Nature Can’t Keep Glen Wood Away From The 500
What would a Daytona 500 be like without NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood on the scene? Thankfully, nobody will know for another year at least.
Wood, leading member of the iconic Wood Brother Racing team, had his streak of attending every, single, solitary Daytona 500 put in jeopardy earlier this week.
A dislike of flying and the snowy winter of 2014 were the reasons.
But kin Eddie and Len Wood refused to have their father watch Sunday’s race from his home in Stuart, Va. The end result was Glen Wood showing up in the garage at Daytona International Speedway Saturday morning after driving most of the day on Friday.
Ford Racing’s Dan Zacharias caught up with Eddie and Len and asked the following questions:
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – “My dad met me at 9 o’clock yesterday morning in Concord (NC) and I started driving his car. We got around lunch time and stopped in St. George (SC) and had lunch at a McDonald’s. We went in because we don’t do the drive-thru. My dad has a new Taurus SHO and I didn’t want to get it messed up. I figured I’d spill a drink in it, but when we came back out he walked to the driver’s side and said he would drive. I thought I might take a nap and we got to talking about the race down here on Thursday and how it all unfolded to stories about Curtis Turner and all of a sudden we were here. He drove all the way from St. George, so instead of me going and bringing him back, I went up there and he brought me back.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE HIM HERE? “It just completes it. It was like something didn’t feel right all week. He and my mom both said early on in the winter that they didn’t think they were gonna come so far, and then they had the snow and that kind of finished it right there because we had 12-14 inches in Virginia. They usually come down early like we do, but I kept having it in the back of my mind that if everything plays out Len and I wanted to get him here. There were three ways to get in it but our best way was to race in just like Trevor did. I said that if we make this race, I’ll drive home and get him. On midday Thursday I got to thinking about it and decided I was gonna get him either way because we were going to be here even if we didn’t make the race.
“When I called dad and told him I was gonna fly home and pick him up, I could he got excited. The key thing that told me he really wanted to come was when he asked what time the plane was going to leave in the morning. I told him that we were gonna drive his car and he said OK. He hasn’t flown in years. He doesn’t like to fly and never has, except for Curtis Turner. He loved to fly with him, but I knew that if he was willing to fly back down here, he really wanted to come. So we went to dinner last night with Mr. (Edsel) Ford and it was just like everything was like it was supposed to be. It was like a piece was missing and things weren’t going right, and then all of a sudden Trevor runs a great race, dad is here and everything is complete.”
IS THIS ABOUT CONTINUING HIS STREAK OF BEING AT EVERY DAYTONA 500? “Yeah, a little bit. To him it is. It never really was about a streak. It was just one day somebody asked him how many 500s he had been to and he said all of them. I think it’s something he was proud to have done because he always drove down here and it goes back to 1947 coming to Daytona to watch Curtis Turner on the beach. This is before they even started racing and then they started three years later, but Daytona from the first week of February to the third week is where we’re supposed to be. Any way you cut it, that’s where we’re supposed to be.”
GLEN WOOD, NASCAR Hall of Famer – “After we stopped at McDonald’s and got us a bite to eat and gassed up, I just got under the wheel and drove the rest of the way. Most of that was in pretty hard rain with tractors and trailers throwing water, so it was kind of tense driving but I just kept it like I always do.”
THAT DRIVE HAS PROBABLY CHANGED A LOT OVER THE YEARS, RIGHT? “We used to just drive the Number 1 Highway and there used to be bridges across the rivers and swamps, and some of them were as long as five miles. They looked exactly like the pier that goes out into the ocean here. This was back in 1947 and it had those wooden slats much like a country bridge and you’d be riding along and, all of a sudden, one of those slats would be broken or sunk down and you’d feel it. There’s quite a bit of difference coming down here from then to now.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HERE? “I think it means more to my family or at least Len and Eddie because I’ve been here so many times. I’ve been to every one since 1947, so this makes 68. They didn’t want me to stop that, but I told them I’m getting old and it has to stop before long, but they told me it wasn’t going to be this time. Eddie called up and said he had it all figured out, so how could I refuse?”
DO HE DIDN’T HAVE TO TWIST YOUR ARM VERY HARD? “Not really. I knew I needed to come in a sense, but when Bernice said she wasn’t gonna come, I had made up my mind that I would stay home. But now I’m glad I’m here.”
HAVE YOU GONE TO THE OLD BEACH COURSE ALREADY? “We got here last night so I haven’t done that yet. I may take off here after the race gets started and go down on the beach. I have never been down here at Speedweeks where I didn’t go back down to the North Turn and go all the way down to the South Turn – where the lighthouse is – and just sort of relive what I used to do there. The first race I ran in the sand was in 1953. I took a picture of this house a year or so ago and it’s 42 Peninsula Drive. That was the office of NASCAR in 1953 and I remember it well. I went in there and Big Bill France was writing out the licenses to get you in. So I like to go down there and remember. I guess I ran eight races there total and I won the last three Sportsman races they had there, so that’s a big reason why I need to go back down there. To me, it’s hard to believe I did that back then, but I guess the record shows that I did.”
YOU SAT ON THE POLE FOR THE LAST BEACH RACE HERE IN 1958, CORRECT? “Yes. They ran the modified cars and sportsman together. The cars were very similar other than the fact the modifieds could run multiple carburetors and have a big Lincoln engine in it. Mine had just a little 312 engine with one carburetor on it in a little ’54 Ford, but for some reason I just beat them all. Leonard was in the Army at that time and I just fooled with it all winter. I blocked off all of the grille, except for two inches about 18 inches long across the front for the air to get through. I guess it was sort of like the air dam of today, but it didn’t show like that. They just came out with 14-inch tubeless tires and I put them on to qualify with, which lowered it kind of like they are today, and it just beat all of the modifieds. I think that was the biggest day of my life. The fun thing about it was my time was 139.461 or something like that, and Banjo Matthews was 139.469. It went out into the thousandths, but mine was first.”
11:15 p.m. – Departed Daytona via Roush team plane
12:15 a.m. – Arrived in Concord, NC.
2:24 a.m. – Eddie goes to bed
7:00 a.m. – Glen departs Stuart, VA.
9:00 a.m. – Glen and Eddie meet in Concord, NC.
12:30 p.m. – Lunch in St. George, SC.
5:15 p.m. – Arrive in Daytona Beach, FL.No Comment