Wood Brothers Racing
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012)|
|Series||Sprint Cup Series|
|Race drivers||21. Trevor Bayne|
|Race victories||98 (all in Sprint Cup)|
Wood Brothers Racing is an American auto racing team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team was formed in 1950 by Glen and Leonard Wood, hence the "Wood Brothers". The Wood Brothers merged with Tad and Jodi Geschickter's JTG Racing in 2006 to increase their competitiveness and bring about sponsorship but separated for the 2008 season. The Wood Brothers Racing Team holds the unique distinction of being the oldest active team in NASCAR, having fielded cars since 1950. They are known for their long relationship with Ford Motor Company, and the long standing use of number 21 on their main car. They currently field the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion part-time for Trevor Bayne.
- 1 Sprint Cup
- 1.1 Car No. 21 history
- 1.1.1 Innovation
- 1.1.2 International Success 1960s
- 1.1.3 Dominance
- 1.1.4 Triple Crown
- 1.1.5 The 1980s
- 1.1.6 The Modern Era
- 1.1.7 Legends together
- 1.1.8 Reunion
- 1.1.9 The Launching Pad
- 1.1.10 The 1990s
- 1.1.11 The Waltrip years
- 1.1.12 Young again
- 1.1.13 The next generation emerges
- 1.1.14 The Rudd Era
- 1.1.15 A Plethora of Drivers
- 1.1.16 Bill Elliott comes back to Ford
- 1.1.17 Return to Victory Lane
- 1.1.18 The Wood Brothers Legacy
- 1.2 Wood Brothers drivers (1950-2014)
- 1.1 Car No. 21 history
- 2 Craftsman Truck Series
- 3 Indy 500
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Car No. 21 history
|This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (May 2009)|
The Wood Brothers Racing Team was formed in 1950 by brothers from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. Walter and Ada Wood owned a family farm between Woolwine and Stuart, Virginia. They had five sons (Glen, Leonard, Delano, Clay, and Ray Lee) and one daughter (Crystal). The sons worked with their father as mechanics, farmers, and lumbermen. Glen Wood cut timber and hauled lumber to local sawmills. The boys had a talent for auto mechanics and spent much time at their father's garage. With each brother serving as a mechanic, they formed a stock car racing team. Curtis Turner, a local sawmill operator from nearby Floyd, Virginia, inspired them. Turner became a champion racecar driver with a "win or crash" style and later was co-owner of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coincidentally, Turner would later drive for the Wood Brothers.
In the early 1950s, none of the Wood boys wanted to drive, so they asked their friend John Conway, of nearby Stuart, to drive. Unfortunately, he declined the offer. Then they got fellow lumberman, Chris Williams, as their driver. In the early days of stock car racing, teams drove their cars to the track, raced them, and drove them home. Williams and the Wood Brothers bought their first car for $50, inspiring them to number their car No. 50, many years before they adopted their famous #21.
Chris Williams and Glen Wood each drove a few races. The team consisted of Williams, some of his brothers, and the Wood boys. They became successful, winning races at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, and Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia.
Shortly after their early success, Chris Williams sold his share of the team to Glen Wood to focus on his lumber business. To fill team slots, the Wood Brothers enlisted help from Stuart area friends and neighbors including Ralph Edwards, a Wood cousin.
Over the early years, the Wood Brothers Racing Team evolved from a weekend hobby into a full-time business. Glen and Leonard worked full-time building and preparing cars, while the other brothers and crew worked nights and weekends apart from their regular jobs. Their first permanent racing shop was at the town limits of Stuart, Va.
The team adopted the No. 21 permanently, and would become as notorious as any number in NASCAR history (along with the Petty No. 43 and Earnhardt #3). The Wood Brothers also found themselves lured to the big-ticket cash prizes offered by the growing Superspeedway races in cities such as Daytona, Fla.; Charlotte, NC ; and Darlington, SC. Glen Wood soon stepped out from behind the wheel of the No. 21 Ford, and they began hiring drivers with reputations as winners at the different tracks.
The team soon began competing on the highest levels of the sport. Victories were won with the mechanical genius of the team of brothers, relatives, and friends. Leonard Wood's talent in the engine department soon brought the team acclaim and was second in the early years only to the fabled Holman-Moody engine juggernaut and the Petty racing dynasty of Lee Petty and son Richard Petty.
The Wood Brothers invented the modern pit stop. In the early days of all types of motorracing, when service was needed during the race it was common for drivers to pull into the pits, turn off the car, get out and even smoke a cigarette as the crew took their time changing tires and servicing the cars. The Wood Brothers recognized that by limiting the time off the track, it could increase their position on the track. Thus, they created and perfected what is now known as the pit stop. It is as common to all types of racing as the checkered flag itself.
As other teams noticed that the Wood Brothers were winning races due to their efficient pit stops, these competitors soon copied the Wood method. Not content with being innovators, the Wood team practiced and perfected the pit stop as a form of acrobatic, mechanical, ballet which gave them still further advantage over their competitors.
Other racing organizations noticed the pit stop innovations of the Wood Brothers. In 1965, the Wood Brothers team was hired to act as the Lotus-Ford pit crew at the Indianapolis 500, a race won by the Lotus-Ford of Jim Clark.
International Success 1960s
With the Indy 500 win, the Wood Brothers Racing Team began to enjoy international acclaim as pioneers and leaders in motorsports. They were featured in Sports Illustrated and many other media of the day. Their rosters of drivers soon became second to none, and their victories were only matched by Richard Petty in the famed No. 43 STP car.
The Wood Brothers signed a long-term sponsorship agreement with Purolator to be their primary sponsor on the No. 21 car. Their drivers prior to and during this era had included a "Who's Who" of the best in stock car racing. Among those driving for the Wood team through the mid-1960s were Curtis Turner, Marvin Panch, Fireball Roberts, Parnelli Jones, Tiny Lund, Junior Johnson, Speedy Thompson, Fred Lorenzen, and Cale Yarborough.
In those years, the Wood Brothers also entered a second car, No. 121, in select events (they entered three cars in at least one race). Open-wheel star Dan Gurney, who enjoyed popular victories in Indy and Formula One racing, was hired by the Wood Brothers to drive in the No. 121 at road course events. The Gurney-Wood combination proved unbeatable, and they dominated the early road courses on the NASCAR circuit by winning every race in which Gurney drove for the Woods. This streak included the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, California, in which Gurney won with the Wood No. 121 in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1968.
In the 1968 season, the Wood Brothers earned over $160,000 in winnings for the single season, a staggering amount of winning for that period in any form of auto racing.
In the early 1970s, the Wood Brothers continued their success. The lightning-quick pit stops and high-powered engines of the No. 21 car proved a formidable challenge to all on the NASCAR circuit. Legendary drivers such as Donnie Allison and open-wheel Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt also took turns piloting the Wood car.
The team personnel in the Wood shop began to shift as the team raced in more events and traveled greater distances. Glen Wood emerged as the leader and patriarch of the team. Glen's young sons Eddie Wood and Len Wood also began working at the shop in menial labor jobs. Brother Delano Wood had evolved into one of the greatest pit crew members, and his skill as a jack man is incomparable even today. Other family friends soon joined the team, including Cecil Wilson from neighboring Lawsonville, North Carolina.
In 1972, David Pearson was hired to be the full-time driver of the #21. This choice would pave the way for one of the most successful strings of victory in motorsports history. Pearson would continue to drive the car from 1972 through 1979. In only seven years, the team entered 143 races and amassed a staggering 46 victories and 51 pole positions. Their race winnings surpassed $1.3 million during this seven-year period with Pearson driving.
In 1976, with Pearson behind the wheel, the Wood Brothers won the coveted "Triple-Crown" of NASCAR racing. This feat was accomplished by winning the legendary Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway; plus the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway; and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. All of this was accomplished during the 1976 season.
Due to their incredible success and their qualities as role models and Ambassadors of the sport, the Wood Brothers were invited to the White House in the late 1970s at the request of President Jimmy Carter. The occasion made history for these brothers and friends from the small town of Stuart, Virginia.
As NASCAR itself gained prominence as an emerging sport, the Wood team was soon hailed as tops in their field. They were frequently toasted by and compared to their peers in other sports of the day, including baseball legend Reggie Jackson; football stars Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris; and basketball greats such as Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Due to growth and demand, the No. 21 team vacated its former shop for a new home located at the junction of Dobyns Road and Mayo Court in Stuart, Virginia. This would be the team's home base shop for many years to come.
The decade of the 1980s saw changes in NASCAR and within the No. 21 team. David Pearson parted ways with the team, and was replaced by an emerging talent named Neil Bonnett from Hueytown, Alabama. Bonnett was a member of the "Alabama Gang" which included driving stars Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison, and would later include Davey Allison and Hut Stricklin.
Bonnett and the Wood team had a successful relationship, lasting only three and a half seasons and 83 races. This period would include nine victories and over $700,000 in winnings. During the "Bonnett Years," the Wood Brothers long term sponsorship by Purolator would come to an end, marking one of the most enduring and synonymous sponsorships in the history of NASCAR.
The No. 21 was then sponsored by a company called National Engineer, a California-based company focused on research and development for multiple industries. National Engineering was owned by the flamboyant Warner Hodgdon, who proudly had his name placed on the No. 21 as the primary sponsor. The Hodgdon sponsorship was believed to have been one of the richest deals of its time in NASCAR racing, thus confirming the Wood's status as leaders in the sport.
Within the team itself, many of the original members had retired from racing. Original team members and brothers Clay Wood and Ray Lee Wood had stepped down years earlier, and focused more on their families and other jobs in their native Patrick County.
As the number of race events increased and the full-time work of running a team grew each season, the Wood Brothers hired younger team members to fill the gaps. Among these were Jimmy Edwards, who was the son of original crew member and Wood cousin Ralph Edwards. Other new faces include Curtis Quesinberry and Hylton Tatum of Stuart; and another young Wood relative named Butch Moricle. Other new personnel were drawn from surrounding cities such as Danville, Virginia, and Roanoke, Virginia.
Also gaining an important role during these years was a young Kim Wood, the only daughter of Glen and Bernece Wood. While still in high school, Kim began handling administrative duties for the team, and would assist her mother in juggling secretarial duties, travel arrangements, and the business side of running the team.
The Modern Era
In the mid-1980s NASCAR entered what is now called the modern era of the sport. Growth in television coverage of the races had evolved from sporadic showings on ABC's Wide World of Sports, to full-time coverage of the Daytona 500 by CBS and the full-time live broadcast of races by emerging cable networks such as ESPN and WTBS. NASCAR also obtained permanent corporate sponsorship for the series from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and the sport's top-level series was changed from Grand National Division to the Winston Cup Series. The company's founder, R.J. Reynolds, had been born and raised in Patrick County, only a few miles from the Wood Brothers team itself.
This period also marked the first-ever quest for points championships by most teams. Since the 1950s many teams had run only select races. Now, however, in order to compete for the series title and its large cash prize, teams would be required to compete in all events in a scheduled season.
The Wood Brothers decided to make the leap to running a full-time schedule. This added enormous work to the team, and required further commitment of time, money, and manpower. This new commitment also saw the departure of Warner Hodgdon and National Engineering as a sponsor, and the Wood Brothers brought Valvoline on board as their chief patron.
In 1983, legendary driver Buddy Baker was hired to replace a departing Neil Bonnett in the No. 21 car. Baker and the Woods struggled for the first time in many years, only lasting two seasons together. During this time, they would capture victory at the Firecracker 400 July 4 race at Daytona International Speedway.
Baker and the Woods soon parted company, along with sponsor Valvoline, and international star driver Bobby Rahal from the Indy-car series would briefly fill Baker's vacant seat for one race.
In 1985 history was made in NASCAR as a young Kyle Petty, the grandson of legendary Lee Petty and son of series-dominator Richard Petty, was hired to drive the Wood car full-time. This formed a unique union between the two most successful racing families in NASCAR history.
This also marked the first addition of a new sponsor to the Wood Brothers team. A trio of corporate sponsors consisting of 7-Eleven, Citgo, and Chief Auto Parts were brought on board with the Wood Brothers and Petty for the 1985 season. As part of their marketing strategy, the Wood Brothers were required to relinquish their world-famous No. 21 car number and adopt the No. 7 in favor of 7-Eleven's brand sponsorship. This caused a major discourse with fans of the Wood team, who knew the No. 21 as synonymous with the legendary team from Virginia.
This period also marked the emergence of the second generation of Wood Brothers, Eddie and Len, who had increased their responsibilities with the team over the years. They were now effectively calling the shots on race day for the team, and an "anything goes" attitude was welcomed within the team.
Many of the older team members had retired by this period, including original member and brother Delano Wood. Delano retired to focus on his emerging importance in his highly successful lumber business. He also sought more time at home with his family and his church, as most races were run on Sunday and it provided little time for regular worship and church attendance with his family.
With an increasingly young team, a young driver, and a new sponsor, the Wood Brothers were trying to recapture their past glory. As time marched on through the 1970s until the 80s, many of the cutting-edge innovations pioneered by the Wood team had been discovered or outright copied by other teams. Thus, the Woods' competitive edge had been dulled by other teams taking advantage of the Wood innovations. Therefore, the Wood Brothers were enjoying a unique time of rebirth for the fabled NASCAR legends.
With Kyle Petty in the seat, the Wood Brothers Ford would find victory in their second season together, 1986, at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. The next year, 1987, the team won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charolotte Motor Speedway. Just as the Petty-Wood relationship was beginning to bear fruit, Kyle Petty found himself lured to a new team, SABCO Racing, owned by the wealthy Felix Sabates. Unable to refuse the lucrative offer, Petty left the Wood Brothers after three seasons and 87 races together. The Woods' winnings during this two-victory period surpassed $1 million for only three seasons.
After Petty's departure, and a brief three-race stint with substitute driver Tommy Ellis, the Wood Brothers hired their former driver Neil Bonnett to pilot the Wood car once again. This reunion was hailed as the possible cure for the Woods' launch back to the top of the sport. Both Bonnett and the Wood team were optimistic about the future, and the chemistry from earlier success still seemed evident.
Unfortunately, after only 31 races together in only one full season and the start of a second, Bonnett suffered serious injuries in a crash at Darlington Raceway. This left Bonnett questioning the ability to race again, and left the Wood team with an empty seat, to be filled by Dale Jarrett.
The sponsorship shuffle had become commonplace during this period in all NASCAR teams. As Fortune 500 companies and other top names were taking notice of the massive value of NASCAR sponsorship, names like Pepsi, Mello Yello, Ford Motorcraft, and Procter & Gamble had signed big-dollar sponsorship deals with the top teams in the sport.
The Wood Brothers switched back to the legendary No. 21 which had been synonymous with the Woods since their early days. This was effected partially due to the loss of 7-Eleven as their primary sponsor, and the elevation of Citgo Petroleum from secondary to primary sponsorship placement with the team.
The face of the sport itself was changing too. Along with the full schedule and championship points races, a new breed of drivers such as Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, and Geoff Bodine had already become powerful stars and champions. This era saw young guns like Davey Allison, Ward Burton, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, and Bobby Labonte were emerging as the future of the sport as they worked up through the lower-ranked Busch Grand National Series.
New technologies and innovations began to dominate the sport too. NASCAR teams were quickly being run like corporations and sports franchises, with names like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, SABCO, Larry Hedrick Motorsports, and Robert Yates Racing taking the dominance from Junior Johnson, The Melling's and the Petty's.
In efforts to keep up with the growth of NASCAR, the Wood Brothers continued to add more employees, and assigned some personnel as shop employees and others as race-day crew members. The additions of team members like Bennie Belcher, Butch Mitchell, and outside engine builder Tommy Turner were bringing the Wood team online with others in NASCAR.
The Launching Pad
By 1990, the Wood Brothers were back in the No. 21 Ford with Citgo as a sponsor. The early season loss of Neil Bonnett required a replacement driver. Eddie and Len Wood turned to old-time friend Dale Jarrett to take his rightful shot at the Winston Cup Series. Dale Jarrett was the son of former NASCAR champion and broadcaster Ned Jarrett, and had grown up in the sport with the Wood boys.
The choice of Jarrett would prove brilliant. In their first full season together in 1991, Dale Jarrett would bring the Wood Brothers No. 21 to victory at Michigan, narrowly edging out Davey Allison by inches in one of the closest wins in NASCAR history. The Wood team proved it still had what it took to win. More importantly, it would provide Jarrett with his first win and as a launching pad into one of the most successful careers in NASCAR's modern era.
The Michigan victory supported a unique record for the Wood team. Every single rookie driver who had ever driven for them for at least a full season had scored at least one victory in the Wood car. More impressive was the fact that every driver to have driven for the Wood Brothers for a full season from 1953-2002 had won at least one race behind their wheel (although in one case, the win did not come in an official Cup Series race).
The Wood-Jarrett combination was widely considered to be as bright a future as any team in NASCAR's future; however, Jarrett was soon lured away by Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs who formed a new team with the finances to entice Jarrett to leave the #21. This new ride would earn Jarrett his first Daytona 500 win with Gibbs.
Although Jarrett's time in the No. 21 was limited, lasting only for 53 races over two seasons, it produced one victory and over $600,000 in winnings. It also cemented the fact that the Wood Brothers team was one of the best in NASCAR for breeding future superstars.
With Jarrett's departure, the Woods sought out the veteran Morgan Shepherd to fill the seat in the 1992 season. Shepherd had been a solid, dependable finisher in the top series for most of his career and was a serious championship contender. With his consistent top finishes, Shepherd would provide strength as the team continued to adapt to the growing sport.
This new decade would seem unfathomable changes in NASCAR. A greater focus on new technology and sciences began to take hold. Engineers were now the norm, and the race-day teams often trained like professional athletes. Many teams even employed pro athletes to service their cars during pit stops.
The cost of racing grew exponentially, and its appeal doubled every year. NASCAR was now televised live internationally, and was as popular as "stick and ball sports" with fans and advertisers.
Within the team itself, crew member turnover became frequent as Eddie and Len sought a perfect combination of chemistry to succeed. New members from nearby Mount Airy, North Carolina such as Rick Simmons and Mike "Andretti" Smith were added to the team. Paint and Body men Terry Hill and Chris Martin were hired, and longtime members Butch Moricle, Butch Mitchell, Hylton Tatum, and Cecil Wilson had become veterans on the team.
Glen Wood’s daughter Kim Wood had also emerged as a competent leader in her specialty with the team as well. In addition to running the business administrative aspects of the team, she was a "one woman show" that handled all booking, reservations, accommodations, travel, and financial matters for the team. At a time when teams Richard Childress Racing employed a full-time staff of a dozen administrative workers, Kim proved as much a professional in this field as her brothers were in the mechanical and competitive aspects of the team.
Kim Wood had married crew member Terry Hall, and became Kim Wood Hall by this time. Her husband Terry was a vital member of the team who served as general mechanic and truck driver. Terry had replaced the legendary Delano Wood as jack man on the race day crew, after Delano's retirement several years earlier. Terry Hall was from Mount Airy, NC, and provided a gateway to recruiting many new members of the team from his ties to that area.
The No. 21 team continued many experiments and changes to again innovate the sport they helped build. They had been outsourcing much of their engine work, and during this period had contracted with Robert Yates Racing in an agreement to provide engine parts for the #21. They also began weight training routines for crew members and increasing their application of technology in their race day competition.
Always the innovators in pit stops, the Wood team continued to practice and seek new improvements in their race day pit skills. The team also employed wide use of computers for the set up and timing of each car. Hiring race day specialists such as spotter Chuck Joyce; and part-time scorers/timers, the team was on the cutting edge of competition development.
It was in this period of the early 1990s that Eddie Wood, Len Wood, and Kim Wood Hall each took an ownership position in the team. For several years, the team had been owned by The Glen Wood Company, with patriarch Glen controlling the team's destiny. Longtime co-founder and crew chief Leonard Wood had stepped down as crew chief many years earlier, and Eddie Wood had become official crew chief of the No. 21 Ford.
Morgan Shepherd would do very well with the No. 21 Citgo team, and would provide consistent finishes in all four seasons he ran for the Wood Brothers. They enjoyed 52 Top Ten finishes and over $4 million in earnings in their time together. Their one and only victory came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 1993, a race that was delayed six days because of a snow storm in the Atlanta area the previous weekend, and provided a much-needed boost for the team who had suffered a drought since Jarrett's victory at Michigan.
The Waltrip years
With the 1996 season upon them, the Woods sought a younger driver to fill the seat of the No. 21 Ford. As Shepherd was approaching retirement age, and a youth trend had risen with hot drivers like Jeff Gordon, the team was looking to ride a similar wave. They parted ways with Shepherd and welcomed Michael Waltrip, the younger brother of three-time series champion and legend Darrell Waltrip.
Although they produced no official regular-season victory, the Wood Brothers and Waltrip pulled off an amazing win at the 1996 Winston Select All-Star race. In their first season with Waltrip, the Wood team brought home the victory that night in a stunning display of team excellence that secured a $200,000 purse for the race.
In Waltrip's three-season, 95-race tenure with the Woods, they would amass over $3.7 million in winnings.
With the dawn of the 1999 season, the Wood Brothers brought in Elliott Sadler to replace a departing Michael Waltrip. Like the Woods, Sadler was a Virginia native whose family had been involved in racing for many years. Sadler represented a young, talented Rookie looking to make a name for himself in the Winston Cup Series. With their reputation as a prime developer of new talent, many held great things for this combination.
Changes inside the No. 21 team would become pivotal during this period as well. After decades at their old shop location at Dobyns Road in Stuart, the Wood Brothers constructed a massive, state of the art new facility at the Industrial Park in Stuart, Virginia. This new facility was modern and spacious, and offered room for expansion and development of their ever-growing team.
This new home also offered a museum of Wood Brothers memorabilia and history. Glen Wood's wife Bernece, who had served as de facto archivist for the family and team since the 1950s, presented a treasure trove of history for race fans to enjoy. Bernece and Kim dedicated many long hours to perfecting the museum, and offered guided tours of the entire facility to visitors from around the world. This delighted fans and quickly became known as one of the best and most visitor-friendly locations for any NASCAR fan to visit.
Additional changes emerged in personnel as some left, while others were hired. A full-time secretarial assistant, Annpaige Bowles, had been hired a few years earlier to assist in the demanding office work and take care of the museum. Previous hires such as William Fulp, John Ilowiecki, and Barry Sheppard had been brought in to expand the force to include parts managers, couriers, engineers, and shock specialists. A Chassis dyno, shock dyno, and other new equipment were added.
Also among the recent hires was legendary engine builder Danny Glad. Glad had worked on the 1992 Paul Andrews-led Alan Kulwicki team several years earlier, and came to the Woods after leaving Geoff Bodine. Along with notables such as Randy Dorton and Lou Larosa, Danny Glad was regarded as one of the best engine specialists in the sport.
Young Elliott Sadler cut his teeth in the No. 21 car, and was soon performing on par with the best in the top NASCAR circuit. Eddie and Len had brought in Crew Chief Mike Beam, marking a historic first time that someone outside the Wood family had served as Crew Chief for the No. 21 team. Beam had seen success with Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, and others prior to arriving at the Woods. His pairing with Sadler would also allow Eddie and Len more time to manage the overall growth of their ever-expanding business operations.
The year 2000 marked a historic period for Wood Brothers Racing. They celebrated their 50-year anniversary in a special ceremony honoring their milestone achievements. For a team of brothers, relatives, and friends from tiny Stuart, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, they had achieved international acclaim as pioneers in motorsport competition. Also in 2000, brothers Glen Wood and Leonard Wood were inducted into the prestigious Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
On the track, the Sadler-Wood combination began to bear fruit in the 2001 season, with Sadler capturing his first victory in the No. 21 Ford at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. This win, oddly, was the first win for the Wood Brothers in their career at Bristol, and the first for the team in eight years. For many years, Bristol was not raced by the team, mostly because their focus was on the superspeedways, and they did not race at short tracks.
This period also saw an increased relationship between Wood Brothers racing and Roush Fenway Racing, headed by engine master Jack Roush of Michigan. Roush fielded several top-notch teams including those driven by Jeff Burton and Mark Martin. This Wood-Roush relationship gave the Wood Brothers the depth of engineering and engine resources that most multi-car teams relied upon to dominate the sport. This limited arrangement allowed the Woods a wide array of specialists and research to aid in their quest for victory.
The next generation emerges
Eddie Wood and his wife Carol have two children, a daughter Jordan, and son Jonathan. Jordan was quickly gaining success as a rising beauty queen in local and regional pageants and an award-winning competitive dancer with the Patrick County Dancing Arts Center. Jordan also would spend free time at the Wood Brothers racing office, assisting with administrative duties and working to learn the team's business operations. Eddie and Carol's son Jonathan began following in the family footsteps as a competitive racer.
Jon Wood was finding victory in his grandfather's footsteps as a driver, racing go-kart in the World Karting Series and other forms of racing. Many were already speculating on his future in NASCAR and with the Wood Brothers team.
Elliott Sadler continued to improve with the No. 21 and his evolution was quickly making him a target for other teams. As proven in the past, the Woods were excellent breeders of talent and had invested massive amounts of time and dedication to bringing Sadler to the forefront. Therefore, it was not a surprise when Sadler was lured away to Robert Yates Racing with another lucrative career move. The Sadler period for the Wood team had lasted 139 races, which was the longest single stretch for a pilot of the No. 21 since David Pearson drove in the Wood's heyday. Sadler and the Woods earned one victory together, and over $9 million in only four seasons together.
During Sadler's term in the No. 21, the long-term sponsorship relationship between Wood Brothers Racing and Citgo Petroleum came to an end. This was the end of a historic run, as Citgo had been a sponsor on the Wood Brothers car for nearly 20 years. Citgo was replaced by Ford Motorcraft and the U.S. Air Force, which made the Wood Brothers team the de facto "factory team" for Ford Motor Company.
Sadler's departure would signal the end of the "win streak" which saw every full-season driver of the Wood car win at least one victory since 1953. This astonishing record remains unbroken today.
The Rudd Era
Elliott Sadler was replaced by veteran winner Ricky Rudd, another Virginia native with a career full of wins and consistent finishes. His first season with the Wood team in 2003 saw an impressive five Top Ten finishes and over $3 million in winnings. Rudd pulled off a second-place finish nearly winning in his first year behind the wheel of the #21.
Eddie and Len Wood continued to seek the right mix of crew members and chemistry, shuffling through personnel and crew chiefs to finally hire Michael "Fatback" McSwain as Crew Chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford. McSwain and Rudd had worked together while at Robert Yates Racing several years prior.
Meanwhile, the young Jon Wood continued blistering short tracks across the South and Mid-Atlantic in the Late Model Stock Series and Craftsman Truck Series. Wood raced for owner Jack Roush and was quickly earning a reputation as a "racer" and not just a "driver" with his hard-charging style and mature evolution into a competitive force.
Another young Wood, Keven Wood, also began his racing career in this period. The son of Len and Nancy Wood, Keven had begun his academic studies in Motorsports Technology at Patrick Henry Community College while also working at the family's race shop. Keven absorbed everything about racing, from car chassis set up to engine tuning, in order to add to his knowledge of racing. He began his tenure as a Driver in 2002 the Legends Series and quickly burned up every track he drove upon. His talents proved formidable, and his victories were hard won. In 2004 Keven began running in the Late Model Stock Series, a tough proving ground for emerging champions.
The 2004 Series was a success for the Wood Brothers, but times were again changing. R.J. Reynolds had been forced to withdraw sponsorship from NASCAR several years earlier due to tobacco company lawsuits, and the top series was now known as the NEXTEL Cup Series. The expense of operating a team had reached all-time highs, requiring as much as $10 million per year from corporate sponsors just to field a car for a season.
In 2004, the Wood Brothers Racing Team left their roots in Stuart, Virginia to locate their main base of operations near Charlotte, North Carolina. As every competitive team is base in the area, the Woods knew it was a difficult yet necessary move if they hoped to achieve their quest for the Sprint Cup. Their re-location to Mooresville, NC allowed them more resources and greater access to personnel and technology in the hub of NASCAR racing. As expected, many shifts in team composition occurred.
The Woods maintained their shop in Stuart, Virginia although it is used primarily as a museum and as a secondary facility to their main operations in North Carolina.
Ricky Rudd and the Wood Brothers enjoyed a successful run in 2004, again nearly winning and taking home a second place slot. They also won a pole position, the team's first since 1984 with Buddy Baker in the #21.
A Plethora of Drivers
The 2005 season saw another second place finish for Rudd in the No. 21 at California. They also enjoyed over $4 million in winnings. At the end of the 2005 season, Ricky Rudd announced his retirement. He stepped down after only three seasons with the Wood Brothers during a period of tremendous change for the team. The Woods announced that veteran driver Ken Schrader would drive the No. 21 in 2006, with a new primary sponsorship from Little Debbie Snack Cakes supporting the team. The U.S. Air Force will remain as associate sponsor along with Motorcraft, and all three will rotate primary sponsorship duties through the season.
A tremendous shift towards the future in the Wood Brothers Racing Team was announced in 2005. The team had entered into a partnership agreement with ST Motorsports based in NC to begin with the 2006 season.
Among the changes to the No. 21 team was the elevation of Michael “Fatback” McSwain from crew chief to manager of racing operations for the team. The crew chief hired for the 2006 campaign was David Hyder, who worked with Schrader at BAM Racing.
In addition to the No. 21 Nextel Cup entry driven by Ken Schrader, ST Motorsports fielded the Busch Grand National No. 47 Clorox Ford Taurus driven by Jon Wood and the No. 59 Kingsford/Bush's Baked Beans Ford Taurus driven by Stacy Compton.
Bill Elliott comes back to Ford
In 2007, Ken Schrader & young Jon Wood planned to split time in the 21 car. Wood made one of the two races he attempted before he was pulled from both the 21 and his 47 Busch car for medical issues. Meanwhile, 1988 champion Bill Elliott was brought on due to qualifying and sponsorship issues. The sponsors stayed the same from 2006, and the Wood Brothers entered a second car numbered 47 (JTG racing's car number) into 2 events, at Las Vegas with Schrader and Kansas with Wood. Both drivers failed to qualify for their respective events.
In 2008, Bill Elliott, Marcos Ambrose, and Jon Wood shared driving responsibilities of the #21. Ambrose, the driver of the JTG #59, had signed on to the partial schedule before the two teams ended their partnership. He had a best finish of 3rd at Watkins Glen, and a strong run in his first race at Sonoma. He would begin running part-time the JTG #47 at Indy, and would leave the Wood Brothers once JTG switched to Toyota, taking sponsor Little Debbie with him. Jon Wood competed two races, with Elliott doing 24, with a best finish of 12th.
In 2009, the Wood Brothers ran a partial schedule, competing in only 13 races due to Air Force and Little Debbie moving to other teams, leaving only Ford sponsoring with their Motorcraft brand. The season included four Top-10 qualifying efforts, including a season best fourth at Indianapolis. The Motorcraft Ford Fusion driven by Bill Elliott also four Top-16 finishes and the team accumulated over $1.3 million in earnings.
2010 returned the Wood Brothers to the racetrack as they celebrated 60 years in NASCAR. They returned to Daytona in February looking for their fifth Daytona 500 victory with Bill Elliott behind the wheel of the Motorcraft Ford Fusion. Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers has also come on board for the 2010 season as a sponsor. Bill Elliott competed in eleven races that season. Roush development driver Trevor Bayne made his Sprint Cup debut with the Wood Brothers that year in the AAA Texas 500 on November 27.
Return to Victory Lane
In 2011, Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver in Wood Brothers history, taking over duties of piloting the No. 21 in at least 17 races including the first 5 races of the season. Bayne had a very strong debut in the Cup Series in 2010, with the #21 team finishing on the lead lap in 17th position at Texas Motor Speedway. Motorcraft/Quick Lane will continue to sponsor the team through the 2011 season. On February 20, one day after his 20th birthday, Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500. It was the first win for Wood Brothers Racing since Elliott Sadler at Bristol during the 2001 season. The win brought additional sponsorship for several races from Camping World/Good Sam, including the All-Star Race. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. replaced his Roush teammate at the Coca Cola 600, when Bayne was diagnosed with what was thought to be Lyme Disease but later revealed to be multiple sclerosis.
The team lost the extra sponsorship for 2012, except for the All-Star Race in which Camping World/Good Sam returned to the car. For the rest of the season, the car ran a limited schedule with Bayne, carrying the Ford Motorcraft/Quick Lane sponsorship.
Bayne continued to run a limited schedule in both 2013 and 2014, however the team failed to return to victory lane. It was later announced that Bayne would compete in Roush-Fenway’s #6 Cup car full time in 2015. Ryan Blaney was announced as the #21 driver in 2015, with an alliance between the Woods and Team Penske.
The Wood Brothers Legacy
The Wood Brothers hold many records and historic achievements. Among these are the fact that they have fielded only Ford Motor Company products since 1950, which makes the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer, ever. The Wood Brothers also have won at least one race in every decade for the last six decades, an unmatched feat. They have 98 total victories (including the Winston Select All-Star race); and have won 117 pole positions in 1,186 starts. They have earned over $30 million in career winnings, and remain among the winningest racing teams in the history of NASCAR racing for 60 years. Also, now that Petty Enterprises has merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the Wood Brothers are the oldest team in NASCAR.
Wood Brothers drivers (1950-2014)
Chris Williams - Glen Wood - Banjo Matthews - Bob Welborn - Junior Johnson - Fred Harb - Fred Lorenzen - Earl Balmer - Bobby Rahal - Jim Massey - Dave MacDonald - Tommy Ellis - Speedy Thompson - Parnelli Jones - Curtis Turner - Tiny Lund - Dan Gurney - Donnie Allison - Marvin Panch - A. J. Foyt - Buddy Baker - Cale Yarborough - Dale Jarrett - Neil Bonnett - David Pearson - Kyle Petty - Morgan Shepherd - Michael Waltrip - Elliott Sadler - Ricky Rudd - Ken Schrader - Jon Wood - Boris Said - Marcos Ambrose - David Gilliland - Bill Elliott - Trevor Bayne - Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Craftsman Truck Series
Truck No. 21 history
The No. 21 truck debuted with sponsorship from Edy's Ice Cream and State Fair Corn Dogs at Daytona in 2006 with Stacy Compton behind the wheel for the first two races. After Jon Wood handled driving duties at Atlanta, Bobby East drove the truck for the remainder of the season, posting a best finish of eleventh. East was not retained for the 2007 season, and the team planned to run development driver Kelly Bires in nineteen races, with Mark Martin driving the remaining six races. Late in the season, Bires moved up to the Busch Series, replacing Jon Wood, who took his spot in the 21 truck. Jon and Keven Wood shared the 21 truck in 2008. In December 2008, Keven Wood said in an interview that the team had shut down its Truck operation due to lack of sponsors.
As the Wood Brothers Racing Team gained notoriety throughout NASCAR racing for their work in the pits, other racers in varying forms of motorsports took notice. Soon, the efficient pit stop was all the rage in other forms of auto racing contests.
In 1965, the IndyCar teams took heed. Lotus owner Colin Chapman hired the Wood Brothers to service his car, driven by his Scottish Formula One ace Jim Clark, during pit stops in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. This marked the first time a NASCAR stock car crew had ever provided such service for an Indy car team. During the race, Clark was able to increase his track position and drove into victory lane as the winner of the 1965 Indianapolis 500, with the Wood Brothers as his crew.
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- Caraviello, David (2014-03-12). "TOP 10 SPRING BATTLES AT BRISTOL". NASCAR. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
- Spencer, Lee (August 1, 2014). "Ryan Blaney to drive the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in 2015". Motorsport. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
- Post a Comment (2008-12-11). "Cousins Keven and Jon Wood likely out of Truck ride for 2009 | NASCAR News Now". SceneDaily.com. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
- Hembree, Mike (September 18, 2012). "A Tree Grows In Stuart". Speed.com (Charlotte, North Carolina: Fox Sports).