Wood Enters Hall As Powerful Team Patriarch

Glen Wood was a successful driver on tracks around his home in Stuart, Va., but it’s not his on-track skills that make him a member of the third class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Rather, it is because he is the patriarch of one of the oldest, most venerated and most celebrated teams in NASCAR history – Wood Brothers Racing.

With brothers Leonard (who served as crew chief) and Delano (the jackman), Glen Wood started an organization that dates back to 1950 and continues to this day.

With some of the most notable drivers in NASCAR lore, a couple of whom have preceded Wood into the Hall of Fame, Wood Brothers Racing won nearly all the major superspeedway events. To date the organization is credited with 98 victories.

Unlike most NASCAR teams, the Woods did not compete for championships. They preferred a schedule that was limited to primarily superspeedway events. Their reasoning was that big-track races paid the most money and to do well increased the bottom line. Besides, it cost a lot of money to pursue a championship on a coast-to-coast schedule.

To say the Woods did well is an understatement. They did exceptionally well, so much so that their team was widely recognized as NASCAR’s best on superspeedways, regardless of who was doing the driving.

The Woods always seemed to find the combination that served them well on the big tracks – be it raw horsepower (which many believed) or the right mixture of power and handling.

Add to his another ingredient. The Woods, in their prime, were masters of the pit stop. They merged fluidity and creativity with speed to routinely produce the fastest stops in any race.

It’s likely there is no better proof of the Woods’ dominance on superspeedways and the contributions made by their pit skill than the 1973 season.

David Pearson, already a member of the Hall of Fame, was in his second year behind the wheel of the Woods’ Mercury. Impressively, he had won six times in only 14 starts in 1972.

The Woods planned to race in just 18 of 28 scheduled events in ’73, all but two of them on superspeedways.

Remarkably, they would win 11 times. It was an astonishing record.

“They ran against overwhelming odds,” said the late Harry Hyde, then crew chief at K&K Racing, “and they won anyway. Their record is incredible and may never be broken.”

Perhaps the season offers no better example of how, and why, the Woods dominated the superspeedways than the Motor State 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 24, 1973.

Roger Penske had take over the financially beleaguered track early in 1973 and the first thing he did was to cancel the speedway’s second NASCAR race, the Yankee 400, scheduled for August.

Penske felt the two-race NASCAR schedule was too tight and could have a negative financial impact.

Turns out he made the right move. The Motor State 400 drew the largest crowd in the track’s six-year history – 44,800 – and made a profit of $190,000.

The race itself seemed to play right into the Wood’s hands. It was free of any caution periods, something that has happened only three times in MIS history, which meant raw speed and pit stops could make all the difference.

Four pit stops were required by each competitor to cover the 400 miles. As predicted, the Woods were fastest on pit road, which meant that each time leader Pearson left, he had a bigger advantage over his rivals.

Buddy Baker, then driving for Hyde and the K&K team, was Pearson’s only rival. In fact the entire race was a tussle between the two, with Baker leading 10 times for 119 laps and Pearson seven times for 67 laps.

Baker ran Pearson down on two occasions following green-flag pit stops. Throughout the race, it appeared that no matter how much advantage Pearson gained after pit stops, Baker was able to overcome it.

On the last stop with 22 laps remaining in the 200-lap race, Pearson dashed into the pits for 7.3 seconds. Baker followed and spent 10.5 seconds on pit road.

The question was, did Baker have enough time to get past Pearson and thus win the race?

He did not. While Baker closed steadily, he ran out of time and finished 1.1-seconds behind Pearson.

“Buddy was running real well,” Pearson said. “I knew he was coming up on me at the end. It would have been only a few more laps before he would have caught me.”

Pearson and Baker were the only two drivers to complete all 200 laps and they finished one circuit ahead of Richard Petty.

The victory was Pearson’s seventh in 10 starts to that point of the season.

There was more to come in 1973.

And for the team founded by Glen Wood, there was even more, much more, to come in the years ahead.

 

Coke 600, Indy 500, GP of Monaco: World Racing

This Memorial day the world races from every corner. The Coke 600 in NASCAR, the Indy 500 and the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco. Look for Carl Edwards, Scott Dixon and Lewis Hamilton to make a play for the wins. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

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