News & Media

Induction adds to already amazing year for Wood

June 20, 2011, Rick Houston, Special to NASCAR.COM,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Len Wood didn't need to say anything. The look on his face -- the pure, unadulterated emotion of the moment -- spoke for him.

His father, Glen Wood, had just been announced as a member of the third class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In February, the team that had struggled so mightily in recent years wound up in Victory Lane with wet-behind-the-ears rookie driver Trevor Bayne following the Daytona 500.This was even bigger than that.

Class of 2012

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And here Len Wood was, all but unable to speak, the tears welling in his eyes and beginning to etch tracks down his cheeks. The announcement had meant that much to him. "To have Daddy in the Hall of Fame is ..." Len Wood began, and then he faltered. "It's bigger than the win in Daytona, because he belongs here." That was it, a perfect moment on a perfect day for a family involved in NASCAR for more than 60 seasons.

For Wood Brothers Racing in general, and the Wood family in particular, 2011 has been the year of years. To fully comprehend what the season has meant, though, it's important to consider exactly how much the team had struggled in seasons past. On top of the world in the 1970s with driver David Pearson behind the wheel, the team slipped dramatically in the late 1990s. By 2008, it was no longer running a full schedule.

That was one thing, but that was also the year the Daytona 500 came and went without the famed No. 21 entry in the field after Bill Elliott failed to qualify for the event. The car simply wasn't up to speed. It was the lowest of lows, yet just three years later, young Bayne pushed and pulled his way to victory in one of the most improbable wins in the history of NASCAR. Stacked up against the terrible run the team had been up against, the 2011 Daytona 500 was something to behold for Glen Wood.

"How could that happen?" Glen Wood said with a smile. "It was unbelievable that that happened, we go down there with a rookie driver. He'd driven one time for us at Texas, and ran real well. But I don't think anybody would ever have dreamed he would've won the Daytona 500."

Would Glen have dreamed it?

"No ..." he continued. "To avoid all the wrecks and this was a particular race where they had just started where the cars had to be completely together to work. If they was two or three feet apart, it wouldn't work. Can you imagine a driver sitting behind another car, running 200 mph, and can't see anything but the back end of that car. He's trusting the guy in front to lead the way, and wherever he goes, he's with him.

"Trevor just did that so well, and I think everybody that run with him liked his style of what he did. Of course, it could've went to somebody else, but somehow, they messed up before they got around him. They didn't get him. It was a big, big win ... I think as big a win as they ever had at Daytona, in my opinion. Now, that's me talking."

As unexpected as Daytona was, Wood woke up this morning not thinking of the honor that awaited him. That's Glen Wood, in a nutshell. He's as humble and unassuming a person as has ever walked through a NASCAR garage. It's not a put on. It's just ... Glen Wood.

"I didn't expect this," he said. "There's several I thought [would be elected]. I had my five picked, and I wasn't one of 'em."

His own brother, Leonard, had been added as a nominee following last year's NASCAR Hall of Fame election. There was talk preceding the vote that the two of them be enshrined together, because, after all, it's Wood Brothers Racing and has been for decades. Glen said afterward that he would've preferred to go into the Hall with his younger brother.

"I didn't expect this. There's several I thought [would be elected]. I had my five picked, and I wasn't one of 'em."


Leonard, on the other hand, was just fine with the way things turned out. Don't think for a second that the two of them even considered the possibility of any sort of rivalry, friendly or otherwise. That's not the way this family does business.

"We didn't know if either one of us would get in," Leonard said after the voting announcement. "I would prefer him going in first. I'd just like to see him go in first. He's the owner. He was the older brother. He was the driver and I was his chief mechanic. He's always been a big brother to me ... and still is."

Kyle Petty was in the unique position of driving for two of this sport's earliest and most successful dynasties -- Petty Enterprises as well as Wood Brothers Racing. After leaving his own family's operation prior to the 1985 campaign, Petty won the first race of his Cup career the following season at Richmond.

"They were just family," Petty said. "That's the only way you can describe it. I left a family team and went to a family team. It was not like driving for anybody else I ever drove for. I'd go up [to Stuart, Va.] and hang out at the race shop for a while, and then we'd go over to Bernice [Glen's wife] and Glen's, and Bernice would cook lunch. We'd have hamburgers or fried Spam."

As a NASCAR Hall of Fame voter, Petty gave an impassioned commentary on why Glen and Leonard should be considered separate entities.

"I made a case for separation, because I think they are two different people," Petty said. "I think Leonard is the smartest man I ever met that works on a race car, bumper to bumper. He knows more about engines and chassis and suspension and aero and electrical and everything. There are some guys out there that are good strategists and good mechanics, but he is the total package and always has been."

That's truly something coming from Petty, who grew up around Dale Inman, another member of next year's NASCAR Hall of Fame class. Glen Wood, Petty continued, deserved his own spot alongside Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Inman and the other 11 men who have been honored to date.

"Glen owned the thing ... he drove the car and he owned the team," Petty continued. "You have to make that separation. Where one drops off, the other picks up. That's the way they are. To put them in and judge them as a single entity against some other people was not right. I don't think that's right for any of these guys. That's like saying the King and Dale have to go in at the same time."