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.
The Wood Brothers: Moving the 'Least Number of Feet from Home'
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 Thursday, April 18, 2002. Prior to this prestigious event, Motorcraft Racing Media Relations released transcripts of conversations with Glen describing the history of his team. This final installment is a transcript of conversations with Glen's children, Eddie, Len and Kim.
Eddie Wood: "I started working in the shop in the late '60s, about the time I started driving. I must have been 16. Then we (he and brother Len) basically took over in 1985 when Kyle came to drive for us full-time. In the very beginning, I started out in the dyno room and I didn't like that. Len wound up in the dyno room and I wound up with the cars. It is still basically that way right now. I don't keep up with day-to-day cars. Our crew chief, Pat Tryson, does that. I more or less oversee what goes on with the cars. I don't get into the motor thing at all. Len does that with Jack [Roush] and the guys at Roush. I work with Pat and the people that hang our bodies."
HOW MANY EMPLOYEES DO YOU HAVE NOW VERSUS THE NUMBER WHEN YOUR DAD RETIRED? "In 1985, we probably had eight or 10 people. We had race weekend people, too. Now, including the part-time people, we have 55."
WHAT ABOUT THE SHOP? "We went from the old shop we were in that was kind of chopped up. As racing grew, and the demand for more space grew, you would add on and it was kind of like going through a maze. You'd go through this room and that room to get to wherever you needed to be. I think that building was 17-to-20,000 square feet, if that, and it was very poorly organized because it had started out as the one building and then grew when we added on. Our building now has 45,000 square feet. We added on after the first year mainly because of my son's getting into racing. It's full now, but you could actually do a second team in that building. If we ever did a second team, it would be one race team with two drivers. A lot of people are separating them, but that is not the way we would do it."
HOW MANY CARS DO YOU PREPARE NOW AND HOW MANY DID YOU HAVE BACK THEN? "I can remember in the Pearson days there were three cars. At one time, we ran one car the first third of the year, waiting for parts to build the second one. But then, when Kyle came in 1985, we started running all the races. Then we probably had five or six cars. You had the two speedway cars. You always had two speedway cars, and you could run those at Atlanta back then. And, of course, you'd have a short-track car. You didn't even take back-up cars to the track. Our trailer wouldn't hold but one car. Nobody took back-up cars. Then, when Richard Petty wrecked in Charlotte and used a D.K. Ulrich car for the race, it changed right after that. That was probably in the mid-to-late '80s. Now we've got 18 to 20 cars. We continually build cars. We have new cars being built all the time. I've got bodies being hung on two cars as we speak. You're constantly updating. A car that had a new body on it eight months ago - 'Okay, I don't like that any more' -- so you put a new body on it. Cutting bodies off in our world is a minor deal."
WHAT ABOUT TESTING? "We tested a lot. It didn't cost as much to go test as it does now. You'd only take one car and usually go only one day. It didn't matter where you went or how often. Nobody cared. Then they came up with the seven-test rule -- that was good. We probably tested 15, 20 times a year. We never were slack on that. I can remember scheduling test time at the end of one year for the whole next year. We almost tested at every race track there for a while. Even if you didn't stay but a half day, you would shake down and test."
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE BUDGETS? "In 1985, when we started running all the races, we had a good deal. We had 7-Eleven with Southland Corporation, and then when it all shook out we wound up with Citgo. I'd say the sponsorship value is probably eight times now as it was then. Before we started with Kyle and running all the races, the budget was probably only a third of what we got in '85. That's why we started running all the races. You couldn't get enough money to run a limited schedule to make it work. In 1985, we were at a crossroads as to whether get in or get out. If we were going to do what everybody else was doing we couldn't do it with a limited schedule. So we got two-thirds more to run all the races." (In 1984, Wood Brothers Racing ran 22 of 30 races, and in 1985, the team ran all 28 races on the schedule.)
AS TIME HAS GONE ON, WHAT LINE ITEMS HAVE CHANGED THE MOST? "The biggest expense you have -- after your motor program, whether you are leasing motors or building them yourself -- is the people. Paying for people. Good people are the most important part of the equation, and that costs money."
WHAT DO YOU FORESEE FOR THE FUTURE? "Maybe five years from now, we'll have a second team and Jon will be the second driver. Elliott [Sadler] will be in the 21 and Jon will be in the something-else one -- whatever number is available."
WILL THE TEAM ALWAYS BE IN THE FAMILY? "Yes. I have a son, and Len has a son, Keven, coming up. The way our stuff is set up, nobody else will get it. It will either be in the Wood Brothers bloodline family or it won't be at all. In fact, we just set that up. Nobody else can have it."
WILL THE TEAM ALWAYS BE IN STUART, VIRGINIA? "Yes. Right now, with the people looking for jobs, there is a good labor pool to draw from. We own land right next door to where the shop is currently located so if we needed to expand we could do that. If and when we do a second team, it will all be under one roof. It will be one team with two drivers and two colors (sponsors), but Wood Brothers Racing will always be in our family and it will always be in Stuart."
Len Wood: "I started hanging around the shop and going to work with Daddy after dinner every evening. I was probably about 14. And I'd keep up the hours, and he'd pay me like a dollar an hour. We would sweep the floor, clean the wheels, clean the inside of the car, all the dirty jobs that you didn't want to do but had to be done. My senior year of high school I was in one of those co-op deals where you would get out at 12 o'clock. I'd go home and eat lunch, and then go to the shop and basically work that after noon and evening. I'd load the truck or unload it. Back then, the nitrogen bottles - you'd have to check them, see how much was in them and then take the bottles to Mt. Airy, and that was a 40-minute trip, to swap bottles. That was a low job, so you'd have to do things like that, un-mount tires.
"At some point, around 1972, we got an engine dyno so I took up in the engine room working with Leonard [Wood, Glen's brother, and Eddie, Len and Kim's uncle]. Eddie was in on it some at that point, too. I'd do the note taking. Back then it wasn't computerized, and early on there weren't even calculators, so we had to use a slide rule and that was pretty tough. When we finally got a calculator we thought we really had something. Leonard would read two gauges and I'd read two gauges and we'd make notes. We worked on suspension stuff, changing tie rods, changing ball joints, changing spindles, things like that. I had planned on going to college to take a machining course because that is what I thought I wanted to do. Then at the last minute I backed out and didn't go. That was a mistake in one way, but then I learned how to do machining at the shop and figured out that wasn't what I wanted to do. I had a background in a lot of it. We didn't do a lot of welding. Leonard would do that. But we learned how to do a lot of things. Daddy showed us how to pack hubs or how to set hubs up, and we watched them put gears together and learned about that."
WAS THERE EVER A QUESTION AS TO WHETHER YOU WOULD BE PART OF THE TEAM? "No. We just started and blended in. As to the role we played, that changed as we went along. We helped on the dyno, put the motors in and took the motors out. We did a lot of dressing engines. We got engines from Holman Moody. Leonard would fix the heads and usually I would box up the heads. We'd get new rocker arms and prep those and make sure we had all the parts. Daddy would take all the stuff to Charlotte and Tommy Turner would put it all together and dyno it down there. We did more of the development work. If Crane came up with a new camshaft, we'd take a used engine and try the new cam shaft in it. It wasn't until later, like 1985, that I was changing ball joints and things and I didn't really want to do that the rest of my life, either. I guess it was the summer of that year that I went to work in the dyno room, not just helping with the motor, but cutting down valves, grinding valves, figuring the compression ratios. Back then we were unlimited with the compression ratios -- until you blew up. Right now, there is a limit of 12:1. Back then, unrestricted, we'd race like 13: to 14:1 compression. I learned things like grinding valves to the angles on the valves and the angle on the valves and what more lift did with the cam shafts. And that didn't start until about 1985, and we started doing more work at the shop on the dyno."
DIDN'T YOU AND EDDIE TAKE OVER THE TEAM ABOUT THAT TIME? "That was kind of a gradual thing. In 1979, Daddy had owned the company all along, and he gave us about five percent. A couple years later he gave us another five percent, and by 1985 we all (Glen, Eddie, Len and Kim) had 25 percent apiece. And I think that kind of made us start trying harder. A lot of years back then we only raced 20 to 22 races a year, and we'd have a week off and we'd goof off. We'd play with gas-powered cars or electric-powered cars. But about that time we started taking it a lot more serious. Purolator had gone a way, and Eddie started making phone calls and we had Valvoline for a couple years and they went away. Before they had the Winners' Circle plans they had deal money to show up. It got to the point where the point fund was getting bigger and bigger, and it changed. And the deal money went away. It wasn't based on popularity, but on performance with the Winners' Circle plan. Daddy had said we needed to get to the point where we were running all the races. Then we got to talking to Kyle Petty the summer of 1984 and he was having some real lean years at Petty Enterprises. He had switched to a Ford and had 7-Eleven and he was looking to move. Of course, we were with Ford, and we started talking. We went to Dallas and met with the 7-Eleven people. The associates were Chief Auto Parts and Citgo. We talked with them and one of the first things they said was that they had to have the number 7. When they opened the meeting, they said they might as well get that out of the way first, that they had to have the number 7. We [Eddie and Len] looked at each other and reluctantly said we didn't think that would be a problem. We talked to NASCAR and they said they would save the number (the Wood Brothers' famous No. 21) for us. We let Larry Pearson use it for a couple years. Then it went from there. It was about then that we kind of figured out our roles on the team. We just kind of assumed positions. Before long, roles might change, but we've done whatever needed to be done at the time. Sometimes we'd find that it might be wrong six months down the road, but whatever looked right at the time we tried to do, and we still do."
WHAT ARE THE ROLES YOU AND EDDIE HOLD TODAY? "In the early '90s, Eddie ended up with the chassis side and I ended up with the engine side. And then we hired Bob Johnson as a crew chief for a while. We had Mike Beam. On my side, I had Danny Glad helping me. Now we lease engines from Roush and the engines are still my side. I dress them at the race track and if there is a performance issue it is my job to go to Roush. We are also doing a lot of development work with them. We compare what we find. With the addition of a crew chief, that put Eddie in the general manager's role. He gets the money, and I'm sort of responsible for what is spent. In the last couple of years we have tried to work more with budgets. We do what we need to do, but we are looking harder at how we are doing it. Eddie is more into managing the people."
DO ALL OF YOU -- YOUR DAD, EDDIE, KIM AND YOU -- GET TOGETHER FOR MEETINGS TO DISCUSS THE BUSINESS? "That's kind of what lunch is almost every day. It's not exactly a board meeting, but we talk about what is happening and changes. Kim writes all the checks, and she helps us keep up. To say we've got clearly defined roles, not always. Travel and keeping up with the bills are Kim's things, but Eddie might create lists for her. We've all just done whatever we can do best. I understand what we get off the dynos from the computers, and Eddie knows how the cars are supposed to feel and what changes need to be made there."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN WOOD BROTHERS RACING'S FUTURE? "Obviously, we want to get better each week and be consistent, short term. We need to capitalize on the good days. We qualified well at Texas, but then we were a little off when we started. Down the road, the possibility of probability of two teams, the talk of it has been there for several years, but we need to have the 21 team better before we jump in with another team. We don't want two bad teams. The 21 team has to be good enough to add a second team, not just add one because you can. They need to be two good ones. I don't think it would work to add a second one and have one be a top-10 and the other one being a 30th-place performer. I don't think that would work. They would have to be two equals. I would like to think we would look at it as one team with two drivers. Our ideal would be to have that. The guy in the shop building the gears would build them for both, or the guy doing the hubs do them for both. That way, if you had one team doing really well and the other not doing so well, you could still keep the morale up."
IT LOOKS LIKE JON, EDDIE'S SON, WILL BE A DRIVER. WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE FUTURE OF KEVEN, YOUR SON? "He's a senior in high school. I want him to work with the team, but he will probably go to Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville. There's at least three kinds of motorsports programs there - one with engines, one with fabricating and one with marketing. I'd like to see him take the marketing and probably the fabrication to learn that part, too. Eddie and I didn't really have any formal training. I'd like him to learn all the parts of it. But, to me, the tougher part of it is the business side of it. We think about that a lot. Keeping the sponsors happy -- helping them to have a good time is relatively easy, but performance comes into it, too. And dealing with the employees is something that Eddie and I are learning every day. That is why I'd like Keven to take some form of business."
IS THERE RETIREMENT IN YOUR FUTURE? "No. You hear about people being burned out. I'm not saying I don't get frustrated, but then you pop off a win like at Bristol last year or finishes like we've had at Daytona and Darlington this year. Daytona was a terribly long week for us and then to come away like that, it's like starting over again. You can breathe again. We try to take mini vacations. Like when we go to Fontana, we go a day early, or stay a couple of days in San Francisco after Sonoma because we've got a week off after that race. When winter comes, we go to New York and maybe we'll go to Aruba for a little time. But, right now, three and a half days at home are a lot. When we're testing we don't get that much time. A lot of weeks we don't have three and a half days. If you don't want to give 100 percent you shouldn't be here to start with."
Kim Wood Hall:
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING FOR THE TEAM? "I was 15 years old when I first started working. Mama did all the bookwork and travel arrangements at the time for the team and she asked me to help. The team wasn't nearly as large back in the '70's. I just helped her doing what I could. I was taking business classes in high school and then on into college. When I graduated, I went full-time, and it just got bigger and bigger. I can remember when it had four or five employees. We've got 50 now - about 35 full-time and 15 part-time."
DID YOU EVER CONSIDER DOING SOMETHING ELSE? "When I started out at 15 -- and I don't think at 15 that you really think seriously about what you are going to do. I always enjoyed all forms of math and I enjoyed the bookkeeping. I guess getting a little bit of it there helped me to find out I liked that. It started out from there."
YOU NEVER CONSIDERED MOVING AWAY FROM STUART? "No. I did good to move down the hill. When I went to my high school class reunion they gave prizes for who came the farthest, and I got one for moving the least 'number of feet' away from my home."
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED IN YOUR JOB? "Back in those days, we were not running the full season. When Warner Hodgdon came along we got our first tractor trailer, and he helped us to realize what sponsors were looking for. He truly got us a little more organized. He wanted to run for the championship. We weren't quite ready to do that. We didn't have the number of people at that time that it required. When Purolator was getting out, Warner Hodgdon was getting in and he bought out the Purolator contract for the end of that year. He went on the car practically immediately. Neil Bonnett was with us. That was back in the days when the car look was ours with the red top and the white bottom. He was a businessman and he helped us to get a team look. He was with the team in 1981 and 1982, and then we had [Buddy] Baker in 1983 and '84 with Valvoline. Neil wanted to run for the championship as well, and so Hodgden and Neil went to Junior [Johnson]. And then when we did start running for the championship with Kyle [Petty] in 1985, that was another step up for us. So that was a big change - going to all the races. Since then, things have just gotten bigger from more people to more cars to more stuff to more sponsorship. I guess our last big change was building the new shop. We moved in October of 1975. Until that time my office was in Mama's house. It had always been at Mama's house. And if it ain't broke, you don't fix it and I liked it at Mama's house and Mama like it at Mama's house. When I got married, I was still at Mama's house every day. I just spent the night somewhere else. So moving to the new shop, that was a big change for me personally and for Mama. I didn't want to go to the new shop. I realize now that was needed more than I realized at the time. But every morning I would still go by her house, and just shoot the bull or whatever. I might say, 'Hey, whatcha doing?' or I might stay 20 minutes. I always kept that routine. And then we always went home to her house for lunch every day.
"I guess another big change for me came about 1998. As I said, we do things the old-fashioned way. Things worked. I got a computer. I didn't know what a computer was prior to that. And some people would say, 'Well, how do you operate without a computer?' Well, I'd just always done it that way. Actually, Terry (Hall, Kim's husband) brought it up. He said he would go with me if I took a computer class. It was literally in a building right below the shop at the community college. So all we had to do was walk out the back door and down the hill and we were at computer class. We went to computer classes together for about six months, and then I took a couple of days with my accountant. Now you don't see how you did without it. Of course, now we don't see how we managed as long as we did in the old shop in the space we had there. But you worked with what you had at the time. At the new shop everything seems so much better organized. When we left the old shop, it was 40 years old and had been added onto 17 times. It was a maze. Of course, nothing was well-organized in it and it couldn't be because everything was an add-on and you practically had filled it up by the time you got through adding it on. The old shop was 16,000 square feet and when we built the new shop it was twice as big - 32,000 square feet. The office area in the front is 2,500 square feet and the museum is 2,500 square feet. And, we thought, 'Well man, we'll never have to add on again by building it twice as big,' and then about two years later we added another 6,000 feet. That addition was primarily built to house the chassis dyno - to put it in it's own little area for the sound purposes."
HOW MANY EMPLOYEES DID YOU HAVE WHEN YOU MOVED TO THE NEW SHOP? "Seven years ago, we probably had 18 employees full-time, and now we've got around 35."
WHAT ACCOUNTED FOR THE INCREASE? "We've got a whole lot more cars, and now you've got specialists. Years ago one guy could do a lot of things, which a lot of the guys still can, but you've got the shock guy, and the brake guy and painters and fabricators. They can all fill in when it comes to crunch time and you've got to get a car out. They can do a lot of this stuff, but they have a specialty."
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF YOUR JOB? "I don't do all the traveling that the guys do, and traveling has got to be tough. Do you want the toughest or most irritating?"
EITHER. IF IT'S IRRITATING, IT IS PROBABLY BECAUSE IT IS DIFFICULT. "The travel part where it changes so much. We try so hard to get things well-organized and then things change. One change will affect how you get there, and that in turn affects the car, and that in turn affects hotel rooms. You just feel like sometimes you did the same trip about eight times. I have to write a lot of things down because a lot of times I'm working on travel plans for three or four months from now. And then something comes up affecting the coming weekend and you have to kind of pull yourself back into reverse to make sure that everything is going smoothly for them. Fortunately, I have a wonderful assistant that helps me. She goes over everything, too."
DO YOU TAKE CARE OF CHANGES THAT HAPPEN DURING THE WEEKEND, LIKE RAINOUTS? "Yeah. It is usually better for whoever made the reservations to make the changes rather than have the guys who are there do it. They have enough to do. At Texas, you could tell that wasn't going to be a good situation for Sunday. So, we didn't wait until Sunday. We already had reservations booked on Thursday or Friday. I only had one person flying commercial so that wasn't a big deal. Most all of the car rental places understand that if it rains you are going to keep the cars another day. Of course, there are times when something happens you haven't anticipated. There are times that Eddie will call me on Sunday morning at 6 o'cock, saying, 'You've got to get rooms.' Most of the time it isn't that big a deal because the hotels have prepared for it. But then you've got some guys going in on Sunday and you have to get them accommodations."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR JOB? "All the interesting people and the wonderful friends. We've had some wonderful sponsors and I think that we are fortunate that all the people we have been involved with; even though we may not be with some sponsors or drivers any more that we're all still really good friends. You'll see some of the sponsors or drivers that will look us up and go out of their way just to say, 'Hey.' There's just such a bond. It's like you're all family."
Kim Wood Hall: Mama has Always Been a Member of the Team Part III