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Daytona 500 Victory a Reward for Perseverance of Legendary Wood Brothers Racing Team
Glen Wood, the 85-year-old co-owner and former driver for the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, had a simple response when asked if Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win ranked as the team’s biggest in its 61-year history.
“It would about have to be,” Wood said Monday morning outside of Daytona International Speedway, where he competed in the first Daytona 500 in 1959. “For one thing, it paid more.”
Sure, a paycheck of $1,462,563 came with the triumph. But it hardly compares to the sweat and grit the Wood Brothers have put into their racing effort since the team’s last Cup Series victory in 2001 with Elliott Sadler.
It was an unbelievable moment Sunday in victory lane, a celebration that marked the Wood Brothers’ 98th Cup win. It also marked the first Daytona 500 victory for the Wood Brothers since David Pearson won it in 1976.
So for an organization that first won the Daytona 500 in 1963 with Tiny Lund for a check of $24,550, Sunday’s win was more than just about money.
“This has to be one of the biggest – the biggest – race we’ve ever won,” Glen Wood said.
“It’s been so long since we’ve won one. That was big. I am so proud my two sons and daughter are running this show now, and this is for them.”
Since their last victory in 2001, the Wood Brothers attempted to make 278 races. It missed two events in 2007 and then eight in 2008.
The first of those in 2008 was the most painful – the 2008 Daytona 500.
“That’s probably the lowest point for me was that day,” said Glen’s son, Eddie, who runs the team with his brother, Len, and sister, Kim. “And we came back to the race track and hung out because we had a lot of guests coming and things like that.
“It’s almost like when you miss a race, especially the Daytona 500, it’s like somebody died. Until you go through it, you can’t put it into words, but when you walk through the garage and you see people you see every week, they’re afraid to look at you.”
The 2008 season didn’t get much better, and the organization missed the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, and that resulted in a call from Edsel Ford II to Eddie Wood.
“We’re going to fix this,” Ford, the great-grandson of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford, told Eddie Wood.
That’s when the plan, which resulted in Bayne winning the Daytona 500 – the 600th Cup victory for Ford – began to be put in place. The Wood Brothers wouldn’t compete in every race but would run in just 13 in each of the next two years.
“I don’t think Len and Eddie had any doubt that we could come back if we got everything together,” Glen Wood said.
Part of the plan was that the team would no longer spread their money so thin. They kept Bill Elliott in the seat and went to the track with respectable results.
Near the end of last year, the team started getting its cars from Roush Fenway Racing.
“No matter how much money you spent, no matter how much work you did, you just couldn’t quite get over the hump to get to the point that you were competitive every week,” Eddie Wood said. “So we talked to Jack [Roush] and we worked out a plan for us to buy his race cars and line up with all of his engineering and it’s worked out perfectly.
“We ran the last three races last year like that, and it’s just been flawless. The guys over at Roush Fenway have really treated us like family. Jack has treated Len and I just like two sons and I’m really proud of that.”
Roush also had another idea: loaning Bayne to the Wood Brothers so Bayne could get some Cup experience. Once Bayne, then just 19 years old, drove the car to 17th at Texas last year, the Wood Brothers were sold.
And all the ones on the team who weren’t sold, they were sold by the time the team left Daytona after testing in January.
“I’m sure a lot of people wondered could he do this,” Glen Wood said. “He had been here testing earlier. Len and Eddie said he surprised them how well he did.
“Everything he did in practice, led us to believe he could do it if things fell right.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“This is one of the greatest wins we have ever had,” said Glen’s brother, Leonard. “I have no doubts about this kid now. What an unbelievable day for him and for us.”
During the final laps, Glen Wood was on pit road watching on the big screen. Richard Petty grabbed his arm and took him to victory lane.
“We’ve been in it so long, this is our 61st year doing this,” Glen Wood said. “And it surely don’t ever get old. We’ve won 98 races and most of them are on big tracks like this.
“I won three or four of them. To do this, this late in my life, is a great feeling.”
It was a great feeling for father and sons.
“We’ve struggled so much in the past couple years just to make the Daytona 500 much less win it,” Eddie Wood said. “It’s just so special. There are so many people responsible for this that it’s just unbelievable we’re sitting here.
“Trevor Bayne did such a good job. … I walked in victory lane with Richard Petty and Edsel Ford and my dad. I don’t know how much better that can get.”