he'd win this soon," said Eddie. "He's well ahead of my expectations." Ever since that big wheel race at Daytona, it seemed a sure bet that Jon would eventually be bitten by the bug, the same racing bug that got his granddaddy and uncle 50 years ago. "When he was 11 or 12 and I knew racing would be brought up and I knew it was getting time and I didn't know what to do," said Eddie. "I just sort of tip-toed around it." Dale Jarrett, who used to drive the Wood Brothers Winston Cup cars, ended the tip-toe routine, though. Jarrett's son Jason had been go-karting for a couple of years and was moving up to another division. And the Jarretts needed something to do with all the go-kart equipment. "Dale's wife Kelli Called my wife Carol and said they had a deal. Jason was going to Limited (Sportsman) and they wanted to sell all their stuff," said Eddie. "I wasn't sure what to do." Jarrett took care of that dilemma, though. "Dale called back and said for the advancement of Jon's racing career they were giving us all of the stuff," said Eddie. And Jon's racing career began to take root. "It was all my decision to start racing," said Jon, who hit the track for the first time when he was 13 years old. "I kept saying I wanted to race karts and he (his father) said 'no.' Then I walked into the shop one day and all the stuff was there. "But I never had the feeling I had to race. Until I started kart racing, I didn't know a tire from a motor. I knew it (racing) was there and that I would have the opportunity if I wanted." Until that point, Jon had been a stick and ball athlete, playing golf and football. By the time he had finished the ninth grade at Patrick County, though, normal sports became history. "This is basically having to give up everything from sports to going out on Friday nights. But it's paying off," said Jon. "I wouldn't change a thing." Go-karts turned out to be a breeze for Jon. He won a couple of national championships and by the time he was 15, his skills were crying for a bigger challenge. He tried his hand at the Allison Legacy cars, sort of mini-stock cars with Mazda truck engines. He adapted quickly, winning races as a rookie on the series. By the end of last season, he and his dad knew another move was in order. "We didn't know what to do, where to go next," said Eddie. "We decided to jump up and Tonka (Toys, Jon's sponsor) was all for it." Over the winter, a Late Model team was assembled and housed in a shop in Greensboro. When the season kicked off at New River, Jon ran over two or three top-10 finishes right off the bat. "He seemed to adapt to it quickly," said Eddie. But then the progress stalled. "We got to a point and stabilized," said Eddie. Some quick, mid-season moves were made. The cars and equipment were moved into the Wood Brothers shop in Stuart. Fieldale's Talmadge Thomas, who worked on Modified racers owned by his father, Speedy Thomas, for years, was brought on as crew chief. The chemistry between Jon and his new crew chief was immediate. The first week they were together Jon was in contention to win when he got bumped late in the race. A week later he rolled into victory lane at New River. "Talmadge is an extremely, super intelligent guy," said Jon. "I can come in and tell him something is wrong and he does something to fix it." Thomas has been around racing, especially Modified racing for most of his life, and has worked on race cars for more than 20 years. The few weeks he's spent with Jon has left him impressed. "With Jon's heritage, I knew he'd be good and he's proved that," said Thomas, who still helps David Haley and Jim Thomas work on his dad's Modified when time allows. "Jon's got natural ability and that's something everybody doesn't have. Some learn it, but natural is better. He's really focused on what we're trying to do." No one with the team has a clue what the future holds. Jon could move up to another division, a NASCAR touring division, as soon as next year. If not, he says he'll be happy back at New River for another year. And of course, there's the big question Ñ when will he move into the Wood Brothers' famous No. 21 Winston Cup car? Jon's put a lot of thought into that question, and the answer isn't what you might expect. "It would be really hard to drive for your family," said Jon. "The driver, crew chief, car owner relationship could end up bad. I wouldn't want to ever put dad in a position where he would have to fire me."
Steve Sheppard PR Director Martinsville Speedway http://www.martinsvillespeedway.com