Farewell to the Woodchopper

I have no idea how many people I have interviewed through the years while covering NASCAR, but it’s been more than a few.

There are a handful that I have felt truly honored to know and spend time with now and then.

Having just a small slice of their time is something I will always cherish.

Glen Wood was one of those folks.

The legendary NASCAR team owner passed away this morning. He was 93.

If there’s an auto racing hall of fame that doesn’t have Glen Wood in it, it’s not much of a hall of fame. He was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame a decade earlier and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2002.

If there’s a Good Guy Hall of Fame, Glen Wood is in it, too.

His racing hero was Curtis Turner and it was the opportunity to see the fellow Virginian race on the sand at Daytona Beach that sent Wood south for the first time in 1947.

Speed Weeks wasn’t Speed Weeks when he began making the trek and NASCAR wasn’t NASCAR. He continued making the annual pilgrimage until just last year.

Seventy years is a mighty long time.

As a driver, Wood won four times at NASCAR’s top level. He raced with and beat Rex White and both Pettys, Lee and Richard, and Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. Joe Weatherly and Buck Baker and David Pearson, too.

He beat ‘em all at Bowman-Gray, another piece of NASCAR history.

You might not know it, but he won five more times in NASCAR’s Convertible Series, including a victory at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1957.

What most folks likely do know about Glen Wood is that he was a team owner in NASCAR, and a very successful one. Along with brothers Leonard, Delano, Clay and Ray Lee, Wood Brothers Racing was one of the most innovative operations in racing.

His team counts 99 career victories among 18 drivers. If you’re a driver and in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there’s a chance you drove for the Wood Brothers on at least one occasion – nine legends who currently grace the Hall did so, anyway.

Maybe one of the most telling quotes ever uttered about Glen and the Wood Brothers came from Pearson, the former driver and fellow Hall of Fame member, in 1974. Forty-three of Pearson’s 105 career wins came with the Stuart, Va.-based organization.

“If the Wood Brothers have prepared your car, then as soon as you fasten the seat belt you can count on going to the bank Monday morning,” Pearson told the LA Times.

Pearson was one of five drivers to win the Daytona 500 while driving the famed No. 21 for the Wood Brothers. His victory came in the 1976 edition which featured one of racing’s all-time greatest finishes.

Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt and Trevor Bayne also won Daytona 500 titles while driving for the team.

Today the organization is ably run by Glen’s children, sons Eddie and Len and daughter Kim. They learned their lessons well and they learned from one of the best.

Glen Wood was a sawmiller by trade turned racing legend because he and his brothers were just that good.

He enjoyed an amazing racing career and an even more amazing life. The family-run outfit he founded all those years ago alongside Buffalo Creek on Lone Ivy Road has grown and moved and shrunk and moved and survived.

It will continue on. Proudly.

It will just never be quite the same.

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