Stock-car racing wouldn’t be the same without the Wood Brothers of Patrick County, Virginia.
Glenn and Leonard Wood founded their racing team in 1950, in the pioneer days of what was to eventually become NASCAR. Today the Wood Brothers Racing continues as the sport’s oldest continually running team.
Glenn Wood, the older of the two brothers, died on Friday. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012 in its third class.
A Patrick County background
Glenn Wood was born in 1925 and his brother Leonard in 1934, both in Stuart, Virginia. One of their first vehicles was a wagon with logs for wheels. Not long after, they built their first go-kart and started racing it.
First race in Martinsville
They bought their first car in 1950, and they made their first start in Martinsville.
Glenn Wood shared memory of that first race on the history page on the Wood Brothers website:
“In 1950, at Morris Speedway, near Martinsville, VA, I was running along pretty good about the middle of the heat race, when they had a wreck in front of me. I was trying to go through a little narrow opening and hooked my left rear wheel on the bumper of one of the other cars. It bent the rear end housing, forcing us to quit. We were towing it behind another car, and got up the road about 10 miles. The wheel was wobbling from being bent and finally broke the axle.
“That, in turn, let the brake drum down on the pavement. As the wheel came out, it jerked the gas neck out of the tank and the gas spilled down and caught fire. Then, it caught the car afire, and it burned right there in the middle of the road. Finally, we got the car unhooked from it, but we didn’t have fire extinguishers. We had some extra gas cans and extra tires and tools that we were carrying in the racecar. And once in a while, a gas can would blow up in there. We were scared to get close to it because of that. So we let it burn until it burned up about everything. That was the first race I’d ever got to start. So we figured it all might be over.”
Glenn Wood went on to win four races before giving up the driver’s seat in 1964.
The Wood Brothers’ impact on NASCAR
Over the ensuing decades, the Wood Brothers found new ways to use tools on pit stops, cutting time significantly and essentially inventing the modern pit stop. It’s gone on to win 99 races, most recently by Ryan Blaney at Pocono in 2017 and before that by Trevor Bayne in the 2011 Daytona 500.
The list of legendary drivers who have raced Wood Brothers cars includes Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Fireball Roberts, Bob Welborn, Dale Jarrett, A.J. Foyt, Glenn Wood, Buddy Baker, Marvin Panch, Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Ned Jarrett, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Joe Weatherly, Ralph Earnhardt, Neil Bonnett, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, and Bill Elliott.
Today, the Woods Brothers team remains a family operation, owned equally by Glenn and his children Eddie, Len and Kim.
The Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart, Va.
Although the team has moved its racing operations to Mooresville, North Carolina, it still holds tightly to its Stuart roots through the Wood Brothers Museum, which displays classic cars and memorabilia, including that first go-kart built by the brothers. The museum charges no admission fee. It opens its doors to the public on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.