Class of 2013 inductee expresses thanks, soaks in sights and sounds
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The broad smile that seemed to stick with Leonard Wood throughout the NASCAR Hall of Fame weekend ceremonies grew even wider Sunday morning. That's when the 2013 inductee strolled up to see the granite marker engraved with his signature for the first time.
"Oh, my goodness," Wood said softly in his trademark southern Virginia drawl. He stopped, then silently shook his head, speechless in a weekend full of them.
NASCAR Acceleration Weekend drew to a close Sunday with a touching benediction near the NASCAR Hall of Fame's ceremonial plaza. One by one, each member of the Hall's fourth class was represented, from Rusty Wallace's unbridled excitement to the emotion of Cotton Owens' extended family, who teared up at the sight of their patriarch's signature etched into the granite just eight months after his death.
Wood's response was one of pure marvel.
"It's hard to realize just how special this weekend has been," Wood said. "So much honor and excitement the way the people have responded, and the Hall of Fame personnel have just been so nice. They're all the ones that have made it even more special."
The best touch of all might have been the strategic placement of the permanent tribute, catty-corner to the monument honoring his brother Glen, part of the Hall's class of 2012. Together, the diagonally positioned markers represent two of the most enduring and innovative mechanical minds that NASCAR has ever known -- bonds born from family roots, forged by oil, tools and grime -- now immortalized in stone.
Leonard Wood participated in the previous two Hall of Fame weekends, first helping to induct David Pearson, the winningest driver in their famed No. 21 car, then to enshrine older brother Glen, who gave the team its start in 1950. This weekend, it was Leonard's time to let others honor him.
"I've been on the other side twice," he said. "… I just want to share it with the whole Wood Brothers family, all our families and the Wood Brothers racing team. Without all of them, I wouldn't be here, so they played a big part."
Wood happily finished the morning by signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans for nearly an hour. Those fans not fortunate enough to offer a greeting in person could follow the sentimental updates from the 78-year-old's Twitter account, where he dutifully offered thank-yous with a mix of tech savvy and old-fashioned elegance.
In contrast to the newfangled social media came a decidedly old-school note of appreciation, which arrived on the Hall of Fame's doorstep: The sparse two-sentence memo in a stark courier font was signed by Parnelli Jones, a legend and winner in nearly all forms of motor sport.
The method of delivery: telegram. It was yet another reason for Wood to marvel.