The Wood Brothers have had lots to celebrate in 2011, including a win in the Daytona 500 and the election of team founder Glen Wood into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The celebration continues during the Bank of America 500 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as the paint scheme on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion honors Glen Wood’s final win as a race driver.
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane car will be painted in the same colors as the 1963 Ford Galaxie that Wood drove to victory at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on July 13, 1963, and crew members will wear shirts just like the ones the Wood Brothers wore in the mid-1960s.
That No. 21 Ford from 1963 was rugged, fast and versatile. In its first race, at Riverside, Calif., Fred Lorenzen turned the car over in practice, but the Woods repaired it at the track, and Lorenzen took a 22nd-place finish. From there it was on to Daytona, where the Woods’ regular driver Marvin Panch was badly burned in a sports car crash and one of his rescuers, Tiny Lund, took over the No. 21 and drove it to victory in the Daytona 500 in one of the biggest stories ever in auto racing.
Wood returned to the seat at Bowman-Gray that July, and the "Master of the Madhouse" lived up to his nickname earned on the quarter-mile track known then and now as the "Madhouse."
He started on the pole, but was involved in an early spin. While fellow future Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett took turns on the point, Wood was using his mastery of the Madhouse to work his way back to the front, no small feat on the small, narrow track. On Lap 107 of 200, he took the lead from Jarrett and led the rest of the way.
The red-and-white Ford was back in Victory Lane on Sept. 29 at North Wilkesboro Speedway with Panch driving, and Dave MacDonald finished second in it at Riverside. That talented stable of drivers combined to give the Woods the 1963 car owner’s championship for the series now known as Sprint Cup.
Then that history-making Ford was turned back in to Holman Moody in exchange for a new model, and the Woods began to focus on building a faster car for the 1964 season.
The Stuart, Va.-based team also began to change its strategy when it came to its driver line-up.
With the team finding increasing success with other drivers behind the wheel of their fast Fords, Glen Wood soon cut back on his driving. After his win at Bowman Gray, he only ran three more races, two of them at Bowman Gray. Then the driving portion of his Hall of Fame career came to a close on Aug. 23, 1964, at Starkey Speedway in Roanoke, Va., where he started on the pole and finished third in a race that he also helped promote.
The 2011 version of the Wood Brothers’ car will carry the same color scheme as the ’63 version, with red on the bottom of the car and white on top, and the logos will be 60s style as well. Glen Wood’s name will be on the roof, but where the Glen Wood-driven version carried the logos of English Ford in High Point, N.C., the Trevor Bayne-wheeled car will have Motorcraft/Quick Lane instead. But as Wood’s son and team co-owner Eddie Wood pointed out, the sponsor really is the same, even after nearly 50 years.
"Back then it said ‘English Ford’ but it was really sponsored by the Ford factory," Wood said. "And 48 years later we’re still sponsored by Ford Motor Company."
For the 20-year-old Bayne, the Charlotte paint scheme is another part of his ongoing, year-long lesson in Wood Brothers and NASCAR history. Since he began driving for the Woods about a year ago, one of Bayne’s favorite parts of the job is being around the shop and hearing stories from the past from Glen, Leonard, Eddie or Len Wood. The conversations are a bridge to an earlier era, one that drivers his age and many a fan know little of.
"When they’re telling stories, I think, ‘Did racing really used to be that way?’" he said, adding that the Woods’ history is in many ways the history of NASCAR. "The Wood Brothers are timeless. They have wins and history from the early days of the sport until now. They’re very proud of their history."
Bayne said that as he runs paint schemes like the ones he’s run featuring David Pearson and now Glen Wood, he’s reminded that the men he knows only as friendly senior citizens once were tough competitors behind the wheel in an often rough-and-tumble era.
"But you can tell that once they put the helmet on they’d really go for it," he said. "Glen Wood is The Man."
Donnie Wingo, the current crew chief on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, has only been a part of the Wood Brothers history for a short time, but he’s been friends with the family for years.
So it’s no surprise that he’s already a fan of the throwback paint scheme that will adorn the same Fusion that Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. drove to an 11th-place finish earlier this year at Charlotte when he was filling in for the recovering Bayne.
"It’s pretty cool," Wingo said. "The car really stands out. I like the background and the way it makes the numbers and the writing on the car stand out."
And Wingo likes the idea of being part of a gesture to honor a true racing legend.
"It means a lot," he said.
Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 is set for Thursday at 7:10 p.m., and the race is set to get the green flag on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with TV coverage on ABC.