Over the years, the Wood Brothers have run 93 Cup races at Darlington Raceway with eight victories and 12 poles.
But for the team and the Wood family, the 70th annual Bojanges’ Southern 500 ranked right up there with all of their earlier Darlington appearances.
On Sunday night and into the wee hours of Monday morning, Paul Menard, on the strength of a smart drive and some savvy pit strategy by his crew chief Greg Erwin, raced to a ninth-place finish, his third top-10 of the season, first ever at Darlington and the 32nd for the Wood Brothers at Darlington.
“It feels good,” Menard said. “I’ve always loved this place even though she hasn’t always liked me, but it was a fun night. Anytime you drive any car at Darlington it’s a lot of fun. These 550-horsepower tracks sometimes get a little timid, but Darlington is one of those tracks you just have to be on all the time and it’s a lot of fun.”
More than most venues on the Monster Energy Cup Series circuit, the weekend at the Lady in Black, NASCAR’s original superspeedway, has special meaning for long-time participants in the sport.
The Throwback-themed weekend at Darlington gave the Wood family and sponsor Motorcraft/Quick Lane the opportunity to honor late team founder Glenn Wood with a special red-and-black paint scheme reminiscent of the 1957 Ford Sunliner Convertible that he drove in his lone Darlington appearance as a driver.
The race team and Wood family also was honored and humbled by the showing of an NBCSN documentary, Wood Brothers, which showcased the family and its time in the sport.
And with the reunion-like environment at Darlington, the Woods got to spend time with some of the people who made their long career possible.
“It was great to have Edsel Ford and his sons Henry and Albert on the pit box with us.” Wood said. “They’re family, and as I said in the documentary, we wouldn’t be in NASCAR today if not for Edsel Ford.”
Wood said he appreciated the behind-the-scenes efforts of Mr. Ford and others like NASCAR’s Daryl Wolfe who made the Wood Brothers documentary into a true telling of the family’s story.
“We’re really proud of it,” Wood said. “It came together in a relatively short time, and the people who worked on it did a great job of getting everything just right.”
The Woods also got to visit with old friends like Ricky, Eddie and Larry Pearson, the sons of legendary driver David Pearson, who delivered the Woods many of their greatest victories.
Eddie Wood said he applauded the decision by track and NASCAR officials to run the 500 late Sunday night and into Monday.
“With a hurricane approaching the coast and mandatory evacuations coming, it was the best-case scenario to run, even if it meant the checkered flag didn’t fly until nearly 2 a.m.” he said. “The law enforcement and first responders who work the race will be needed for the evacuation.
“We hope everyone made it home safely from the race, and we’re hoping for the best for the people in the path of the storm.”
And there was the strong run by Menard and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“Paul raced the race track, which is what you’re supposed to do at Darlington,” Wood said. “Greg made good calls, especially with the green-flag stops, which are always risky because if the caution comes out just after you stop you’ll wind up two laps down.
“But it all worked out. It was a perfect night for us.”
Menard and the Wood Brothers return to the tracks later this week for the regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.